There are two questions every facility manager or owner should answer when developing the right carpet care program and choosing a service provider: What would be the most convenient, least costly and most expedient method to contract the carpet maintenance? And, what would be the most effective solution to ensure consistent carpet maintenance, a long carpet life and a great appearance?

The answer to the first question appears simple. The most convenient solution to carpet cleaning is to use the same building service contractor who provides the nightly janitorial service. This contractor is in place, and has an existing relationship with the customer. Access control is simplified and cost per square foot usually is lower than hiring a second BSC to clean the carpets. Additionally, the janitorial provider is there daily to deal with spills and emergency cleanings.

The answer to the second question can be understood by the following quote from Roger L. Cason: "People will remember how badly the work was carried out long after they forget how fast it went."

Facility managers must determine the goal of their carpet maintenance program. Does it exist for expediency of contract negotiations and ease of administration, or is the true objective to maintain carpet to maximize the life of the asset and ensure a quality appearance to employees and visitors to the facility?

At Informix Software, there are different answers to these two questions. Based on more than 20 years experience in the real estate and facilities management business, I have investigated, experimented and contracted a variety of carpet technologies and services.

In my experience, a janitorial service provider is not a specialist in carpet cleaning. Even a larger, more diversified contractor has not had the technical experience and focus on carpet to maintain carpet to our standards. Because we look at carpet on a strategic level at Informix, we designed an organic, holistic approach to carpet and maintenance.

By holistic, we mean to address the entire process. A solid maintenance program is critical to good-looking carpet, but construction, color, pattern, installation, manufacturer support and maintenance all have to be factored into product selection and carpet program management. Carpet that looks great on the color board, but doesn’t maintain well, is not a responsible choice. We worked with our designers to come up with a product that would look as good in year five as on day one. A lot of people laugh when I tell them that level of expectation, but if you look at an Informix site where we have instituted the program, the carpet consistently looks great.

We also look at maintenance in a holistic fashion. Keeping dirt and contaminants out of the carpeted areas is the first line of defense. Looking at walk off mats and other barriers makes the maintenance task easier. We also specify a dry chemical process for cleaning. Wet extraction can be a tool in the arsenal, but we feel continually adding water to the carpet is not the answer.

As for organic, one size does not fit all. The program evolves to fit the organizational environment. The same program that works in a retail environment may not be right for an office area. For instance, cleaning all carpet on the same frequency doesn’t make any sense — high-traffic areas need constant attention and it is wasteful to clean low-traffic areas as often.

Our approach is not typical, but it works for us. We own all of our carpet, even in leased facilities. We specify, install, maintain and retain/reuse modular carpet as an asset by leveraging one organization in all of North America. By doing this we have a consistent product and appearance, leverage our buying and service contracts and ensure satisfaction to our internal customers.