Working as a Team

July 1, 2004
Team cleaning can improve maintenance processes and encourage out-of-the-box thinking.

When people hear the term “team cleaning,” they often think it is simply group cleaning or a phrase describing teamwork. This is not the case.

Team cleaning focuses on several concepts: efficiency and effectiveness, work simplification, work redistribution, workflow and worker self-direction. This all culminates into a system for training, performance expectancy, accountability and improvement.

Sum of its parts

The component parts of team cleaning: specialists, quadrant scheduling and backpack vacuuming technology. Specialists include:

  • Starter (usually referred to as Light-Duty Specialist — General Cleaning). This worker's duties include removing surface dust, emptying trash and spot cleaning. This position starts the general cleaning process and continues through the entire shift without ever returning to the supply station. The extent of the cleaning duties depends on the tools transported by this specialist. With the closer following over the same route but about 15-20 minutes behind, the starter can communicate necessary changes, such as closing doors in spaces not needing vacuuming.

  • Closer (usually referred to as Vacuum Specialist). This worker's duties include vacuuming and checking for obvious cleaning deficiencies. This position follows the starter and closes down the cleaning operation. Basically, the starter and closer perform general cleaning, which relate to 60 to 90 percent of a facility, depending on type and usage.

  • Restroom Specialist. This worker's duties include cleaning and sanitizing restrooms.

  • Utility Specialist. Duties of the utility specialist include collecting trash and removing it from the facility, lobby assignments, various floor-care responsibilities and other tasks as needed. This position is highly diversified based upon the scope of work. Skills may include deep mopping/scrubbing or hazardous-waste management. This specialist can be assigned some supervisory responsibilities.

Making a schedule

The space assigned to the starter and closer is divided into four quadrants. Routine, detail and project type frequency processes then are assigned. Using this concept, the system will produce 10,000 to 12,000 square feet per hour for each specialist performing general cleaning. This results in a team average of 5,000 to 6,000 square feet per hour.

Routine cleaning is performed daily, detail cleaning is performed weekly, and project cleaning is performed monthly. No two specialists work together except for teams performing tasks such as setups or floor maintenance.

It is critical to adhere strictly to scheduled work. Routine and detail tasks are performed on a rotational basis Monday through Thursday with projects rotated over four Fridays. Each day, one of the quads is designated a detail cleaning with the three others having the designated routine.

Schools should exercise care in determining the quadrant layout; typically, this can be adjusted until the flow is balanced. For example, it would not be efficient if the vacuum specialist has to wait for the starter to move out of an area. A specialist's shift may start or end a few minutes earlier or later than the next specialist.

By simplifying the tasks and disciplining the specialists to follow the system, a school can maximize productivity and improve quality.

Harris Sr. is a principal of Concepts IV, Albany, N.Y. The company provides education and training in accelerated cleaning systems.

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