Six years ago when Carl Bowman, assistant director of operations — custodial services at Ohio State University (OSU), came on board, he immediately noticed the staff wasn't privy to new developments that might improve efficiencies or simplify their jobs. With a goal to implement change and update products and technologies, he made it a point to gain approval to send himself and two area managers to an ISSA conference.

That first year was beneficial and resulted in updates in products and technologies used on campus, but all agreed that the facilities department at Ohio State University would benefit even further if both managers and housekeepers attended the show.

"Now we take one or two housekeepers along to ISSA," he says. "That gets a lot of mileage when a housekeeper can see the new technologies and developments."

Another change was implemented four years ago, when Bowman lobbied for and gained control over department budgets. While Bowman ultimately oversees the budgets, each area manager maintains control over budget line items that directly impact their buildings.

"They have become very good stewards of their money," he says. "We really only have five budget lines we can control, that are not fixed costs, but those five lines can get you into a heap of trouble if you don't watch them."

Area managers also control updated products and equipment purchases below $3,500, which means they can call in a vendor to demo or test equipment and add equipment to improve efficiencies in their buildings as they see fit.

"If they are interested, it has proven to work and they can afford it, they can purchase the equipment," he says.

But all updated products must go through an extensive testing process before purchasing.

"We evaluate every piece of technology to make sure it meets our needs," Bowman explains. "We don't just buy anything new that comes off the pike. It has to meet a specific need for us, have a specific use and work as intended."

Tackling Technology

Implementing change the way they did — educating staff on new technologies and getting control over the budgets — enabled the operation to seamlessly switch to green chemicals, which reduced the number of chemicals used from more than 25 to just four.

Bowman recalls looking at a housekeeper's cart before updating products to a sustainable chemical system and installed chemical dilution stations in every building and being floored.

"On one cart, there were two disinfectants, two aerosol cleaners, one spray bottle cleaner, several general cleaners and various oil-based products to clean stainless steel and wood," he says. "I decided we needed a better system."

The move to green chemicals in 2007 netted substantial savings.

"Our chemical budgets drop approximately 15 percent a year in the first three years after the change," he says.
The university also recently began mechanically stripping floors. They once used chemicals to strip floors but now utilize a floor wax-stripping machine to do the job. The machine, Bowman says, works like a big sander to remove floor finish, after which workers recoat the floor.

"They don't do wholesale stripping every year — they may only strip a couple of floors in a building — but everything is on a schedule," he explains.

Also on a schedule are the soft surfaces. A team of two cleans 350,000 square feet of carpet every summer and 270,000 square feet of carpet during the academic year. This is no easy feat when one considers that these two individuals also have other responsibilities. Here, technological updates play a tremendous role.

"We do interim cleaning nine months out of the year, and restorative cleaning three months out of the year," Bowman says, noting they have four restorative cleaning machines and an encapsulation carpet-cleaning machine for interim work.

In the endeavor to try new methods and technologies, Ohio State has begun testing an ionized water cleaning system in its sports/recreational facilities.

"We are having really great results with this system," Bowman says. The university currently rents one unit for $400 a month, but Bowman predicts he will eventually add more. "We test everything with our ATP meters and the results have been pretty much conclusive that it looks like water, smells like water, but it isn't cleaning like water," he says.

He predicts the university will see considerable cost savings — in the form of reduced chemicals — by adding this technology, even if Ohio State University continues to rent the units.

RONNIE GARRETT is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis.

For information about the sustainability initiatives in place at Ohio State University, click here.
For more information about preparing Ohio State University for a new year, click here.