Assessing Cleaning Performance

Assessing Cleaning Performance.
Equipment for complete removal of contaminants should be part of a commercial cleaning toolbox. (Photo: Kaivac, Inc.)

By Allen Rathey
From the January/February 2016 Issue

Lewis Carroll stated, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” While some people might say a good cleaning program, like a good life, is a journey not a destination, almost everyone agrees it is important to set practical goals. This article addresses setting cleaning performance goals in the context of business objectives through cleaning performance assessment, and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics.

According to Chris Arlen, president of Service Performance, a consulting firm based in Bainbridge Island, WA, “Key performance indicators can provide an essential baseline for assessing and improving cleaning performance.”

Arlen likens KPIs to key cockpit readings of legacy Boeing 747s: “In older Boeing 747s, if all the instrumentation were taken out of the cockpit and laid end-to-end it would stretch over 27 feet in length. Pilots couldn’t pay attention to all those dials and displays all the time. Instead, they viewed six key indicators. If something appeared out of order, pilots checked the other instruments corresponding to that key indicator. The same is true for cleaning KPIs.”

Cleaning performance metrics, or KPIs, can include:

  • Appearance Metric
  • Customer Satisfaction Metric
  • Fiscal Metric
  • Sanitizing, IAQ Metric
  • Health Metric

These KPIs or metrics can be part of a Cleaning Performance Assessment (CPA), a customized assessment based on individual facility requirements.

Cleaning Performance Metrics: The Customer-centric View

Certainly, what occupants see and observe throughout a facility is a vital KPI , so a good place to start evaluating as it relates to the cleaning procedures that are in practice.

1. Appearance Metric. Does it look “clean” on a scale from one to 10 based on a survey of the customer or tenant? This metric is no more complicated than that. While this is indeed subjective, the nature of occupants’ perceptions is subjective; they will judge the quality of the cleaning based on what they see and smell. This metric measures these impressions in a fair and objective way by averaging the viewpoint of perhaps 25% of the users of a facility, plus that of the third-party visitor, auditor, or assessor (via an unannounced visit). One approach to solicit feedback: make this a mini selective crowdsourcing process via online surveys.

According to cleaning performance and science advocate, Bob Robinson, Sr., founder of Kaivac, “While ‘cleaning for appearance’ is an obvious goal, science tells us that just because a facility looks and smells clean, it is not always clean, safe and healthy. Tools that enable more complete removal of contaminants, visible and invisible—and productively—should be part of the cleaning performance arsenal.”

2. Customer Satisfaction Metric. On a scale from one to 10, is the customer happy with the cleaning and the cleaning staff’s responsiveness to input or complaints? Which areas need improvement? Which areas shine?

3. Fiscal Metric. This calls for evaluating the “dollars and cents” data, and this includes the following:

  • Overall cost of cleaning (the basis is not subjective and should hinge on cost per cleanable square foot). Standardizing cleaning processes and tools most affects this metric.
  • Square feet cleaned per full-time custodial worker.
  • Asset preservation. Clean surfaces last longer, so develop factors to measure this as part of the cleaning performance matrix. Ask vendors to provide data on the durability of products and surfaces (e.g., floors) when kept clean (or not), then factor replacement costs and intervals for well-maintained or poorly-maintained assets.

4. Sanitizing/IAQ Metric. Create an average score based on the “healthiness” of the facility cleaning based on a) occupant and auditor walk-through surveys, and b) average daily attendance numbers, where available.

The “healthiness” of a facility is also based on average ATP post-cleaning numbers (perhaps using ISSA’s Clean Standard as a guide). ATP measures organic or germ-promoting soil or average settled dust levels. This can be gravimetric (e.g., the weight of dust samples taken using a white glove-like capture swab across 10 standardized dust collection point), or initially visual (e.g., “I can draw an ‘X’ in the dust, so this is a zero to 3 score”).

Settled dust levels are an indicator of what is airborne and inhalable. Lower levels of settled dust equate to lower levels of airborne dust as a possible trigger of asthma and allergies. Again, while customer perception is subjective, human visual acuity, olfactory, and other senses are quite sensitive and can detect dust, odor, and other contaminants without the need for scientific devices. This perception, when averaged across enough users of the facility and unannounced third-party audits, can contribute to the accurate “sense” of clean and healthy, with more scientific assessments, pending further development of the Clean Standard and related efforts from ISSA, a cleaning industry trade association.

Involving operations staff in discussion of HVAC filtration and other indoor environmental factors enables deeper collaboration for cleaner, healthier environments.

5. Health Metric. While anecdotal data supports the belief that better cleaning promotes health, hard data associated with cleaning (e.g., reducing absenteeism) is harder to pinpoint because of confounding variables, such as ventilation, individual differences among people, and pre-existing conditions. It only makes sense that a cleaner indoor environment supports better health, attendance, and productivity.

ISSA’s Clean Standard makes the point that less germ-promoting soil as measured by lower ATP levels means fewer points of disease transmission, and conditions conducive to better health.

The health metric needs a disclaimer that it is not a scientific measurement, but reflects occupant and auditor impressions and sensibilities.

According to Rex Morrison, founder of the 501c3, Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools, “Complete removal of soil by standardizing the right tasks and tools is the path to performance benefits, and a carefully crafted process minimizes labor, maximizes ergonomics, addresses bottom-line needs, and protects health.”

Tracking KPIs

For the Appearance and Customer Satisfaction metrics, facility management staff might survey monthly (on a one to 10, or similar, scale) using tools as simple as online survey platforms (like SurveyMonkey). This can produce a basic numerical average to improve upon and track over time.

Fiscal metrics can include direct comparisons of costs between current programs and new ones. For examples, facility management might compare use of specialists equipped with standardized tools, techniques, and precise work loading, versus generalists carrying on business as usual.

Or this may include tracking the reduction of floor stripping costs when floors are regularly vacuumed versus dust mopped (proper vacuuming removes more soil).

This practice can also include measuring electricity savings when cleaning is performed during the day versus at night.

Fiscal metrics regarding asset preservation may involve determining the replacement cycle for carpet that is regularly maintained versus carpet cleaned only when it appears soiled.

Evaluating for Sanitizing/IAQ and Health metrics may include the reduction of ATP levels measured using a luminometer, reduced average airborne particle counts, sampling for allergens using test kits provided by labs such as InBio, and subjective occupant perceptions of health and well-being (related to satisfaction as “value” can be a perception).

Cleaning productivity is not just the speed of cleaning or cleaning staff, but the ability to deliver on the five metrics within agreed-upon resource constraints and/or other parameters.

Assessing Cleaning Performance.Rathey is a 30 year veteran of the facilities sector, specializing in promoting clean, healthy indoor environments. He is president of the Healthy Facilities Institute based in Boise, ID.

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