How cleaning organisations can improve their profit margins through productivity.
Implementing three key changes to floor cleaning regimes will have a significant impact on profit margins for many commercial cleaning organisations. Today the major question we hear from cleaning operators is, how can they make and grow a healthy profit in the face of historically-low margins? The answer lies in productivity.
Over the last decade, particularly during the recession, competition to win business saw prices being driven ever lower. In addition, contract cleaning companies also faced an increased pressure to over perform in order to protect minimal margins.
Management and supervisory levels within contract organisations also saw significant erosion. Ten years ago a cleaning contractor might have had several levels of hierarchy within its structure to handle client relationships and implementation, however jump forward to today and it’s not unusual for a single supervisor to deal with multiple clients.
Our experience is that this has left the contracted operator with little choice but to re-prioritise their focus, sometimes at the expense of training and talent development.
The impact of these changes is that industry has had to accept that low margins and smaller resources are now a fact of life.
So what are the options for contract cleaning companies who want to increase their profit?
We believe that improved productivity could, and does, hold the key. This is not necessarily about big changes – it’s about doing things more easily and quicker.
Clients often come to us because they’ve been unhappy with the performance of their previous cleaning products. Our advice is always to think about the “cost in use” rather than the cost per litre of the chemical range being deployed. Whilst your average lemon gel cleaner might look cost-effective, if you are having to use more than you need, or apply more labour in use to ensure the output is acceptable, then it becomes an expensive outlay – both in terms of product cost and staff time.
We advise clients that they need to factor in dilution ratios, coverage ratios, deployment times, how effective it is and cost of disposal. It makes sense that if you are able to get a floor to standard one day, it will need less cleaning the next day. If all these things are taken into consideration, suddenly a product that looks “premium” becomes much more cost-effective in the long run.
Let’s take an example. During the course of our work, we helped review the night-time cleaning routine for a well-known supermarket. At the time, it was taking four or five passes by their cleaning operatives to clean the floors in the produce and dairy areas which tend to attract the highest level of floor contamination in such an environment. By making a simple switch to a more effective product, we were able to reduce the number of passes to just one, meaning their operatives could work on other tasks, saving them more than 18 per cent on productivity ratios.
We all know about staging during office night time cleaning, so that the right equipment and chemicals are placed as close to the area of work as possible. But what about thinking more laterally than that? By hitting one floor at a time, for instance, you can reduce the amount of total lighting time (and therefore electricity bills) for your client. This might make a big difference to clients trying to prove their CSR credentials.
Doing things in the right order is essential. We recently came across an example of a new building that had not undergone a proper “builder’s clean” following construction. The client’s cleaning team went in to start their daily routines, but because there was still grout residue around tiles, mastic and cement dust, this had the knock-on effect of making the building less clean than before. We were therefore brought in to do a deep clean, a cost the building owner could have avoided in the first place by engaging a specialist deep cleaning contractor which is a very niche set of skills and who are set up for such one off deployments.
In summary, by choosing the right products (based on effectiveness not price), taking preventative measures and cleaning in the right order, you can turn fairly simple adjustments into profit making changes.
This article first appeared in Tomorrow’s Cleaning Magazine