Alan Bigger, APPA
With cleaning having such influence on prospective building occupants — in that case, students — cleaning professionals, whether building service contractors or in-house professionals, need to ensure their definition of clean is acceptable. In order to stay informed when cleaning schools and universities, professionals turn to APPA, the association for educational facilities professionals.
In this final installment of The CP interview, we speak with Alan Bigger, APPA president-elect and the director of building services at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind.
Contracting Profits: Who are APPA’s members?
Alan Bigger: APPA membership consists of more than 1,500 learning institutions encompassing over 4,700 individuals throughout the United States, Canada and internationally.
CP: What are the main issues affecting the education market?
AB: One concern is the ever-increasing use of facilities — buildings being opened longer and utilized heavily for classes and functions. Couple this with a somewhat deflationary spiral in operational budgets and the facilities manager is placed in an ever-challenging position. More buildings are being built and construction and renovation budgets are nearly at an all-time high, yet there has not been a reciprocal increase in cleaning budgets. We now have to clean more facilities with fewer dollars for these facilities and expectations for quality service continue to be high. Facilities are expected to be maintained at an optimal level with minimal levels of funding allocated to provide that level of service. Increasing number of buildings, decreasing resources, higher expectations by the customers and higher utilization of facilities seem to be the operational norm for the future.
Other issues include hiring qualified people, retaining them and keeping them motivated. An operation challenge is the ever-increasing number of different languages workers are speaking, which create training hurdles.
CP: Many educational facilities are cleaned by an in-house cleaning department. Do outsourced BSCs have a role to play in the education market?
AB: Facility managers are always looking for solutions. They prefer to be proactive problem solvers and to minimize being reactionary to problems. Facility managers want to be proactive, yet at the same time they are being pressured to conduct many different operations. Interaction with professional organizations can be meaningful.
In-house operations have core competencies for essential functions, and may not have competencies in other areas. That is where a BSC may be beneficial. For example, a BSC may have expertise in a certain area (window cleaning, carpet cleaning, etc.) and an in-house manager member could contact them to find out more information from an expert.
Both a BSC and an APPA member can interact on a networking level and complement each other’s core areas of expertise. They can create a two-way flow of information to develop a business partner to enhance the level of service. That relationship is built on trust, time and past performance.
CP: What are some duties that may be outsourced to a BSC?
AB: Universities seek to operate their facilities management operations in the most efficient manner possible. Thus, facilities managers may look at a variety of options for the provision of services.
A significant number of institutions have opted to outsource one or more of their service functions; however, many times facilities managers may opt to outsource specific areas that are not their primary competency. For example, an institution might not be able to afford truck mount carpet extractors (to perform large carpet cleaning jobs) so that might be considered for outsourcing. Other outsourced services may include window cleaning, snow removal or matting cleaning services. At any given time, any job could be considered for outsourcing depending on the needs of the institution.
However, outsourcing can be a sensitive subject for the institution. The university is considered part of the community’s economy. The economic impact and needs of the citizens and community have to be considered.
CP: How does a BSC develop a relationship with an in-house cleaning department?
AB: Over time you learn through networking and meeting with people what their capabilities are and form a relationship of trust. For example, one relationship we would want is for a business partner to assist in the services needed for a disaster recovery plan. Networking will enable an organization to determine what companies are available and the types of services that they can offer when a disaster occurs. Networking and checking of references will help to determine which contractors can respond in a moments notice.
To find such partners, one can use listserv networks to capture basic information, but it’s that one-on-one, face-to-face interface with the contractor that is critical. Recently we were looking for a BSC to handle our window cleaning. Through a listserv we identified names of BSCs and then we asked them for references. When we were done with the entire process, we felt that we had identified reputable contractors and could handle our services, based upon a record of previous satisfactory performance.
Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final in an occasional series of discussions with principals from associations along the supply chain. Each article will help familiarize BSCs with the association’s mission and members, as well as provide tips for working with partners in that market segment.
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