Diamonds in the Buff: Finding Value in Your Floor-Care System

By Carr, Richard; McLean, Doug | Journal of Property Management, January-February 1996 | Go to article overview

Diamonds in the Buff: Finding Value in Your Floor-Care System


Carr, Richard, McLean, Doug, Journal of Property Management


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.

Setting Goals

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.

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