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The end of “commodity cleaning” in the post-coronavirus world?


A new white paper published by Secure Clean Building Services explains why the the COVID-19 pandemic may spell the end of of price-based “commodity cleaning” for commercial buildings.  As a result of the coronavirus, the quality, thoroughness, and overall value of cleaning and disinfecting services will take centre stage.  After witnessing the havoc a virus invisible to the naked eye can cause on the economy, cleaning that’s simply “good enough” or that “looks clean” just won’t pass muster any longer. Rick Vanderkoy, the author of the paper, states that “[m]anagers will demand cleaning that stops the spread of infection.” Furthermore, the paper states that this shift in perceived value go beyond facility managers and building operators, but will become a serious point of concern to C-suite executives in a variety of industries.

“Top executives are now responsible for their staff’s health and welfare, continued business operations, brand reputation, and the bottom line,” states Vanderkoy. “Whereas effective cleaning has played a relatively minor role in C-suite responsibilities in the past, it now plays a commanding position.”  As an example, Vanderkoy references the May 2020 work stoppage by Amazon employees over concerns about cleaning and safety and the $4 billion the company applied to COVID-mitigating measures.

In the past, many facility managers and building operators treated cleaning and maintenance as a commodity service, assuming that there was effectively no discernable difference between one cleaning contractor and the next.  Facility managers would often base their procurement decisions based solely on price.  “If one contractor says they would charge $10,000 per month to clean a facility and another says they would only charge $6,000, it is pretty easy to guess which one is hired,” Vanderkoy states in the paper. “But that is over with COVID-19.”

With an eye to the long-term and wide-ranging effects a virus invisible to the naked eye can have, building owners are instructing their facility operators to take a longer-term view of building cleaning and maintenance. “Today, [building owners] view quality cleaning as an investment.  It pays dividends by protecting the health of building users and by keeping businesses and facilities functioning,” states Vanderkoy in the paper.

Cleaning costs don’t need to become a runaway expense, however; by taking this longer-term view, cost savings can still be achieved through greater efficiencies.  If more manhours of cleaning need to be spent in disinfecting and sanitizing high-touch surfaces and contact points in your building, these hours can be scavenged from other duties by making them more efficient.  A common point of inefficiency in commercial buildings is the entrance matting: cheap, commodity matting is placed at high-traffic doorways that does nothing to actively trap and hold dirt, dust, and sand before it can spread around your building, making it more expensive to remove.  By choosing proper entrance matting that’s actually designed to actively trap and hold dirt, your cleaning crews have to remove dirt from only one concentrated area rather than spread out over the whole facility, effectively recovering time that would otherwise be wasted.  Quality entrance matting may cost more than commodity mats at the time of initial purchase, but it quickly pays for itself many times over when you consider the overall service lifespan along with the related cleaning staff efficiency gains.

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