Creating a Strong Foundation for High-Performance Cleaning

Co-authors: Jim Harris, Sr. and Jeff Merrihew

The creation of something as complex as the modern skyscrapers that dot the skylines of every major U.S. city seems far removed from the design of a high-performance cleaning system, but similarities may exist.

Each requires a comprehensive understanding of what is to be accomplished and where it is to be performed. The builder, in order to develop a successful plan, requires information on location, materials, elevations, dimensions, time requirements, and logistics, to name just a few. In order for cleaning professionals to develop a high-performance service delivery system, accurate and detailed information is again required to lay the foundation for success.

Today the cleaning industry faces ever-increasing pressures as a result of escalations in requirements, budget reductions, wage increases, and rising health care costs—and the list goes on. To meet those challenges, providers often seek methods to increase productivity. Routinely these productivity increases lack sustainability because the proper foundation has not been established.

In order to achieve consistent success, providers must know fundamental information about the environment they plan to service. This basic information is the foundation on which the service delivery system is built.

Data Capture Improvements

For years the cleaning industry was able to rely on general captures of facility information. To estimate daily service hours, one might simply measure the footprint of the facility, take away a standard percentage for noncleanable space, and apply an overall production rate, yielding the required labor.

While quick, the method was far from precise, since detailed information was not captured or available to support the current cost and quality demands of the cleaning system.

As pressure on the industry increased and providers became more sophisticated, methods for capturing key facility information, including area types and usage details, floor surfaces, furnishings, occupancy levels, etc., became more proficient. Capturing this level of detailed information provides the foundation from which a service delivery system can be designed and operated.

Capturing facility data allows for the development of cleaning specifications that will effectively meet the need without excess. The capture also allows for accurate staffing estimates to be developed and the effective deployment of staff throughout the facility.

From state-of-the-art software to tried-and-true methods like the measuring wheel, service providers rely on a range of tools to capture the required facility information with enough detail to serve as the foundation for a high-performance cleaning system. Computer-aided design software or image files, such as PDFs and JPEGs, are one way to capture the necessary data. By utilizing software and files, service providers can quickly and accurately capture cleanable square footage information. If properly labeled, even room use and floor surface type can be recorded in these files/prints. If such files are not available, service providers can successfully capture the information by manually measuring the facility and visually assessing the room data.  Whatever the method employed, the important thing is to collect the critical information and store it for detailed study.

Using Facility Data

Once captured, the detailed facility data needs to be organized. This is often done by area type, floor surface type, etc. This refinement of data supports several elements that are key to the development of a high-performance system, such as precisely defining the tasks the contractor plans to deliver and the frequency of those tasks.

Once service specifications are defined, captured facility information can be used to generate production rates based on the requirements of each area. The calculation of production rates is now driven by the specific needs of a facility rather than a generic rate that did not account for unique building requirements.

The most important benefit of capturing data is reliable information that can be used to deploy service staff. A comprehensive understanding of which areas require service, which tasks are on the requirement list, and the facility’s layout allow for the creation of balanced workflow. The workflow plan can be captured and documented on job cards to achieve maximum productivity while ensuring conformance to requirements.

Data Capture Benefits

The old adage, “measure twice, cut once,” illustrates how lack of attention to detail can be costly and permanent. The time involved with capturing, analyzing, and putting detailed space information to use may seem unnecessary, but consider the value: Effective workloading and specification design can lead to satisfied customers. A little time spent in the beginning to lay a strong foundation can provide rewards for years to come.


Jim Harris, Sr is founder & CEO of Concepts4 cleaning consultants. He can be reached at Jeff Merrihew is a Senior Consultant & technical advisor with Concepts4 & can be reached at

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