In late 2008, the Integrated Cleaning and Measurement™ model first emerged into the cleaning industry. When implemented correctly, ICM can help your facility reduce costs and make your cleaning program more efficient and effective, thus increasing customer satisfaction and decreasing the spread of disease. Although testing requires a small investment in equipment, such as ATP and indoor air quality measuring devices, the benefits of testing make the return on investment more than worth it in the long run. Despite the fact that scientific testing is not a new concept in the industry, ICM™ is unique in that it is an open-source system in which 'best practices' are defined by scientific measurement of cleaning outcomes.
In the summer of 2009, the University of Washington agreed to be involved in ICM testing with assistance from Allen Rathey, President of InstructionLink/JanTrain, Inc. (www.jantrain.com), representatives from Elliot Affiliates, Ltd. (www.ealtd.com), and some vendor representatives to prove the efficacy of the ICM model. All participants first visited UW to outline their goals of testing, and surveyed customers on what their perceptions were of current cleaning processes, which gave a baseline of where the university stood in regards to cleanliness.
'We decided to become involved in the ICM test because we were interested in adding science to the evaluation process of cleaning procedures and products we use,' says Gene Woodard, Director, Custodial Service Department, University of Washington. 'ICM fits in with our facility services department's vision of being a world-class organization, where we are leaders in exploring new practices. We felt that this is one of those new, emerging ideas that can help the industry, as well as our facility.'
Since the ICM testing began in July 2009, the facility has tested restroom cleaning procedures as well as indoor air quality.
'Testing validated some of the cleaning processes we currently practice. For example, we just recently tested our restroom cleaning procedures and most of the results went down to ATP counts below 30, which is considered sanitary. That helped us in validating that the methods we currently use in training our staff are effective,' says Woodard. 'Since we now know that the machines we use in the restrooms do a superior job in lowering ATP counts, this new knowledge based on cleaning science will be a factor in how we design our work and how we equip restroom specialists as we create additional team cleaning practices as we move forward.'
The custodial services department has also begun testing vacuuming versus dust mopping hard floors in classrooms in order to assess the direct and indirect productivity of both methods, using time studies in classrooms and to assess soil removal efficacy of both methods through visual (i.e., look at the floors) and gravimetric analysis (i.e., weigh the dust removed). Results of this test are forthcoming.
'Due to this testing, at some point in the future, we will be able to validate and explain to our staff and customers why we employ the cleaning processes and equipment we do,' says Woodard.
Although ICM testing at the University of Washington came during a time when the custodial department had just eliminated 39 positions due budget cuts resulting from the poor economy and underwent a complete departmental reorganization, Woodard says they continued with beta testing due to the department's continued commitment to exploring best practices in the industry and being a world-class organization.
'Even though there are some things on our department's 'to do' list that need immediate attention, we are still committed to spending the time to do the testing to help us in the long run with understanding processes,' says Woodard. 'Creating a system of measurement, in itself, will help our department tell its story better. If more budget cuts come up in the future, I will be able to enhance my description of the negative effects of staff reductions to our administration, I will actually be able to DEMONSTRATE how we can reduce ATP counts to below 30 on a daily basis, with a certain level of staffing and processes. It allows us to tell our story better so that the administration understands the effect of diminished resources and where we might make future cuts.'
Woodard recommends that other IEHA members incorporate the ICM testing process into their facilities, especially those whose mission is to provide a sanitary environment, because having some measuring process will provide your institution with information to validate and show when your department is not getting the results they want using a certain cleaning procedure. Furthermore, this data allows any IEHA member to manage his or her staff to perform processes and procedures that are most effective, which is the goal of ICM.
'The bottom line is that we are supposed to provide a clean and sanitary environment and we are the first line of defense against the things that we don't see. For example, if we had an outbreak of some contagious disease here on campus, we would know which processes would lower the ATP count and we would employ the best one,' says Woodard. 'Having this data gives us more information as we make decisions on how to keep the university safe and sanitized by using the best products. That's one of the reasons why we began testing. We accurately know that we are getting good results, and the data CONFIRMS it.'
Woodard says the whole theory behind providing a sanitary environment is to keep all counts at the lowest level possible and not let particulates and microbes accumulate. Due to the validation that ICM testing has provided, the university will continue to test in order to make their custodial department better and more efficient.
'This testing is new for us, and I don't think we will reach a point where we say, 'We don't need to test anymore,'' says Woodard. 'I want this to become a part of our quality assurance program as an institution because it will continue to be a way to show us how to compare procedures and find best practices.'
Reprinted with permission from Executive Housekeeping Today, the official publication of the International Executive Housekeepers Association. www.ieha.org.