By Dave Frank

Dave Frank is a 30 year industry veteran and the president of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences, an independent third-party accreditation organization that establishes standards to improve the professional performance of the cleaning industry.
There is no universal formula that will transform your cleaning operation into a model of efficiency. However, a comprehensive analysis of the entire cleaning operation can start moving your business toward greater productivity. Improving productivity is crucial in this industry; it can be the difference between making money and trading dollars.

An accurate assessment of operations will help identify areas for improvement. Sound like an impossible task? It’s not. Simply divide your evaluation into three categories:
  1. Scope of work: How long does it take your staff to clean a facility? Knowing the answer to this question is important. Even more crucial, though, is having an accurate answer. Knowing your staff’s cleaning times will keep cleaning costs down, help you charge the right price for the work being done and keep your operation running at maximum efficiency.

    Start by measuring the cleanable square feet within a facility. To do this, you can pull the numbers off the architectural blueprints or CAD drawings for the facility, or measure each area yourself. Make note of the type of area, its contents and surface types.

    Have your staff clean the area and record the time it takes to perform each task. Also note the tools and products used. Using the area measurements, figure out how long it takes the average worker to clean 1,000 square feet. Benchmarking tools such as ISSA’s Cleaning Times book and APPA’s Custodial Service Levels for educational facilities can provide useful numerical references to determine whether you are operating within the industry average. Recalculate times at least annually.
  2. Materials: The products you use to clean can have a dramatic effect on your cleaning times. For example, cleaning a large, open area with a mop is obviously going to take considerably longer than with an autoscrubber.

    Take some time to review your current numbers and look for areas where workers can easily increase the production rate (square feet cleaned per hour) by evaluating tools, procedures, succinct processes and equipment.
  3. Labor: Labor is more than 70 percent of the cost for many job sites and project work. By paying attention to numbers and details, you’ll get a clear idea of the effectiveness of your current staffing structure.

    Are the workers organized in zone assignments, specialist routes or a blended system design? How much area does each worker have to clean and how often?

    Not all staff should be structured the same in every type of facility or area. Consider the space assigned to each worker and keep in mind the expected levels of cleanliness, area type and frequencies. Be realistic when tracking personnel and cleaning tasks and you’ll know if a worker is taking longer than expected to finish their job.

    Share the final analysis with supervisors and have them explain to workers what is expected, including how long it should take to clean. Make sure workers and supervisors know that increasing productivity is not about doing more work in less time; it is about performing the same work in less time.