Programmed auditing of cleaning services has been a key factor in maintaining and improving cleaning standards in recent years, writes BRIAN CLARK from Janitech Australasia.
The comprehensive auditing of cleaning services is being implemented in an increasing number of commercial contracts. Their relevance to improvement of the actual cleaning process is sometimes questionable, as most cleaning audit systems simply measure the result on the day and often are associated with a punitive process. A properly implemented and managed audit process, however, can provide a balanced scorecard of the total cleaning process, promote efficiencies and generate significant performance outcomes, including cost savings.
According to dictionary.com, auditing is “the inspection or examination of a building or other facility to evaluate or improve its appropriateness, safety, efficiency or the like”. This is a significantly broader scope than a subjective measurement of an outcome – whether something is seen to be clean or not so clean, or has or has not been cleaned when it was supposed to be. An ongoing audit program should be an integral part of the cleaning process, a process that incorporates continual improvement and performance management. Health services, in particular, require a comprehensive, continual and systemic approach to monitoring cleaning outcomes within their facilities as part of quality improvement, infection control and patient safety processes.
KEY ASPECTS OF AN AUDIT
So, what are some of the key aspects of a comprehensive audit process?
First, look at your cleaning specifications. They should describe the tasks to be performed and specify both minimum frequencies of tasks and expected outcomes in terms of levels of cleanliness and consistent delivery to expectations. They should also be tailored to the type of area, rather than be generic. Both staff and contractors should have explicit information and criteria on the expected outcomes in their areas or within the facility as a whole. Without defined minimum standards, i.e. a baseline, then there is nothing to measure your audit process against.
Next, define your objectives. What do you want to measure, why do you want to measure it, what do you want to compare the data against and how will this measure quality or improve outcomes? Do you want to capture data for immediate verification, or do you want a longer-term measurement of the cleaning outcomes to monitor trends? Are your concerns related to just cleaning or do you want a broader measurement of cleaning services, including assessments against criteria such as OHS compliance, efficiency, people management, value for money, asset performance (i.e. life cycle costs of floor coverings), contractual compliance and stakeholder feedback?
KEY PERFORMANCE MEASURES
Having defined your objectives for the program, you need to create your key performance measures (KPMs). KPMs are points of reference that describe the standard expected for each task you are measuring. For instance, a KPM for cleaning windows and partition glass may be ‘On completion of the task all glass surfaces, frames and sills must be clean, and free of streaks, marks and smears’. A clear description of what is expected will allow both the auditor and the cleaner to do their jobs better.
Scoring of selected tasks should be balanced to the requirements of the facility and may be weighted to reflect crucial issues within an area. For instance, a hospital may focus on clinical touch points rather than the standard of external window glass by weighting the audit score and demerits accordingly.
The method, frequency and timing of data collection are important considerations. For instance, data may be irrelevant if cleaning is in the morning and the audit is performed in the afternoon. The timing is important, as is the randomness of the process. If audits are performed to a strict timetable, then cleaners know when to put in the most effort and the audit will not return a true picture of cleaning performance.
INDEPENDENT AND OBJECTIVE
Finally, you have to decide who will collect the data. Relying on internal audits or self-audits has limitations, as the results can be influenced by good intentions gone wrong and lack of objectivity. Auditing needs to be an independent and objective analysis. The best solution is a balance of internal and external audits conducted by trained industry specialists. One of the leading organisations specialising in set-up and provisioning of comprehensive performance management processes is Changing Directions (see website details below).
Continuous auditing means continuous improvement; a single audit will not pick up all the potential weak links in your program. Transparency and real-time availability are paramount. Electronic data capture using PDAs and specialist software is probably the simplest way to collect, correlate and interpret data. Audit data can provide risk analysis and risk management, facility benchmarking, performance management and data comparisons, limited only by the breadth of the database and the flexibility and accessibility of the software system.
One of the most flexible and comprehensive data capture and performance management programs is CiMAS, developed by CiMAS Technologies (see website below). With the right software and auditing systems, facility management can measure and manage and report on performance today, last week, period of contract, area to area, cleaner to cleaner, building to building and facility to facility, or even establish and measure against national benchmarks.
An audit program should not be a punitive process. Rather, it should be seen as a management tool to ensure value for money, expose inefficiencies and promote processes of improvement.
Ideally, audit frameworks should enable you to monitor both cleaning inputs and outputs and enable you to look at all the elements involved in the cleaning process to identify not just what has failed, but why it has failed and how can the failure be eliminated in the future by more effectively managing resources.