The ideal when cleaning a school, or multiple schools, is finding the perfect mix of technique and technology. More than 80 percent of expenditures for most school districts are directed toward labor. To save labor, district officials often adopt new processes and new technologies. At some stage, though, a custodial staff will seem to 'max out' - at that point it seems they will not be able to move one step faster, harder or quicker. To increase efficiencies, then, requires the right technology and process mix - machines, chemicals, innovation, methods.
The Washoe County School District (WCSD) in Reno, Nev., is one of just a few districts in the country to achieve ISO 9001 certification, thanks in large part to an innovative program known as Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PCHS). PCHS is now being independently piloted and refined in schools across the country by its originator, Rex Morrison, formerly Housekeeping Training Coordinator for WCSD.
'Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools is a non-branded and non-proprietary-product cleaning system administered by a non-profit consortium of school facility professionals,' Morrison said. 'We don't require the use of a specific brand for anything, but we do have pillar technologies, such as spray-and-vac restroom cleaning, that support the system.'
PCHS is based on taking all the steps required to clean a designated area, organizing them like dominoes where each process 'pushes' the next step down, making it an automatic cleaning reflex. 'Ten years ago, we started working on a way to clean restrooms,' Morrison said. 'We refined it until we got to where we could clean a restroom in an average of two minutes per fixture. With spray-and-vac technology, we pared that down to one minute per fixture!
'No matter whether you oversee one restroom or 100, you know how every single one is being cleaned, because the process is the same every time,' Morrison said. 'You create a standard, based on best practices and technologies, that is both teachable and repeatable.'
While spray-and-vac technology is unquestionably at the forefront of restroom cleaning, Morrison acknowledges that for smaller schools and districts, financial constraints can make larger equipment acquisitions difficult to justify.
'When you're dealing with large schools, mainly high schools, you want to minimize your down time and fill time as much as possible, so it makes sense to use standard-size machines. But it's extremely difficult to justify the cost of such units for smaller elementary and secondary schools that might have only one or two custodians,' he said. 'With the OmniFlex, that obstacle disappears, as the unit is available at about a third of the cost of its larger siblings.'
Based on Kaivac's original No-Touch Cleaning machine, the OmniFlex system is designed to remove the maximum amount of soil and bio-pollution in a compact platform. Diluted cleaning solution is applied to fixtures and floors in a low pressure spray mode, then it and the soils are washed loose with a power rinse of clean water.
The indoor pressure washer flushes soils out of grout lines and tight places that mops can't reach. The operator then vacuums the floor dry – thoroughly removing soils, moisture and bio-pollution from surfaces, grout lines and crevices, leaving the floor virtually soil-free and dry.
'Now you're not cleaning the restrooms by hand; you're spraying everything on. You wash it to the floor, vacuum it up and you're done. You're putting dignity in a process where previously there was none, and you're getting one-minute-per-porcelain-fixture efficiency at the elementary school level where previously it took two minutes. It changes everything, and fills a gap in a traditional process cleaning program,' he said.
To test the Omniflex's capabilities, Morrison contacted Ruben Rives, owner and CEO of Miami-Fla.-based H2Only Renewable Cleaning in Miami, Fla. – who pioneered the chemical free cleaning processes in numerous FL charter schools. Charged with maintaining more than 20 schools in Florida's Somerset Charter School system, Rives has never shied from taking a different approach. 'I really started focusing on Renewable Cleaning about five years ago,' he said. 'The most important thing for me is to find ways to stay true to your approach and your process without compromising the level of sanitation and disinfection you need to achieve.'
'I first met Ruben at ISSA in 2010 in Florida,' Morrison said. 'He asked me to come down and set up three of his schools on the process cleaning program. It was working well, so he asked me to come down again and work on his policies and procedures, and to get all of his schools up and running on the latest process cleaning methodologies.'
Prior to heading to Miami, Morrison procured an OmniFlex unit from Kaivac and tested it at schools in his area. He was impressed with the machine overall, but the first lower-spray-pressure option he tested lacked the power he believed was necessary to achieve optimum results. He requested a higher-pressure unit for the machine and headed south. When the machine arrived in Florida, he and Rives went out into the field.
'I took it to a school, prepared to be impressed, but not overly,' Morrison said. 'However, the higher pressure option changed everything. By the end of the day I was ready to get up on the stump and start preaching the value of OmniFlex, and I haven't stopped since.'
Portability and flexibility are both fundamental facets of the OmniFlex system. Whereas the construction and weight of a standard-size spray-and-vac unit limits its mobility and portability, a single operator can break down the OmniFlex in less than 2 minutes, put it in the backseat of a medium-size automobile and move on to the next school.
'My goal is to make our policies and procedures repeatable in a variety of different schools and, in the future, throughout the nation,' Rives said. 'The OmniFlex is an awesome machine for bathrooms, floors and carpets. It's the only machine I would use right now in smaller schools; it allows us to go into areas we otherwise wouldn't be able to access.
'This machine will save you 50 percent of your time. It's a speed machine, it's a money maker, it's a staff reducer, it's a carpet cleaner, it's three machines in one,' Morrison said. 'If you don't have one in your building, you're going backward and you're losing money.'
'We're lucky to be at the forefront of these technologies and to be able to implement them in a single, comprehensive program – Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PCHS),' he said. 'Between the right process and the right technology combined with ATP testing validation, we have a framework to build from and move forward into the future.'