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Infrastructure factors

Well-targeted preventive measures, especially in factory sheds, can reduce maintenance requirements considerably from the outset. They include encapsulating pollution sources, installing dirt barriers or isolating routes along which dirt is spread. Further infrastructure-related precautions boost labour productivity by reducing execution and setting up times. In practice, the following have proved particularly significant:

• Easy-care floor covering (smooth, hard surface)

• Cleaning-friendly building (straightforward layout, open-plan space structure, etc.)

• Appropriate furnishing concept (For example: Contents should either stand completely on the floor or have sufficient ground clearance)

• Appropriate equipment stowage sites (for speedy transfer to and from the place of use)

• Favourable setting-up points (Example: for changing cleaning solution)

• Functionally equipped cleaning room (cleaning agent and accessory store, tool stock)

• Auxiliary facilities close to where required (For example: Take-off point for high-pressure cleaning).

It is not just a case of ensuring that a building fulfils these requirements. Rather, one should take a critical look to see whether the passage of time has impaired the functioning of such facilities, in which case they may require modernisation.

Internal division of labour

The interface between production and cleaning personnel is an important cost-influencing factor. Under the pressure of lean production, value creation activities take up almost all the machine operator’s capacity, so the contribution he used to make towards a clean working environment must largely be made by others. His remaining cleaning workload is measured by two criteria: First, the production worker should concern himself with tidiness and cleanliness to the extent that benefits his emotional attachment to the workplace. Accordingly, he will keep tools, means of measurement and documents clean and tidy. Second, he must remove on the spot any acute pollution that jeopardises functioning or health, although as far as possible the cleaning service should relieve him of this responsibility.

Recently, closer integration of shed cleaning, technical cleaning and machine maintenance has come to be seen as a highly interesting approach to reduce overhead costs. The basic idea is to involve the cleaning team, which works at relatively low hourly rates, as far as possible in labour-intensive technical infrastructure services. At present, this division of labour is focused mainly on the cleaning of machine interiors and cooling lubricant services, but in the longer term it could well be extended to include technical inspections, preventive parts replacement and repair measures that lend themselves to standardisation.

Personnel development

Obviously, the duties on which traditional image of a cleaner was based no longer fit into present-day industrial reality. Many service experts consider it essential to upgrade the cleaning team into a versatile maintenance group. Staff equipment and management must be adapted to more demanding work contents that require informed intervention into the company’s technological infrastructure. For operative services to the premises, you need staff with manual skills, technical understanding, a willingness to learn and a sense of responsibility.

Personnel development begins with the induction of a new worker who, by means of on-the-job training and occasional instruction sessions, is then systematically trained to become a specialist in his area of responsibility. Continuous coaching should be aimed at ensuring that he has internalised the performance targets set, because in the final analysis the smooth functioning of machinery, continuity of production and the ability to deliver quality depend to a critical extent on his having done so.

Facts relevant to decisions on the organisational superstructure, for example the supervisor, facility manager, cleaning expert, must be recorded and analysed and the results must feed into the corporate plan. The suggestions and ideas will concern cleaning function cost drivers, from furnishings and equipment layout and building structure to internal transport and mechanical engineering.


The decision between outsourcing cleaning and keeping it in-house depends on the most lasting structural effect. As with other outsourcing projects, in the case of company cleaning, more and more people are coming to realise that in the place of internal costs, procurement costs have a noticeable influence on the budget and that the company incurs quite a few administrative costs, for example for communication, supervision, contract administration, etc. One simple fact that stands out in this “make or buy” calculation is that competitive cleaning costs nowadays presuppose extensive use of part-time workers. The associated coordination effort can grow into an alarming strain for personnel management, which is a strong argument in favour of outsourcing. Often, the most favourable solution is a finely balanced combination of internal and external services. For example, within the framework of an outsourcing concept the following can be allocated to the service provider:

• Individual buildings or areas (Example: heavily soiled factory sheds)

• Special cleaning measures (Example: deep cleaning, interim cleaning, special clean-ups following transfer of machinery)

• Integrated service functions (Example: including maintenance of production plant).


Once the cleaning programme, work processes & staff and machinery resources have been settled, it is easy to work out budgeted costs. As a matter of principle, this should be done for all measures, buildings and all significant expense items insofar as they may vary over time. The figures must be realistic but should challenge employees to maintain strict cost discipline. At the end of each accounting period, actual costs are compared with the budget figures. Any divergences are analysed in detail. If costs have run over budget, it is of interest to know reasons, who was responsible and possible remedies.

Costs that have run out of hand can be an indication of entirely different problems. First, they may be due to external causes such as price or wage rate changes. Internally, there are two influencing factors. Either more use was made of the cleaning service than had been planned for, or it was not efficient. While there are often objective reasons for the former eventuality (For example: higher cleaning requirements, more dirt) that may necessitate an adjustment to future budget figures, cost management is concentrated on the latter. As a rule, it should suffice to insist that the cleaning programme and prescribed method of work are maintained strictly.

Strategic planning

A single show of strength is seldom sufficient to achieve enduring streamlining of overhead cost functions such as factory cleaning. Instead, this calls for a new conceptual approach with a strategic outlook. A position paper with the following contents can be used as a central instrument of planning:

• Programme (type, sequence and frequency of the envisaged cleaning and maintenance measures)

• Working method (deployment of personnel, equipment, machine operation, stages of operation)

• Procurement projects (equipment and materials for manual or mechanical cleaning)

• Finance requirement (Example: investment expenses, payment to cleaning firms)

• Reorganisation (Example: division of labour between production and cleaning personnel, use of a cleaning firm)

• Budget calculation (per measure, accounting period, sub-area, cost centre)

• Rationalisation gain (as an annual amount, imputed interest rate or capital value).

The target situation should be presented in a comprehensible way on the basis of accurate data and a delivery concept broken down into clearly outlined individual phases. This will provide interested parties such as technical management, controlling, finance or management with a sound decision-making basis for planning a neat solution to factory cleaning.

David Wickel

Public Relations-Environmental Matters

Alfred Kärcher GmbH & Co. KG, Germany

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