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7 Deadly “Muda” or Wastes in a Cleaning Department

Toyota is often looked to set a standard in manufacturing, as it has long embraced lean management principles to develop automobiles across the globe. A large part of its success is due to its innovative approach to production, which can be attributed to Taiichi Ohno, father of the Toyota Production System. While lean management originally started with Henry Ford’s assembly line, Ohno further integrated these principles into the Toyota Production System, which formed the basis for lean manufacturing as we know it today.

A central tenant of the Toyota Production System and lean manufacturing is minimizing “muda” —or waste—without sacrificing productivity. From uneven workloads to consumption of materials, limiting waste within an operation is one of the best ways to improve its profitability. 

In their paper, “Cleaning as an Engineered Process: Lean Principles for a Neglected Industry,” authors Dr. Jeffrey Campbell and Kathleen Campbell look specifically at how Lean Management Principles can be used within a cleaning department to improve efficiency.

“Lean is implemented by first understanding the activities and practices that are considered wasteful and do not add value to the process. It then looks at the process and identifies what creates value in the process stream and what is wasteful. A culture of continual improvement must be set up so that those who are in the day-to-day work-flow are comfortable with approaching management with new ideas on how to improve processes. Each area also needs to be cleaned and organized so that everything is in its place. With the preceding steps in place, waste can be eliminated or mitigated, and the process can become more Lean.’ The process should be re-evaluated often as new ideas or improvement emerge.” 

The “Seven Wastes” model is commonly used in lean and quality management systems such as ISO 9000 and Six Sigma. The wastes Ohno identified include:

  1. Transportation: The movement of resources or materials without adding value to your product.
  2. Inventory: Maintaining more product than you need for a given period. 
  3. Motion: Unnecessary movement of employees which may cause injury or are unnecessary.
  4. Waiting: The absence of movement for goods or tasks (e.g. waiting for items to be fixed, delivered). 
  5. Overproduction:  Producing more than you need to meet the customer’s demand or expectation.
  6. Over-processing: Performing work that doesn’t bring value to the organization or customer. 
  7. Defects: Production of a faulty or defective product. 

While a custodial department doesn’t necessarily manufacture a product, they do provide a service and one can easily draw parallels between Ohno’s seven wastes and potential sources of waste in a custodial department. 

Consider the seven deadly wastes when applied to a cleaning department: 

1. Transportation: How do custodial workers move throughout the building/buildings? Do they have defined routes or are they left to move throughout the building as needed? Are they kitted with everything they need (e.g. vacuums, chemical, PPE) to complete their tasks or do they need to go to other locations to retrieve items? 

2. Inventory: What does your janitorial closet look like? Is it filled with old equipment and expired chemicals? Do you purchase extra inventory “just in case” you need it, which contributes to accumulation overtime? 

3. Motion: Janitorial is one of the toughest jobs, which leads to high injury rates (one of the leading occupations for injuries, in fact). Injury from over-exertion is one of the most common to custodial workers. 

Ongoing training and on-the-job observation helps cleaning workers keep safe strategies top of mind for common tasks like lifting, reaching high areas, bending, etc. 

4. Waiting: How much time does it take cleaners to complete their task? Is there idle time? What happens when a space is occupied? Using our 99 Workloading Times and 612 Cleaning Times Book can help you identify how much time it should take your team to complete work assignments. 

5. Over-production: Is there such as thing as “too clean”? No, but there are routine tasks in a cleaning operation that might not need to be completed as often as they are. For example, a low-traffic restroom does not to be cleaned more than once a day unless there’s a specific issue to be addressed. The same goes for floor maintenance activities such as extracting a carpet or finishing a hard floor.

6. Over-processing: Because the cleaning industry currently lacks any standard for cleanliness, cleaning organizations must work with building occupants and customers to identify desired levels of cleanliness. 

In their paper, the Campbell’s discuss APPA’s five levels of appearance in its Custodial Staffing Guidelines book, which can be used a baseline for this discussion. Alan Bigger identifies them in his article “Operational Guidelines for Educational Facilities – Custodial.” 

7. Defects: Problems arise in a cleaning operation when employees lack the necessary training to do their work. In some instances, this can create a PR nightmare, as was the case at a Burger King restaurant in Fruit Cove, Florida when an employee used a floor mop to clean tables in the play area. 

In addition to complaints, the absence of a proper training program can cause injuries and result in inefficient cleaning processes. 

How lean is your custodial operation? Are there areas of muda or waste you could reduce? Consider talking to one of our consultants to learn more about how an engineered approach to cleaning could help! 

Four Places You Might Be Generating Waste and Not Even Know It

April is Earth month and Arbor Day is next Friday, April 28, so many people are talking sustainability. How can we help protect the Earth so it’s here for future generations? What can we do to reduce our environmental impact?

A large misconception we find in the cleaning industry is that people often use green cleaning products and think that this makes their operations “sustainable.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth—using green products is just a part of it. As an industry, we have a long way to go when it comes to reducing our environmental impact. There’s a lot of “waste” in our operations that goes well beyond the pollutants we’re working to remove.

First, a few facts. Commercial and institutional buildings in the U.S. annually consume:

The issue comes down to how we approach cleaning. Oftentimes, cleaning professionals are forced to be reactive when it comes to managing their inventory, equipment and other aspects of their operations.

Reports like, “We’re out of floor finish!” or, “This backpack vacuum is broken!” often drive new purchases—and understandably.

Supply shortages lead to downtime, which can lead to complaints, which NO ONE wants. Or they generate mistakes and service lapses when a cleaning worker substitutes products. So we place an order and the problem goes away…

But that floor finish? You weren’t really out. And that backpack vacuum just needed a new filter or carbon brush. When the new product arrives, the old stuff gets stashed into a closet somewhere. That’s the kind of waste that we’re talking about.

A truly “sustainable” cleaning operation will operate on a lean inventory, making the best use out of the products, equipment and people in the operation.

To help you identify potential areas of waste in your operation, we’ve identified a few common problem areas along with a list of questions you can ask to see if your department could be more efficient:

1. INVENTORY: What inventory controls do I have in place? Can cleaners use as much cleaning chemical as they want or are they kitted with the exact amount of product they need to complete the designated area? When they are done cleaning, what happens to the unused chemical? How do I track the amount of chemical used? How do I handle overstock (e.g. is there a system in place to sell or donate unused material?)?

Just one of the many janitorial closets we’ve seen that is stuffed with products no longer being used.

A sustainable cleaning operation not only uses Green Seal certified products, but also outfits workers with the precise amount of chemical they need to clean for the day. Excessive chemical use (often resulting from the “more is better” philosophy) is one of the most common issues in the industry and not only costs you money, but also has an environmental impact, even when the products are green.

2. EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE: How is the cleaning equipment maintained? Is the equipment visibly clean? Are carts free of personal items or unrelated/unwanted materials? Do I have an equipment maintenance program in place that ensures all equipment receives regular checks and replacements?

A sustainable cleaning operation has a preventative maintenance program in place to make sure that equipment is always clean and operational. When equipment reaches the end of its usable life, it is safely and properly disposed of, not tucked away in a cabinet somewhere.

3. LOGISTICS: Are the logistics of the inventory cabinet and waste disposal points optimized with the worker in mind? If they run out of a product, do workers have to go to another floor or area in order to restock?

Logistics refers to the orderly merging of cleaners with their materials and tools to perform the work.

A sustainable cleaning operation will take into consideration the routes of the cleaning workers and utilize drop points to limit the opportunity for stockpiling or hoarding product. Analyzing the logistical setup of cleaning workers’ paths can also help reduce worker injuries from issues like overexertion.

4. TRAINING: Have cleaning workers been thoroughly trained and possess a clear understanding of their responsibilities? Do they have an understanding of the risks associated with the job, such as improper chemical mixing or lifting the wrong way? Are cleaners recognized for their efforts and made to feel like valued contributors to the team?

A sustainable cleaning operation recognizes the critical component that its workers play and provides ongoing recognition. When workers are empowered and understand the importance of their job, they will be more likely to clean properly and effectively.

Albert Einstein is quoted with saying, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

By taking a hard look at your cleaning program and simplifying some of your processes through standardization, you can break things down to it’s easiest—and most simple—form, which will ultimately improve your sustainability.