Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center on University of Maryland campus
The Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center is a 187,000-square-foot space and is anticipating LEED-Silver certification. It includes 12 classrooms and nine teaching labs with a total of 1,500 seats. CREDIT The University of Maryland

Although resident halls are intermixed with academic facilities throughout the UMD campus, cleaning operations between the two could not be more different. The buildings serve different purposes; funding is generated differently, meaning inconsistencies in budgets; and objectives toward green vary.

While Bob Pils has only worked at UMD for three years, he knows the academic environment well after spending 20 years at Colgate University in upstate New York. As the assistant director of the department of building and landscape maintenance, Pils oversees cleaning and maintenance in UMD’s 96 academic buildings (soon to be 97), which will cover 14.5 million gross square feet upon completion of the new facility.

The department is comprised of approximately 200 workers, which includes three operations managers, 10 zone supervisors, 23 team leaders and 160 housekeepers. Similar to the residential facilities team, all employees are in-house workers — but that’s where the similarities end.

Within the department of building and landscape maintenance at UMD, consistency is key so that tasks, supplies and training can be easily replicated between each of the buildings they maintain. To guarantee uniformity, the department follows standards regulations, adopted strict cleaning practices and partners on streamlined purchasing practices.

With a goal toward green standards, it wasn’t a surprise when UMD was named the first public university to achieve Green Seal’s GS-42. While Pils wasn’t there at the time it was decided to earn the GS-42 certification in 2012, he intends on maintaining the designation.

“We’ll absolutely continue with this standard,” says Pils. “The certification directly ties into our efforts to standardize all of our systems and processes in all of our buildings.”

Although Pils served on the technical committee that helped develop the guidelines for CIMS-GB and feels that it’s an excellent standard, he believes the GS-42 standard is more difficult to attain, due to the fact it requires 95 to 100 percent compliance. Like CIMS-GB, GS-42 compliance allows an organization to automatically earn the maximum number of custodial credits toward a LEED-Silver standard, but Pils says it’s about more than that.

“We feel that the GS-42 standard centers on safety, health and sustainability,” Pils adds. “It drives much of what we do, including our best practices. We are constantly drilling that into our employees — it’s so much more than just using sustainable chemicals and supplies. It’s also about improving safety.”

Managing Inventory

The University of Maryland’s Building Services department has accomplished a lot over the years, and they continue to take on more. This is possible because of alliances they’ve made over time.

Eighteen years ago, the department rolled out a new partnership with its distributor, Daycon Products Co., Inc., based in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Driven by funding cutbacks, the vendor managed inventory (VMI) program was designed to optimize the department’s purchasing processes, which accounted for an estimated 30 percent of their time.

UMD was an early adopter of the program, which Daycon now implements in more than 20 of its customers’ facilities.

“This will be a growing resource for progressive-thinking organizations that are not afraid of letting us do an assessment to see just how much time they invest in moving boxes around their organization,” says Keith Gurley, vice president of corporate development and training at Daycon.

With the VMI system, a “detailer” from Daycon conducts weekly inventory counts throughout the 110 custodial closets and determines whether products are within established minimum/maximum ranges. These counts are recorded in an online system that details running totals, along with delivery counts. Deliveries are made to a centralized closet and moved to closets located within academic buildings as needed.

This system has not only enabled Pils to free up labor and reallocate staff to direct and guide his team in other critical areas of operation, it also has helped with projecting costs when new buildings are constructed.

“When the new building comes online, we can easily identify initial inventory stock numbers based on buildings of a similar size,” says Pils. “As we look at the true lifecycle, Daycon may adjust by either increasing or decreasing supply levels, but within six weeks we typically have buildings up and running on the right inventory level.”

During their monthly update meeting, Daycon representatives provide an inventory report along with a sustainability report. The sustainability report shows how much the department is spending on green products, to ensure they are maintaining compliance with LEED standards. The current standard requires that 75 percent of all cleaning products be Green Seal or EcoLogo certified. As of May, the department exceeded this requirement by 10 percent.

The key to the partnership, says Pils, is how Daycon has worked with them to develop a system that works within their team cleaning program, and standardizes everything from products to training workers on specific cleaning tasks across all of their buildings.

“When there are absences, we can assign our current workforce into a rotational work schedule,” he said. “The work is always covered. If an employee is reassigned to another building, the supply closets look exactly the same, so they don’t need to be retrained on anything. This saves us a tremendous amount of time.”

The VMI partnership agreement includes a schedule of staff training, which is offered by Daycon in eight sessions throughout the year. Pils and his team meets with representatives to identify appropriate topics for training, which include cleaning processes, customer service, communication and leadership.

Diverse Strategies Lead To Future Success

In 1856, UMD began as an agricultural college with just 34 students. Since these humble beginnings, it has achieved its global recognition and success by committing to the diversity of its community in both educational and work environments.

As the Department of Residential Facilities and Department of Building and Landscape Maintenance show, there’s not just one way to clean. In fact, there are strengths in each approach that continue to allow the university to build for future success.

ANDI CURRY is a freelance writer based in Cincinnati.

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