If building service contractors had the ear of chemical and equipment manufacturers, what would they say? What products, tools and machines would they request be created or improved? We asked several BSCs for their suggestions for jan/san research-and-development departments.

Chemical Queries
By far, the product contractors keep requesting is an all-purpose cleaner — literally. There are some “all-in-one” formulations out there, but Dannette Heeth, CEH, director of medical treatment facilities for Aztec Facility Services in Dallas, has had problems with them streaking on mirrors. She’d like to see better glass performance from those products.

“We want one cleaning product that would be universal to use on all surfaces, replacing glass cleaner, disinfectants and degreasers,” agrees Tim Murch, president of Mitch Murch’s Maintenance Management in St. Louis. “It also needs to be cost-effective and green-certified.”

Murch, and others, want this type of product for simplicity and standardization of operations.

“Uniformity translates into training savings, since we’d only having one [Material Safety Data Sheet] instead of several, and we’d only have to train people on one product,” says Murch. “That would be ideal.”

Help might be on the way, says Matt Sullivan, president of Coastal Building Maintenance in Miami. His company is currently testing out a multi-purpose cleaner from a local supplier in Florida. Although it doesn’t do everything, it comes close —it’s a spotter, glass cleaner, carpet cleaner and so forth, depending on the dilution.

“I don’t want to have six different products from the same manufacturer that I have to pay for,” Sullivan says. “These solution centers that we have, there are four or five different products.”

Some BSCs want better speciality products, not just more versatile general chemicals. For example, Shaun Davis, CBSE, vice president of R. B. Davis & Co. in Salt Lake City wants a more powerful mopping solution.

“It would be nice if they could make a chemical that you could use in your mop bucket to dissolve the salt and clean the floor without leaving a residue,” he says. “Every year I face the same challenge with cleaning floors that have salt [and] snow tracked on them from outside and trying to do it in a one-step process. Usually we have to mop the floor with the neutralizer and then re-mop the floor to clean it again.”

In addition to versatility, contractors want performance, especially when it comes to chemicals used in labor-intensive periodic tasks.

“I’d like a more durable floor wax,” says Sullivan. “What we’re finding is in a lot of these offices and these rooms with vinyl tile, you put wax down, it’s lasting only a couple of months — it’s time-consuming and costly. I wish we could strip and wax once a year.”

He says he’s tried products that are applied after a floor is refinished, but that requires burnishing, and not every room in every building has a burnishing program. He’d like a more durable floor finish for small areas, such as kitchens, copy rooms and private offices.

Equipment Expectations
In the equipment and tools departments, several BSCs indicate they’d like to see battery-powered backpack or hip vacuums.

“It would speed us up and cut our costs,” says Ed Moschler, vice president of Southern Building Maintenance in Greensboro, N.C. “It would just be unbelievable how fast we can finish vac jobs. Right now, regardless of whether it’s a backpack, hip or push, you’re looking for a place to plug up. That cord will color up the walls, and that’s already a problem. This would free us to quickly vacuum.“

There are a few battery vacuums available, but they’re too heavy and die quickly, he says. Battery burnishers have become popular recently, but they can take a heavier battery, as they’re not worn by the user. It seems the ideal battery —one that’s lightweight, yet will hold a charge while the vacuum performs to the standard of a plug-in — has not yet been perfected.

“Right now, there’s no suction, no motor power,” Moschler says. “We want it to run, ideally, three hours on a single charge. What I’m looking for hasn’t been invented yet.”

Another vacuum wish comes from Heeth:

“I’d like to see a sturdy, belt-less upright vacuum cleaner with a bypass motor,” she says. She’d also want it to be sturdy, under $200 and have HEPA filtration.

In terms of other tools, Davis would like to see a wall-washing tool that could be used on water- and oil-based paint.

“I have not been able to find one yet, and I am in the process of washing walls at an account that is 417,000 square feet, by hand, using a small wall washing head on a pole,” he says. “It is very time consuming and slow. The only systems on the market are made for deep cleaning … plastic or concrete walls. I did find one wall washing tool, but the tank is so small it defeats the purpose for trying to wash walls fast and in an efficient manner.”


Supplier Relationships
Despite their wish lists, BSCs say their suppliers do listen to them and offer them the available products when they do come out, and in a manner that they prefer.

“We encourage our supplier partners to continue to listen to our needs, to develop everything and anything to save us labor and improve our performance,” says Murch.

Software Solutions

CHEMICALS, TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT aren’t the only things BSCs want to improve or invent — some say software, too, needs an upgrade, especially in terms of price. For instance, now that Miami-based Coastal Building Maintenance has grown, president Matt Sullivan finds his company needs a more powerful payroll system.

“As an employer who works in other properties, we need something automated,” he explains. “Right now, our payroll is done via a paper time sheet, that’s faxed to the office, that’s entered in, and is uploaded to an Excel spreadsheet, and given to [the payroll processing company].”

The problem is that this is very labor-intensive, and also relies too heavily on the honor system.

“Nobody ever leaves early, nobody ever misses work, and nobody ever arrives late,” Sullivan explains. “I need a wireless, Internet-based way to monitor attendance from the home office in real time and get a birds-eye view. There are a few programs out there, but the costs are incredible.”

The company is developing its own program internally, but Sullivan still wishes there was an off-the-shelf solution that he could afford.