Understanding and using time standards can set your company apart from the crowd if implemented correctly.  For this series of articles, I will refer to the ISSA 540 Cleaning Times Standard created and compiled by John Walker of ManageMen, Inc.  I encourage you to purchase a copy and read the introduction, which provides a summary of how time standards have developed over the years and gives insight into how to understand the importance of task/frequency calculations in custodial operations.

In the eight-page introduction, Walker references pioneers in time and motion studies beginning with Adam Smith in 1776, goes on to Winslow Taylor, Charles E. Reeves and credits John A. Joerg with developing the first slide rule type time standard.  Since then, several iterations have followed resulting in the current 540 Times which captures not only theoretical but also practical times for certain tasks utilizing specific types of automated equipment.  Walker goes on to state: “The fundamental question for all cleaning tasks is ‘How much time will it take?’  The cleaning operation is the sum of the separate tasks and cleaning is a highly labor intensive enterprise.  Time is the crucial factor in the success of any cleaning business.”

On page seven, Walker writes, “By calculating cleaning times, many variables must be considered.  These include age of the building, design of the building, climate, season, outside soil, placement of custodial closets, type of floors and walls, custodial training, day vs. night cleaning shifts, vandalism, etc.”

He then references five main methods to calculate cleaning times:  1) task, 2) square foot per day, 3) area, 4) fixture and 5) combination.  Walker stresses that using the estimating guide should be foundational to one developing their own standards based on their workers, equipment, quality and extent of training and other variables.  Although an experienced manager may be able to “guestimate” the time and other costs of servicing a contract most of us need at least a reference base from which to start.

Later on, we will consider the importance of bundling tasks to capture actual costs related to a specific project.  Your comments and questions are always welcome.  I hope to hear from you soon.  Until then, keep it clean…..


Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678.314.2171 or CTCG50@comcast.net.