Introduction to Lean Thinking for Janitorial Services

Introduction to Lean Thinking for Janitorial Services

Designed and assembled in the manufacturing space, the Lean Sigma approach to business can leave a service provider (like commercial cleaning services) feeling like a foreign exchange student within their own country. If you are hoping for an “out-of-box”, WYSYWIG type implementation for janitorial services, please read the packaging-label warning, “TRANSLATION REQUIRED!”

Having played the executive champion for Lean Sigma and instructed Lean Sigma Yellow belt training (all in a service context), I have some first-hand experience with implementation.
Without proper translation, I have seen mouths left agape at the initial introduction. I have witnessed the slippery slope in the learner’s attention. It starts with eyes wide with anticipation. Then eyebrows slowly scrunch and furrow as the brain attempts to extract more juice from its processor. The face then slides into a sleepy struggle to stay focused, and finally drops into a dead stare as the EKG-vector flat lines.
ekg-flatline

However, I have also witnessed the power and the excitement of Lean Sigma with proper translation. I have seen the “Ah-ha moment” when people really get it. I have seen meaningful projects completed. Those moments are the motivation for this and future posts.


For this post, I will use the DMAIC structured approach to problem solving as my guide for translating Lean into the commercial cleaning world. DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.  I will structure my Lean Sigma Janitorial posts so that the translation in janitorial service follows the DMAIC process below.

DMAIC Tool Box
Define Measure Analyze Improve Control
Project Selection Tools Operational Definitions Pareto Charts Brainstroming Control Charts
PIP Management Processs Data Collection Plan C&E Matrix Benchmarking SOPs
Value Stream Map Pareto Chart Fishbone Diagrams TPM Training Plan
Financial Analysis Histogram Brainstroming 5S Communication Plan
Project Charter Box Plot Detailed “As-Is” Process Maps Line Balancing Implementation Plan
Multi-Generational Plan Statistical Sampling Basic Statistical Tools Process Flow Improvement Visual Process Control
Stakeholder Analysis Measurement System Analysis Constraint Identification Replenishment Pull Mistake-Proofing
Communication Plan Control Charts Time Trap Analysis Sales & Operations Planning Process Control Plans
SIPOC Map Process Cycle Efficiency Non-Value Added Analysis Setup Reduction Project Commissioning
High-Level Process Map Process Sizing Hypothesis Testing Generic Pull Project Replication
Non-Value-Added Analysis Process Capability Cp & Cpk Confidence Intervals Kaizen Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle
VOC and Kano Analysis FMEA Poka-Yoke
QFD Simple & Multiple Regression FMEA
RACI and Quad Charts ANOVA Hypothesis Testing
Queuing Theory Solution Selection Matrix
Analytical Batch Sizing “To-Be” Process Maps
Piloting and Simulation

I am going to take a “Lean” approach to start this series of posts (pun intended). Let’s start with the basic definitions.

Basic Lean Sigma Definitions
“Lean” “Sigma”
Manufacturing Application A structured continuous improvement approach to identifying and eliminating waste (non-value added activities) and flowing the product only when the customer needs it (called “pull”). Both statistical term and a management philosophy. Identify and reduce “Variation” in the manufacturing process driving towards zero defects
Janitorial Services Application A structured continuous improvement approach to identifying and eliminating waste (non-value added activities) in managing, supervising, hiring, training, purchasing, routing, and executing cleaning tasks. Identify and reduce “Variation” in managing, supervising, hiring, training, purchasing, routing, and executing cleaning tasks.

You will notice from the definitions above that the two methodologies are very different in their objectives. Lean focuses on “Waste” or non-value added cost. Sigma focuses on variation or quality. Yet both support each other and that is why you will see them joined together in the term “Lean Sigma.”

Lean is probably the easier methodology to apply to janitorial. Lean is often called the “poor man’s problem solving tools”. This is because many Lean practices are common sense. That’s why you might find yourself saying, “Hey, I do that already”.  If you have a creative operational mind, you will most likely have already put some Lean practices into place.

Lean brings those practices into a single body or methodology increasing the likelihood that an organization achieves results. You will notice from my previous post about the Lean 8 wastes, that all janitorial processes have waste in them. The Lean methodology, therefore, works just as well for janitorial services as it does for manufacturing.

As for the Sigma part, manufacturing has attributes inherent to it that services like janitorial services do not have.  For example, Sigma requires data to identify variance and analyze problems. In manufacturing, data is easier to get data due to machine automation and electronics. You can get a steady stream of data from the “voice of the process” through automated data. In a service like commercial cleaning services, data is much harder to come by. Until technology evolves (and becomes more ubiquitous), you have to use data that flows from the “voice of the customer”.  For example, we use call data generated from customers calling in complaints or requests. The call volume gives us a steady stream of data about our services.

Be sure to comment on this and future posts to share your experience in converting Lean Sigma into service operations. Your experience will be different than mine and you may have insights that I do not.

Marc Collings

Senior VP of Sales and Marketing at Varsity Facility Services
Marc Collings is Varsity's Vice President of Marketing for Varsity Facility Services. Marc oversees the company's growth, branding, positioning, customer support and analytics. In this role, he has positioned the company as a customer solutions leader for lowering cost and improving quality. He also led the company-wide rebranding and strategically positioned the company as a sustainability leader, serving on a committee for the EPA, obtaining the Ashkin Group award for sustainable leadership, leading Varsity's CIMS Green Building certification with honors, and developing Varsity's S.H.A.P.E. sustainability strategy, which improves service results along five dimensions: Safety, Health, Asset Preservation, Productivity and the Environment.

In 2011, Marc's team won the large company category, "Best in the Industry" marketing materials from the Building Service Contractor Association International (BSCAI). Marc also directs Varsity's proposal writing, sales process and tools development, marketing campaigns, corporate website SEO performance and customer support center.

Marc has spent his career developing strategic capabilities that enhance value to customers and the company. A Lean Sigma Green belt himself, he developed the company's Lean Sigma offering, providing an innovative solution to customers' need to lower cost while raising quality. He led the development of JanOPS, an industry-leading janitorial operating system, which brings standardization and service consistency to large campus and geographically disperse national accounts.

Prior to this position, Marc was responsible for strategic management at Varsity. He has initiated or directed multiple strategic technology initiatives, ranging from a corporate website, a corporate intranet, a web/smartphone based quality control system, a learning management system, a corporate content manager and knowledge wiki, salesforce.com deployment and customization, and an Android app which facilitates the GROW sales process he has developed.

Marc is the author of several leadership and management training manuals, field guides, marketing collateral and case studies. He speaks Portuguese and Spanish and holds a bachelor degree in English/Technical Writing and a Masters of Business Administration in Finance from Idaho State University. Marc enjoys mountain biking, skiing, fishing and golf. He is happily married, and he and his wife Victoria enjoy raising and spending time with their four children.

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