How do I know exactly what my Daily Cleaning Service should cost?

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.

Cleaning

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.

Cleaning products

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.

Overheads

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.

Columbus Dixon

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