Finding cost savings in cleaning

Terry Sambrowski
Terry Sambrowski

Long-term care facilities, whether independently owned or part of a large chain, must be very focused on costs and expenditures, and look for savings wherever possible. This definitely applies to the cleaning and maintenance of these facilities.

The professional cleaning industry says its No. 1 goal and purpose today is to keep people healthy.  So administrators never want to skimp on cleaning, but we do want to make sure we are not paying any more for it than we should.  

What steps then can we take to reduce our cleaning costs?

It starts with supplies. Some of the items below may be purchased by your cleaning contractor and/or administrators of your long-term care property.  Either way, these suggestions can apply whomever is purchasing cleaning-related products or many other products used in your facility.

The first step is to perform a supply audit. We want to know what cleaning and paper related products are being purchased for the facility, who is purchasing them, who the supplier is, how often products are being replenished, and of course how much is being paid for these products.  This step all comes down to the concept: you can't monitor what you can't measure.

The next steps are as follows:

Product consolidation: One way to find cost savings is to eliminate all products that no longer need to be purchased. Eliminate single purpose products and look for products that can “multi-task” or be used for multiple cleaning purposes. In this way, your facility saves in four ways. You do not purchase products you do not need; storage space is freed up; less product training is needed; and purchasing larger quantities of one product invariably opens the door to rebates and cost savings from the supplier.

Dilution control: It is very important to install an auto dilution system in your janitorial closet. This system mixes water and chemical precisely so just enough cleaning solution is used to effectively perform the task at hand, eliminating waste.

Check dilution ratios: Let's say one product requires that it be diluted two parts water and one part chemical. The label on another product used for the same purpose indicates it is to be mixed five parts water and one part chemical. Even if the second product costs more initially, it likely will be less costly in the long run due to the dilution ratios.

Buy large and avoid “convenience”: Most all cleaning solutions can be purchased in five-gallon containers. Invariably these will be less costly over time than purchasing the product in one-gallon containers. They may also be more concentrated, which will be another cost reduction. Further, avoid purchasing cleaning solutions that are pre-mixed or applied using an aerosol sprayer. These products offer convenience but the manufacturer is charging you for that convenience.

Don't let product stagnate: Many facilities are using some of the same cleaning products they have used for years. When new products used for the same purpose are introduced, they often are developed for one or more of the following reasons: They perform better, are easier to use, are greener, or cost less. Part of your job as an administrator looking to cut cleaning costs is to stay aware of new cleaning technologies as they are introduced.

The service side of cleaning

While monitoring and staying on top of cleaning products purchased for your long-term care facility are important, even more important is the amount your facility or chain of facilities is actually paying for cleaning services. As mentioned earlier, we don't want to tamper with cleaning quality and performance.  Effective cleaning prevents the spread of disease.  We just want to pay what's fair.

Here are my suggestions on selecting the best cleaning contractor for your facility at the best price:

Update your RFP and SOW. An RFP is a request for proposal and a SOW refers to a scope of work. Often it's a good idea to work with an astute janitorial distributor or a cleaning consultant, especially if you are part of a large chain of long-term care facilities, to make sure your RFP and SOW are up-to-date. These documents must address cost effectiveness and adequately cover all your specific cleaning needs.   

Pre-determine who will receive the RFP. Look for cleaning contractors that are familiar with cleaning long-term care and healthcare-related facilities. This will help minimize the learning curve necessary to understand the cleaning needs of these facilities.

Look for contractors who are members of a group purchasing organization. Most healthcare facilities are members of group purchasing organizations because they offer cost savings. Cleaning contractors that belong to a group purchasing organization may receive manufacturers' discounts on products anywhere from 10% to 50%. Very often these savings are passed on to their customers in the form of more competitive bids.

Call for presentations. Typically, what happens in the RFP process is proposals are “weeded” through until three to five remain.  Ask these selected contractors to give administrators a presentation.  The presentation should consist of information about their company but the focus should be on your facility.  

See if the contractor pinpoints ways that cleaning could be improved, ways costs could be reduced, and/or cleaning technologies that could improve cleaning effectiveness.

Presentations allow you to judge how well the potential contractors understand your concerns and how well equipped they are to help you reach your goals. One of the most valuable aspects of these presentations is you get a “feel” for the contractor. Remember, you may be working with this person for a long time. You want to find someone you can depend on to keep your facility healthy and looking its best.

Terry Sambrowski is the executive director of the National Service Alliance, LLC, one of the largest group purchasing organizations for the professional cleaning and related industries.  She can be reached through her organization's website at www.nansa.org

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