The Newlife Cleaning Systems Cleaning Blog
In our earlier posts we discussed how even in this day and age of high tech cleanliness it was possible for men to give an instant judgement on the cleanliness or not of urinals simply by their smell.
We suggested the benefits of a microbiological led approach to dealing with the bacteria that are the source of urinal smells.
Since then we have carried out the first of a number of trials using these products on our own facilities. This three-month trial will be repeated over the coming months using a variety of competing though similar biologically based cleaning and maintenance products.
Our first test product was Eco-Cubes available from www.eco-works.co.uk and was tested 25/02/09 – 25/05/09
For a charge of £60+vat for a trial pack we received 50 Eco-cubes, 1 litre of biological cleaner, a normal trigger spray and clear, simply understood laminated instructions for use by our cleaner.
The facilities being cleaned consisted of two urinals currently being used 50+ times per day with 70% of users favouring one particular urinal. We had only occupied the premises for a short period of 5 months and previously the facilities were subject to two or three times this level of usage by the original workforce.
Prior to the trial the urinal bottle traps were removed and thoroughly cleaned to remove scale build up. The waste pipes leading to the drainage system were not de-scaled immediately as this involved removing pipework that had been hidden behind fitted sinks. The water supply to the header tank was turned off.
Following the easy to use instructions 1 cube was placed in each urinal and the diluted washroom cleaner was used to clean the urinal, wall and floor surfaces around the immediate area. The urinal was then flushed with 3 litres of water.
Within days a noticeable difference to the smell of the whole facility was apparent. In addition the cleaner sprayed on the wall and floor surfaces thoroughly cleaned the area and lightened the grouting (especially the horizontal areas due to the longer dwell time) and also an area of Altro flooring underneath the more heavily used urinal which previously was stained / burnt by urine.
Normal daily cleaning took place till 17/04/09 when it became apparent that the urinals were not draining properly. On removing the traps and pipework it became apparent that there was a massive build up of loose scale within the drainage pipework. This was manually cleaned away and the water flow returned to normal and remained so throughout the balance of the trial period.
We believe that we may have compromised the trial by not descaling all the drainage pipework from the start as it was apparent that the blockage was caused by scale being sloughed off the inside of the pipework in large pieces as the biological cleaner attacked this build-up daily.
On completion of the trial we had 20 cubes remaining and 250mm of Washroom Cleaner.
The product was clearly capable of performing the cleaning task and produced a pleasant fragrance. By not adequately descaling the complete length of the drainage pipework we compromised the initial trail. It is intended to maintain the test programme till the end of August 2009 at which point all the pipework will be opened up to see if the build up has returned. No water was added to the urinals other than the 3 litres used daily in the cleaning programme.
The only negative observation made was that the appearance of the cubes in the urinal soon changed from a dark green/blue cube to a washed out irregular shape as it broke down in the urinal which was not aesthetically attractive.
The trial will continue till all the product is used at which point it will be possible to give an exact idea of the cost per urinal per day.
Take A Good Look To See What They Are Hiding Under The Carpet…
In today’s economy, property owners and managers alike are constantly scanning the horizon, searching for opportunities to outsource their building cleaning and maintenance services to specialist companies in order to improve operational efficiencies. When it comes to finding a cleaning services company that will provide best practices at the right price, successfully managing the vendor selection process is mission critical to obtaining a good fit.
Long before drafting a specification, a tender request or short-listing companies, spend plenty of time clearly identifying your requirements. The more you detail your expectations – eventually within your tender document — the more precisely your needs can be met. If this is your first experience in dealing with cleaning contracts, talk to vendors informally to help you uncover the range of services available.
Once you’ve nailed down performance measures, it’s time to tackle the tender request. A finely tuned tender document gives cleaning companies the necessary information that ensures an accurate response — and makes side-by-side bid comparisons much easier.
Later, when the quotes come in for your cleaning services, don’t get caught comparing apples with oranges. Be specific — up front — about your requirements (see the chart below).
RFP Requirements for Building Cleaning Services
* Cleaning Specifications*
* Employee training
* Quality Assurance
o Quality? Quantity? Who pays?
* Cleanable Square Footage
o New vs. Used
* Insurance Requirements:
o Rates and coverage limits
* Supply Storage Areas
* Hours, Days of Service
* Payroll Taxes: NMW.
* Holiday pay
* Environmental ISO14001
* Workers’ Compensation
* Contract Duration
o Badges, Uniforms
* Personnel Screening
* Staffing Levels
* Pay rates
*Each addition task or frequency of clean in your cleaning specification will equate to additional labour costs as time = money. This will affect the cost of the bid.
Narrowing the Field of Cleaning Companies
When deciding which companies to consider, use these criteria as a guide:
Commitment to Quality
Does the company really have a quality assurance program to “Inspect what you Expect?” Do they have a formal accredited Quality Management System such as ISO 9001?
Many companies talk about their “green” credentials but do they actually operate to recognised standards, which are externally assessed such as ISO14001?
History repeats, so references should be a major factor in your decision. Talk to referees, visit their buildings and inspect the quality of the vendor’s custodial services. It is often useful to visit sites they manage which are not similar to your own so you can determine their range of capabilities.
Scope of Resources
Is the vendor able to expand with you? Do they offer the operations manuals, training programs, management or back office support you need?
Relationships are a key factor in the bidding process. Not all cleaning companies are created equal. Large contracts require a large trust level.
Is the vendor large or small? Local or national? Do they mirror your requirements in terms of scope, locations, and objectives? Do they participate in reputable industry organisations? Do you feel comfortable with their level of professionalism?
Do they offer additional services that can be easily ‘bolted-on’ to their current contract with you thus removing a third party suppliers overhead contribution thus making a financial saving for you with no visible degradation of service levels
The bottom line is critical, but beware of the “penny-wise, pound-foolish” syndrome. Cheap cleaning companies could end up costing you more in the long run. Make sure you identify the labour, equipment and supplies needed to do the job thoroughly by comparing every quote closely.
The Dreaded Walkaround aka The Site Survey
Hosting a cleaning walkaround is probably not high on your list of fun, but it is the second major ingredient in receiving an accurate bid package. Whatever you do, do NOT delegate it to a junior member of staff. To get a true feel for the scope of your work, companies must see the facility’s level of cleanliness, types of supplies, square footage, flooring surfaces, building density and the like to ensure they can provide the service levels you need. If a junior staff member who neither knows nor understands the ramifications of the cleaning programme guides them, you run a high chance of giving out a very negative message of your expectations.
Pulling Back the Curtain: Understanding Pricing Models
Once you’ve reviewed the proposals from the cleaning companies, you can prepare your pricing model. Most include:
* Labour, including payroll taxes, insurances and benefits
* Direct Operating Costs, including supplies, uniforms, transport, equipment, PAT tests, employee screening, training etc.
* Overhead and Profit
Vendors should be willing to fully explain their pricing model and answer any questions about their services and pricing methods.
Apples to Apples:
Selecting the Vendor to Provide Your Building Cleaning Services
Selection often distills down to two simple (yet complex!) factors:
* Can the vendor do the job?
* Can we work well together?
How well does the cleaning company stack up? Which one offers the right mix of service, staff, equipment and price to get the job done right, on time, on budget everytime?
To find the answers and ensure fair comparison, revisit your tender requirements and examine these details from their quotation in particular:
Labour – Verify the number of cleaning hours (not head count) received per day. While the National Minimum Wage was supposed to level the playing field we strongly advise you also check that wage rates are realistic. This is simple to do by researching cleaning recruitment adverts in your locale. There is no point employing a contractor who gives you a cheap price by paying their staff below the local going rate. All that does is lead to a revolving door syndrome where you get constant staff changes. If there is to be a transfer of incumbent staff to another contractor, be aware that TUPE applies. This EU legislation governs the Transfer of Undertakings and Protects Employment rights and is a legislative nightmare that is beyond the scope of this blog. Please contact us for additional, site-specific advice.
Employment Costs. Ask for National Insurance contributions and holiday pay including Bank holiday payments to be broken down by category and compare. Ask for explanations of any large discrepancies
Insurances. Accredited service companies should have documented proof of required public liability and employers insurances. Ensure that there is cover available to at least £10m for any one accident. Remember especially dangerous services where operatives work at height, use specialist machinery or handle dangerous substances all require additional cover which will be detailed in the main policy but not on the certificate that most companies use to prove they have cover.
Equipment. Does the bid have enough budgeted to do the job? Compare among the different janitorial companies. What is their repair policy – how long will it take to repair? PAT testing – how often?
Supplies. Be sure to agree on quality. Tissue, soap and towels are a major expense in cleaning services and can be a major complaint area if quality is not agreed upon. Determine whether stock is delivered ‘just in time’ or on a planned schedule basis. It can make a big difference to you if you are the one everyone calls when the loo rolls run out!
Armed with this well-planned selection process, your hiring decision is bound to be a success!
A new report from MTW Research on the UK Contract Cleaning Market has found that 45% of contract cleaning companies experienced growth during the last 12 months.
Despite tougher trading conditions in 2009, rising investment in public sector construction should offer some optimism for the market in the short term, particularly from RMI and new build construction projects within the Health and Education sectors.
The new market report, based on sales returns from 80% of the industry, found that the contract cleaning industry in 2009 is likely to be characterised by a decline in capital expenditure and spending on equipment coupled with a growing ’squeeze’ on assets as sales revenues contract over the next 12-18 months.
For suppliers to the contract cleaning market the report highlights the growing need for more focused marketing in order to target those contract cleaners who are continuing to perform well in the industry at present.
MTW Research also found that 30% of contract cleaning companies are considered ‘at risk’ in late 2008, with the report highlighting the growing problem of customer retention.
Customer loyalty is becoming less prevalent according to MTW, and clients of contract cleaners are increasingly seeking more competitive prices before renewing contracts.
This growing trend in the market is driving price competition in a sector where volume demand is now declining as smaller and medium sized firms in particular are internalising certain cleaning duties, rather than outsourcing.
With business confidence at a particularly low ebb in a number of key markets at present, indications are that suppliers to the contract cleaning sector will experience more difficult trading conditions as contractors are less willing to invest in capital equipment during a period of sustained low demand.
Despite the likelihood of a downturn, however, there is likely to be some continuation of capital investment by the industry, albeit at much lower levels than recently experienced, with total assets forecast to rise by just under 4% in 2009.
The report goes on to forecast a recovery in mid-late 2010, with the market set to experience a relatively fast paced return to ‘real term’ growth, followed by a rising level of expenditure on capital goods and equipment.
The industry in general remains in good financial health with borrowing levels representing around 35% of total revenue, reflecting a relatively low ratio and one which is likely to be sustained in the long term.
Longer term prospects are more positive for the contract cleaning sector, with more optimistic growth forecast by 2012 as the industry regains some ground lost in 2008 and 2009.
The report provides a comprehensive review of contract cleaning market and industry trends in late 2008 as well as ranking the cleaning companies and providing sales estimates enabling market share estimation.
In addition, MTW have also produced an effective method of profiling each company and illustrating their key financial performance indicators through their ‘at a glance’ charts.
The report also includes mailing, telephone and contact details for each company providing comprehensive industry analysis and a useful sales and marketing tool.
The report is available to purchase from GBP375 from MTW Research’s website where a free sample is available to download or by calling 08456 524324.
As all premises are unique it is almost impossible to give you an answer in straight monetary terms. But if you have followed our suggested route for tendering your cleaning contract as detailed in our earlier blog, you now have three or four cleaning proposals for your site sitting in front of you that should meet your defined criteria. This means that broadly speaking you should be comparing apples with apples.
What are those “apples” made up of in monetary terms?
Labour: Quite naturally the costs of the staff that perform the cleaning operation are the largest expense. Including any working supervisor and all statutory costs such as National Insurance Tax, payroll costs will make up anywhere between 65 – 75% of the cost of your cleaning service. The large variation depends on the size of the job i.e. a one cleaner job would be nearer 65% than a ten cleaner job. Also the degree of mechanisation of the job influences this percentage. For example a job that predominantly involves the cleaning and polishing of a large sales shop floor would probably have a low labour content but a balancing increase in equipment depreciation and maintenance as auto scrubber driers and ultra speed burnishers would be used to increase productivity.
Management and nonworking supervision: Area Management costs equate to 3-5% of the value of your cleaning operation. On a larger job, say anything over five or six operatives, there will probably be a requirement for a non-working site supervisor to organise and manage the staff and liase with you. While day to day management will be by the site supervisor there is also a requirement for an external Area Manager who is the working link between your business and your appointed contractor. On smaller contracts where there is no non-working site supervisor, the Area Manager’s role is more visible as they will perform more of the site supervisor type duties. It is helpful to consider that if the average quote you have to clean your premises is say £300 per week then the Area management element represents just £780 per annum. If an Area Manager’s salary is say £16k p.a. by the time you add statutory costs, transport and administration you are looking at an overall package cost of £30k p.a. This indicates therefore that you are paying for just over 2.5% of your managers time or an alternative way of looking at it is that your Area Manager has to look after 40 sites the same size as yours!
Equipment: As noted previously equipment costs can vary dramatically if your site is capable of increased mechanisation. But usually the higher this percentage is there is a larger corresponding reduction in labour costs. The average cost is probably anywhere between 3-5% of your cleaning charge. It is important to realise the time frame that the equipment will be depreciated over to avoid your site being equipped with old decrepit gear which is long past it’s sell by date. Realistically vacuums will last 2-3 years, floor polishers four years and ASD’s (auto scrubber driers) approximately 5 years. NB equipment costs should include all maintenance; spare parts including new batteries every 6-700 operating hours and an annual PAT test.
Cleaning materials: It is often thought that the larger the cleaning company the bigger the discounts they will get purchasing cleaning materials therefore you will get a lower cost service from them. But with the cleaning materials the cleaning staff will use, not the consumables that your staff use such as hand soaps and lavatory papers, only equating to 3-4% of the cleaning service costs, it can be seen what a pointless exercise it is constantly chiselling material costs down by pressurising suppliers and lowering the quality of the products in use. Customers would actually be far better of paying 50% more for better quality materials and consumables such as micro fibre cloths as the improved cleaning results achieved by less manpower inputs have the potential to generate far larger savings.
P.P.E: Personal protective equipment costs are mandatory, period. There can be no cutting of corners in ensuring the cleaning staff working on your site are protected against infection and accidents. But these costs only equate to a maximum of 1% of the job value in the majority of cases. Some entry-level companies try to reduce their costs by making it their staff’s own responsibility to supply safety shoes and hard hats. Did you realise hard hats are date stamped and have a shelf life? We strongly advise that your original tender request defines responsibility for the supply and management of P.P.E. as resting solely with the contractor.
Training: Training costs in any half decent cleaning company should equate to 1-2% of turnover. Historically though cleaning has been looked upon as an unskilled occupation as anyone can do cleaning, can’t they?
The introduction of the national minimum wage, increasingly high standards of health and safety and the drive to mechanise cleaning where possible are slowly but surely dispelling this myth. It should be noted though that training has to be a continuous process as labour turnover rates within the cleaning industry are usually notoriously high. Experience has shown that probably the best form of training that your contractor can give their staff is functional on-the-job training based around the BICS operator training programme. We would strongly advise you to resist any entreaties and bribes of financial assistance to introduce cleaning NVQ’s. As the first assessment centre for Building Cleaning Interiors NVQ in the UK we found that while temporarily motivational for the cleaning staff that could understand them, they did not result in improved cleaning standards as they were too paper based.
Overheads: Overhead costs are the costs of administering, managing and financing the cleaning business itself and usually average between 10-20% of turnover depending on the size of the contractor. If you want a contractor who operates a Quality or Environmental Management System, for example, you have to be prepared to pay more towards overheads than you would to a one man band operating out of a back street garage. At the end of the day the purchasing decision you make will be based on you being comfortable that the cleaning company is capable of delivering what you want and that you feel there is a good fit between both your cultures.
Profit: The average cleaning contracting company in the UK generates net profits of circa 5-6%. But consider the fact that if your cleaning contractor isn’t making a profit how long do you think they will remain in business?
Cleaning is a hard, unremitting service to provide with the contractor’s reputation resting in the hands of a largely part-time, ever changing workforce. The low levels of profit generated and unrealistic customer demands to continually reduce costs have created an industry full of scams and schemes to save pennies at whoever’s expense. By carefully comparing your competing contractors quotations and sales documentation with the above you should now be able to identify areas where costs have been cut to the detriment of your service just to win your business. By doing this analysis now you should be able to weed out the quick-buck commission salesman who just wants to make the sale.
Success will have been achieved if the same workforce and Area manager are cleaning your premises over the next twelve months. Conversely, if you’re cleaning staff keeps changing review your tender against the checklist and speedily identify where the failure is occurring.
Or how to get more bangs for each of your cleaning bucks
It doesn’t matter whether your premises are cleaned in-house or the service is contracted out, one simple way to ensure you are getting the maximum value from your office cleaning service that is so simple it always gets undervalued is the work specification!
Work specification? When you initially either set up your own DIY cleaning plan for your premises or when you employed a contractor you will probably have set down on paper what you wanted cleaned and how often. Didn’t you? Well have you ever revisited it? Have you ever checked that the cleaners that you have now have even seen it?
What’s my point? Well in time everything changes. Not only have your cleaners probably changed many times since you implemented your initial cleaning programme but so will have the layout of your building and probably the importance you attach to cleaning certain bits which were once considered high profile. If the work specification is up-to-date and relevant it both ensures your cleaning staff know what is expected from them but also allows you to factually respond to those clients who always want more and more squeezed into their cleaning programme but aren’t willing to pay extra for it.
We have all experienced client ‘management staff’ who glibly talk about adding extra duties onto the cleaners with the full expectation that this should quite simply just be included within the present cleaning shift. We had one retail client who decided that instead of their sales staff sweeping the sales floor daily our two staff who had a 90-minute cleaning time slot should take over the responsibility of doing it. What’s the big deal? Well if you have 180 minutes to maintain a highly polished vinyl sales floor and it’s 31,000 square feet that is one heck of a lot of extra sweeping work to absorb into your cleaning shift!
Because our work is carefully detailed by area, the regularity of cleaning determined by both Health and Safety implications and by the prestige that the client attaches to certain areas of their customers shopping experience and because we tell our clients up front how the sales floor should look just after cleaning and also at the end of their trading day we were able, in simple no-nonsense language explain to this junior manager that we were more than happy to sweep their sales floor for them but that it would require additional cleaning time of 3.25* hours every day even allowing for the fact that the floor under the fixtures didn’t need sweeping, to do it. They of course were gob smacked that it was possible for us to tell them factually what labour input was required to sweep their floor and this made their decision to keep their own staff sweeping the floor a no-brainer.
When your cleaning programme is detailed, timed and the expected results are known it is easy to make someone with no cleaning experience understand the ramifications of such requests so that you aren’t giving your cleaning staff totally unrealistic cleaning stints and just storing up complaints and higher labour turnover rates for the future when they struggle to manage.
Next week I will discuss how to make your specification your first step in your own quality audit system so you can prove you have done a good job.
* ISSA standard time of 9 minutes a thousand square foot with a 2’ dust mop
Outsourcing your building cleaning services means more than just finding quality contractors to clean your facilities. It’s a strategic business decision with many great benefits. But it all comes down to a single bottom-line: making your business better. Outsourcing your facility services can give you a competitive advantage by providing both the time and the additional investment you need to help you grow your business and outrun your competition.
Focus On Your Core Competency
Your business provides specialised products, goods or services. Each business function that does not directly support, develop or improve your products or services – like facility services – can be outsourced. For example, outsourcing your business’s cleaning needs to a specialist cleaning contractor allows you and your team to concentrate on your core competencies and mission-critical objectives, not cleaning your facility. “You look after your core business while we look after the chore business”
Cost-savings alone can be a good enough reason for businesses to outsource tasks like cleaning to contractors. As you well know, retaining in-house employees is a very expensive endeavour, and in-house facility services personnel are no exception. What value do these employees add to your core business function? The answer is most likely little to none. But you still have to pay for those individuals’ national insurance tax, salary and benefits package (Public and employees liability insurances, holiday and sick pay, etc.), not to mention numerous indirect costs like tools and equipment, management, recruitment and training.
Outsourcing your cleaning services to specialist contractors and other similar services to a contracted facility services provider can help you control operating costs and establish a budget, freeing up capital that can be invested in your core business at a greater rate of return. Also, in a rapidly changing world, the contracting out of your non-core services to a specialist can allow the introduction of new work practices and methods overnight. Even with the complexities of TUPE it is possible to agree with your incoming contractor that after a defined period of say within 6 or 9 months of the contract commencing that you want changes to your service levels implemented that will generate financial savings of “x” % of your original cleaning budget. It is then up to the contractor to manage the process of redefining staffing levels, introducing more efficient cleaning processes and with your support, redefining the end users expectations of the visible cleaning outputs to give you the financial savings agreed as the target from the outset.
A Cleaning Contractor Offers Expertise
Just like your company has expertise in a particular field, outsourced facility service providers are highly specialised companies, whether they are cleaning contractors, grounds maintenance or industrial cleaners. They have the experience and expertise to manage your facility better than you do because it’s what they do, day in, day out. And they are always at the forefront of technological advancements in their industry, ensuring that clients are receiving the best efficiencies in facility operations. Also as specialists they are able to offer a career path within their industry, which enables the retention and growth of exceptional staff, which an in-house service provider just doesn’t have the scope to provide.
An outsourced facility services provider, such as a cleaning contractor, affords you a higher level of service at a lower cost, bringing best-in-class capabilities to your facility not otherwise available from in-house resources.
Another word for scalability: flexibility. Outsourcing lets you easily adjust the level of staffing for facility operations on an as-needed basis, helping you control operating costs and easily adjust for changes in staffing and service requirements as your needs change.