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Maintaining Cleanliness helps build a Spotless Reputation
When sports fans head to a big game, the last thing on their minds is how clean they’ll find the ticket counter or how sparkling the arena restrooms will be. But facility professionals know that a clean environment is essential to a venue’s image and it enhances their guests’ entertainment experience, as well.
“Our customers demand excellence in all areas of cleanliness,” said Brian Burke of Delaware North Companies’ Sportservice, which serves arenas and stadiums worldwide. “The first concern is the restrooms, then the first-aid area, guest services and ticket counters. These are the initial points of contact with the customer.”
“A squeaky-clean image draws more than just repeat spectators. It helps attract major sporting, musical and other events, and allows management to maximize the facility’s use.
“With ticket prices going up, a lot of managers are paying more attention to their buildings,” said Rich Antonio, national director of Sanitors Event Services, which provides cleaning services to stadiums and arenas. “Unfortunately, when a business makes budget cutbacks, cleaning tends to be one of the first areas cut.”
Many businesses - and even the government - have experienced such cuts. Just last fall, U.S. Navy officials announced they would reduce janitorial and facility maintenance at Naval bases around the globe in order to make more money available for the modernization of ships, planes and weapons.
An Ounce of Prevention
“Replace counters, wall finishes and floors before they wear out,” Burke advised. “It is more work and expense to fix problem areas than to do preventative maintenance.”
When the time comes to make replacement decisions, choose products that promise a longer life, such as vinyl composite or terrazzo tile for floors in heavy-traffic areas.
“Some of the new finishes are made to last two to three years,” said Gary Bauer, vice president, ServiceMaster Clean, which provides maintenance services to homes and businesses. “These products won’t put an end to daily cleaning, but they do help avoid frequent stripping and refinishing of floors.”
In the future, Bauer believes, some of the best help for maintaining an attractive facility will come from the designers, who finish out public facilities.
“The design community must design for long-term maintenance, as well as for aesthetics,” he said. “Light-colored counters may look great at first, but they show dirt and must be replaced in only a couple of years.”
“We find that certain areas of the country are more interested in green products that are environmentally safe and biodegradable,” said Antonio, adding that Sanitors works with each customer to ensure they receive the type of products that they want. “No longer do companies in our industry just come in and simply do the work. We want to be more than a contractor to our customer. We want to be a partner.”
Another cleaning trend is the single-use product, which can clean a multitude of surfaces and materials but is diluted differently for different jobs.
“A general-use cleaner can cut down on hauling and mixing the product and on training your staff how to use it,” said Bauer. No Slip Ups Falling down is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, slip and falls on a level surface take place approximately 16,500 times per year.
When such a mishap occurs in a business facility, the result can be serious injuries or even death. A good cleaning program focusing on safety issues, including proper lighting and prompt removal of clutter, can go a long way toward avoiding such accidents.
“Every lawsuit creates a new standard for the industry,” said Burke. “You must continuously take care of your facility so it is safe for customers. Of course, our industry changes monthly, and you always have to stay on top of new products and finishes to have a safe and clean facility.”
The experts agree that employee training is critical to a first-class cleaning and maintenance program. A well trained employee works approximately 50 percent faster and is less likely to make mistakes than an untrained co-worker; however, training is often overlooked in the cleaning industry due to high employee turnover, language barriers, multiple shifts, and scheduling issues. On the occasions when training is conducted, hard-to-understand lectures and written materials are often ineffective.
The method of training is as important as the subject matter. According to the NTL Institute in Alexandria, VA, most people retain about five percent of what they hear in a lecture and 10 percent of what they read. However, people are able to retain more than 75 percent when they can immediately practice the skill they are trying to learn. One of the best things any manager can do is to employ dedicated supervisors to ensure that staff members are properly trained and proficient in their work.
The management at Aramark, which serves nearly half of all major U.S. professional sports venues, believes effective training boosts performance, helps ensure a safe environment and can improve the return on the facility’s cleaning investment. The company has arranged Englishas- a-second-language classes and taken advantage of state sponsored programs to help employees become better communicators on the job, according to Brian J. Dolan, vice president of operations, ARAMARK Facility Services - Sports & Entertainment.
“Our people can extract or input data in the office or on the road,”said Dolan. “An employee can receive a work order, process it, apply the labor hours required and then invoice the client. It is a class-A system.”
Technology is also tackling actual cleaning chores. One new product on the market is the self-contained, hands-free cleaning unit for restrooms. There are several manufacturers for this type of equipment, and ServiceMaster Clean uses Dupont's version. Each unit is equipped with a water tank, water heater and storage area for cleaning supplies.
“You can use it to apply cleaning products to floors, do the cleaning, vacuum up the product and move it out,” Bauer explained. “It’s all done with water pumps.”
Facility managers can expect to see more high-tech tools in the future. Unfortunately for Aramark’s Dolan, his dream technology has not yet been invented.
“For years, I’ve wanted to see a vacuum that sucks up spilled soda, shreds the paper cup and then disposes of them both,” he said. “It would be the universal one-thing-does- all apparatus.”
Patricia Pape is a freelance writer in Houston, Tx..
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