Given the impact of floor appearance on a building's image, maintaining hard and resilient floors cost effectively is an important consideration for property managers. Of course, with the barrage of floor care products and systems available, selection of products for value and performance is no easy task.
Determining what floor-care system is appropriate for your property can best be achieved by first setting maintenance goals and assessing the cost and effectiveness of your present system before evaluating current offerings on the market. By following the process outlined below, you can get the most value out of your floor-care system.
Does your facility require state-of-the-art floor care, with "wet-look" appearance levels? Do you really need all that sparkle and glitter, or do the areas to be maintained serve primarily a utilitarian function, where aesthetics are a secondary concern? The answers to these questions will help you set your floor-care goals.
High-visibility areas, of course, should receive the most attention, with the nature and amount of traffic weighing heavily on maintenance choices. Lobbies, entries, and main corridors receive the brunt of tenant and customer traffic, and therefore require priority treatment. Both appearance and hygienic issues are paramount concerns for these areas.
But utility areas, loading docks, storage zones, and other low-profile locations might be served best and most economically with staggered maintenance emphasizing basic cleanliness rather than showcase appearance.
Assessing Current Programs
Having determined your objectives, how does your current program measure up? A visual inspection is the most obvious barometer. Are high-profile floors clean and attractive? Is there visible surface dirt or embedded soiling? Are low-profile zones clean?
Regardless of your findings, an examination of the components of your floor-care system is also beneficial. Floor care consists of interactive parts, including equipment, cleaning chemicals, personnel, procedures, frequency of procedures, and facility and floor type. An effective system, one that produces the desired results at the lowest cost, evolves from a synergistic relationship among the parts. You should take into account how all of the elements in your current system are interacting.
Economic factors affect this chemistry more than any other factor. According to the Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI), direct expense of labor and supervision makes up 78 percent of costs in overall cleaning. Therefore, examining the deployment of your floor-care labor, the various kinds of equipment used, and the net effect of that combination are primary considerations when evaluating current maintenance programs.
If you have a staff that only does floors, assessing current costs is fairly straightforward. You will need to determine total labor hours and multiply that by the total hourly rate to arrive at your labor costs on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis. Add to that the cost of cleaning chemicals and equipment, and total costs are quickly apparent.
Computer-Assisted Cost Analysis. Because the property cleaning staff frequently does much more than maintain floors, it is often difficult to isolate floor-care costs without help from cost-analysis software. There are computer programs that use established labor-time standards (for example, data from the International Sanitary Supply Association) for various floor-care tasks and allow users to factor in floor square footage, workers' hourly rates, frequency and kinds of tasks performed, choice of equipment, chemical products, and other variables.
The analysis typically starts with a worksheet that helps assemble the data needed by the program. The data you provide includes descriptions of the floor area and facts about the property's finish removal or stripping, scrubbing, finish recoating, and routine maintenance procedures. Also factored in are basic levels of difficulty for stripping, mopping, and buffing tasks, and whether areas are obstructed or unobstructed. The equipment and chemicals used, and costs per gallon are itemized as well.
Based on this information, a cost-assessment program provides a detailed breakdown of labor and chemical costs, typically subtotaled per task, and grand totaled per year. Labor data is often delineated in minutes required per 1,000 square feet of flooring for each task; total time needed to perform each task; the number of times the task will be performed annually; as well as total annual labor hours, costs, and price of labor per square foot with the existing maintenance plan. By creating a second analysis, you can quickly compare the fiscal and labor ramifications of your current program with those of a proposed system (see Figure 1).
Chemical use is also typically calculated and broken down. Gallons required per task, total gallons used annually per task, price per gallon, total annual cost, and annual cost per square foot are generally reported. This is often helpful as floor coatings have different coverage rates. Note the actual cost difference between two proposed floor coatings; one is initially more expensive but with a greater square-foot coverage per gallon (Figure 2).
A printout allows the correlation of information into a comprehensive summary of procedures, labor data, chemical and equipment selections, and complete cost breakdowns for even-handed comparisons among systems.
Choosing a System
Goals, budget, and environmental factors will largely determine your choices of current offerings in floor care. Add to these factors the wide variety in systems and you may find floor-care selection to be more complex than you had planned.
Mops and Wringers. If your facility is relatively small, you may be able to get away with using an inexpensive manual cleaning method. Among manual mopping systems, a double-bucket setup has practical advantages.
Switching to a double-bucket mopping method, where the worker rinses the soiled mop in one bucket and draws fresh cleaning solution from the other, will increase the area that can be effectively cleaned and reduce time-consuming trips to change solution.
Even a procedure that saves 10 minutes per task creates significant total cost reductions. Ten minutes saved by 10 workers is 100 minutes a day, 500 to 700 minutes per week, or a gain of 10 hours of weekly productivity. That's a savings of $2,000 to $3,000 per year for streamlining a single task.
One of the drawbacks to mopping, however, is the re-depositing of soil. Once a mop is applied to the floor then rinsed in a mop bucket, the water becomes dirty, and subsequent applications of the cleaning solution re-apply the soil. Dirt re-deposited on the floor contributes to declining appearance, becomes trapped under coats of finish, and can lead to premature stripping. Frequent solution changes help somewhat to prevent this problem.
Autoscrubbers Aplenty. For larger areas, and more thorough cleaning of flooring, consider an automatic scrubber, or autoscrubber. An autoscrubber consolidates a number of procedures into one - scrubbing, rinsing, "squeegeeing," and vacuuming - lowering labor costs, while providing better cleaning and greater floor safety. Autoscrubbers have two tanks, one containing clean solution and another holding dirty solution that is removed from the floor. A typical autoscrubber dispenses cleaning solution, scrubs the floor with a rotating pad, then removes the dirty water via a built-in vacuum and squeegee head that follows the scrub head. Dirt is not recycled because only clean solution is applied to floors.
A safety advantage of autoscrubbers over mopping is the ability to clean and Scrub while leaving the floor virtually dry. This allows autoscrubbers to be used during facility operating hours with less risk of slip/fall incidents.
Selection of cost-effective powered equipment for your facility must be determined by the return on invested time, maintenance requirements, and desired results.
Autoscrubbers are more costly than a mop bucket and wringer by several thousand dollars, but they produce a return on investment through superior cleaning ability, increased productivity, and safety. Depending on the machine, increases of up to 10 times the productivity of mop and bucket maintenance are common. Reduced requirements for finish removal or stripping with autoscrubber programs also saves maintenance budgets. And vacuuming solution from floors after cleaning lowers liability exposure.
Burnishers. Maintenance on low-speed electric equipment is minimal, but the inconvenience of an electrical cord and decreased speed and mobility are valid considerations to weigh against the features of other types of equipment. Conversely, UHS (ultra-high speed) propane burnishers, not unlike automobiles, have great speed and mobility but require periodic oil and filter changes and tune-ups. Newer propane burnishers, like modern automobiles, are equipped with solid-state systems that reduce maintenance. UL-listed propane burnishers meet fire and safety requirements for indoor use and, with routine maintenance, meet OSHA requirements for indoor air quality.
A small propane burnisher, costing $2,000 to $3,000, used in a 25,000 square-foot facility will burnish floors to a high gloss in one hour. A $1,000-low-speed electric machine of similar size will require 12.5 hours to buff the same floor area but without equivalent gloss. At an hourly labor rate of $4.25, the approximate labor and materials cost of propane burnishing is $5 for 25,000 square feet, while the approximate cost of 175-rpm electric buffing is $50 for the same area. If buffing is performed weekly, the propane machine will yield a complete return on investment in 11 to 16 months.
UHS cord-electric and battery-powered burnishers are also alternatives. Cord-electric burnishers, though often more expensive than low-speed electrics, are the most inexpensive among UHS machines. Lightweight, durable, quiet, and capable of producing pad speeds of 2,000 rpm, corded burnishers provide a relatively low-cost means to create high-gloss floors. But the limitations of a cord and less power lower mobility and production speed when compared with battery or propane burnishers.
Battery burnishers are initially the most costly alternative but provide results closer to that delivered by propane, with mobility and low noise levels. Recharge intervals average 3 to 4 hours, while propane machines can operate up to 10 hours before refueling. Battery-powered equipment is also heavier than other floor machines, because battery size must be sufficient to drive floor pads for extended intervals.
Compatibility is important when matching machines with floor coatings and selecting cleaning products. Low-speed buffers work best with coatings designed for that application. UHS buffers require coatings that respond to burnisher pressure and speed to achieve desired floor appearance and maintenance characteristics. Use the pH-neutral cleaning and restoration chemicals to avoid diminishing finish gloss.
Cost-effective floor care cannot be achieved without people, therefore training maintenance personnel properly is vital. Successful managers have found the following steps helpful in achieving floor-care training objectives:
* Share the benefits of training with your staff. Help them to appreciate that improving efficiency will increase job security and pride in the facility, addressing both worker and management concerns.
* Share floor-care goals with your staff. Take them to visit facilities that exemplify the standard you wish to attain and help them to "get the picture."
* Review existing floor-care equipment and systems to determine if upgrading is necessary. As training today is largely product driven and system oriented, assessing product needs and making necessary improvements first lays the groundwork for your training efforts.
* Train regularly and in short sessions to maximize absorption.
By determining your overall goals, sizing up your current program, evaluating cost-saving equipment and methods, and training staff based on your chosen system, you can achieve your goals and, most importantly, create safe and attractive floors cost effectively.
RELATED ARTICLE: FIGURE 1
Analysis #1 Area: Main Lobby
Square feet: 3,000 Floor type: Vinyl composition Labor rate: $4.25 Configuration: Obstructed Task: Buffing Equipment: 20-inch, 175-rpm electric buffer (spray buff) Frequency: Weekly Time required per 1,000 square feet: 30 minutes Total time for task: 90 minutes
Annual labor time: 78 hours Annual labor cost: $331.50 Cost of labor: $0.11 per square foot
Analysis #2 Area: Main Lobby
Square feet: 3,000 Floor type: Vinyl composition Labor rate: $4.25 Configuration: Obstructed Task: Buffing Equipment: 20-inch, 2,000-rpm battery-powered burnisher Frequency: Weekly Time required per 1,000 square feet: Six minutes Time required for task: 18 minutes
Annual labor time: 15.6 hours Annual labor cost: $66.30 Cost of labor: $0.02 per square foot
RELATED ARTICLE: FIGURE 2
Analysis #1.: Finish A
Cost per gallon: $6 Coverage per gallon: 1,500 square feet Test area: 1,000 square feet Coats required for desired results: 6 Cost per 1,000 square feet: $24
Analysis #2: Finish B
Cost per gallon: $12 Coverage per gallon: 3,000 square feet Test area: 1,000 square feet Coats required for desired results: 3 Cost per 1,000 square feet: $12
Richard Carr is chemical products manager and Doug McLean is machine products manager for Pioneer/Eclipse Corp., a floor-care systems manufacturer based in Sparta, N.C.…