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Changing Story of Facility Management in Malls

Role of housekeeping

A neat, clean and well maintained mall – including washrooms, customer areas and common areas – is given today. It may not be talked about, but it is expected in any good mall. If this is absent, it leaves an awkward taste in the mouth of the customer. It is critical that all washrooms remain dry, all equipment is working and without loud sounds, there are no cracks in the tiles, and HVAC ducts are clean.

What does a mall consist of? An atrium or a number of atria, corridors at various levels, a food court, washrooms, outside areas, parking and basic staff facilities at the back end. All these areas offer challenges in monitoring and supervision, but if the staff is well-trained, things go smoothly.

We work with manpower that is outsourced from agencies which have experience in cleaning malls for the last 15-odd years, so they are well tuned to our requirements.

We work with manpower that is outsourced from agencies which have experience in cleaning malls for the last 15-odd years, so they are well tuned to our requirements.

Division of labour

From a mall’s perspective, 70-80% of its area is leased out to retailers, who maintain their own areas themselves. The mall management is left with 200,000 square feet along with parking and other outside areas, which is still a huge expanse to maintain.

At Viviana, we do support our retailers. We ensure clean store fronts that are not patchy or smudgy, and we assist them as and when required, because ultimately, it is the customer experience that counts.

Mechanised vs manual cleaning

We rely on a huge amount of automated equipment which assists the staff in their work, including ride-on scooters, wet and dry vacuum cleaners, pushalong devices, box sweepers, floor polishing machines, cobweb removal machines, and steamcleaners for washrooms, which allow us to effectively cover the vast area of a mall.

However, wherever there is a specific focus area like an atrium or an entry point or washrooms, which see particularly high traffic and which we know are prone to soiling, there we have more of manual cleaning, with areas being swabbed and mopped constantly. But the general cleaning which goes on around the clock is mostly with machines, all day, with or without customers. Then we have our own night and off-hours cleaning schedules when we do deep cleaning, where we use a single-disc scrubbing machine, or a heavy duty wet and dry vacuum cleaner, or steam cleaners in washrooms, or box sweepers in the parking lot. The major cleaning is done mechanically – particularly during operating hours, to cover more areas in a limited amount of time – but obviously by people who man the machines.

Staff size

A good-sized mall will have between 100 to 140 people on the cleaning team, depending upon the configuration of staff. Each set of washrooms includes one each for men, women and the disabled, and a mother-and-baby room. One attendant each, takes care of the men’s and the ladies’ washrooms, share responsibility for the disabled washroom. The ladies washroom attendant takes care of the mother-and-baby room. If you multiply the number of male and female washrooms by two (shifts), you get the total staff dedicated just to cleaning washrooms.

At Viviana, we have six sets of washrooms, which means we have 24 people in the day, dedicated for washroom cleaning, plus deep cleaning at night. If your staff has 120 people, 15-20% is dedicated just to washrooms.

Expenditure on cleaning

In the operations department, which is responsible for ensuring the mall has the right feel and ambiance, a lot of importance is given to the cleaning budget. That’s not an area where we would cut down on the budget. We would make sure that we maintain out budgets as per our requirements. Of course we make sure that we don’t overspend, but even if we have to overspend a bit, we would still do so, because we want the mall to look fresh, happy, fresh smelling, and attractive. Customer areas aren’t seen from a cost angle, they are viewed from an experience angle.

Digital facility management

We have recently digitized some of our processes, so that any problem a customer faces – leakages, blockages – is immediately highlighted and addressed as soon as possible. We have an information desk where we do some surveys, and we have an effective system to monitor online feedback, where we take pride in resolving all matters on the same day, or within 24 hours, unless it is of a nature that will take time.

Digitization is via an app that is with the staff, which is linked to a cloud-based central server, where complaints get distributed according to the issue at hand.

Organic waste management

We are generating 4-5 tonnes of manure every month. We distribute this free to customers, and take pride in the fact that this is made from the mall’s own food waste and wet waste. We also have some real estate projects in the neighborhood where we supply the manure, and have committed to the municipal corporation to supply a certain amount of manure every year. All of this is done free. It is our way of adding value to the community.

Through this, our F&B retailers get an organised system of disposal where they don’t have to fend for themselves, so it is mutually beneficial. In the 15-16 years that malls have been in public life, the retailers also have settled into a certain way of functioning, and we make sure that we provide them with guidance and easy means for disposal, in the form of trolleys and bags. Segregation is done by retailers; if someone is defaulting, we make sure that we take it up during business review meetings. We also train retail staff for this, on a no-charge basis, in the form of workshops, and it has definitely given us results.

Last year, we had the Nirmalya program which we successfully managed during Ganesh Chaturthi, in which we asked societies for their post-Visarjan waste, and converted it to manure, thus keeping the city clean and using the waste in a more productive manure. We plan to make it bigger and better this year.

The solutions I’m looking for

We are trying to see if some routine tasks can be done by robotic mechanisms. We are just getting into exploring it. Right now, those machines are a bit expensive, but we don’t mind experimenting with them to see if we can use the existing manpower for more focussed tasks, rather than spending time on general work, particularly for areas like parking lots which are large and don’t need much focussed cleaning. We are already evaluating vendors and costs.

We are also trying to ensure that after digitising our facility management, can we make it more elaborate, and start using the tools and analysis to drive better standards and efficiency for everyone, so that customers find nothing is left unattended? When you have a million footfalls every month, there are bound to be some amounts of spoilage and spillage. Digitisation will make sure they do not remain unaddressed for a long period. We would like to reduce turnaround time.

We want to use technology to drive customer experience. We want to understand how customers are moving around a mall, what they like, what they do not. When people are sitting at a food court table and have ordered multiple things from multiple outlets, they don’t know if their order is ready or not. We want to use a tech-driven model to change this.

Expectations from the Clean India Show 2020

I am looking forward to the sharing of some industry best practices, and meeting people from the cleaning and housekeeping industries who could give us ideas about what the future will be like in this industry. Apart from networking, I also expect to meet vendors at the Expo who will be talking not only about today, but also about tomorrow.

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