Issue Date: 6 August 2014
Simplify Processes & Reduce Costs By Choosing A Single Cleaning Partner
By Katie Pett, UK and Ireland Healthcare Sector Marketing Manager, Diversey Care
One of the biggest challenges facing healthcare cleaning teams and contractors is how to deliver an increasing array of services to higher levels of performance and consistency while under continual pressure to reduce costs. One solution is to make cleaning processes as simple as possible and this can be achieved by working with fewer suppliers and selecting products designed to work together.
It is probably fair to say that the majority of cleaning operations rely on products from multiple suppliers. There are many potential reasons for this including competition, misaligned contract renewal dates, different contract lengths, requirement for specialist products, historic allegiances or retaining traditional and often inefficient processes when better alternatives are available.
While nobody would question the benefits of competition, the time and effort required to manage procurement processes and contract tenders can be an unwelcome burden for cleaning teams and their suppliers if they become too frequent.
Many business sectors have recognised that reducing the number of suppliers can help them cut costs, simplify supply chain processes and remove other management overheads to renew their focus on core disciplines. Healthcare cleaning need be no different.
Reducing the number of suppliers implies that more products are sourced from each. To achieve the biggest benefits these products should ideally be selected to work together as part of an integrated system.
Suppliers with an extensive range can offer integrated solutions based around a combination of chemical products, tools, equipment, floor care machines, support services and technical expertise. These suppliers will have invested heavily in research and development to ensure their products work with each other so that cleaning teams can consistently achieve superior results. Odd as it may sound, the larger the range these suppliers offer, the simpler it should be for cleaning teams to source products that are closely aligned to their specific requirements.
Suppliers with a limited range, on the other hand, will by definition offer solutions based around a smaller choice. While these can be effective it could mean that customers have to compromise on specific components of their solution. They can be forced to source products for specialist or niche applications from third parties and that leads back to a proliferation of suppliers.
All well and good but what are the key attributes of products that can be used in an integrated system?
The introduction of industry-standard colour coding - red, yellow, green and blue - for cleaning products and associated tools and equipment has helped simplify cleaning processes with improved performance, sustainability and safety. Colour coding makes it easier for users to identify the right products and equipment for each task or area of the building. It should be applied consistently across a complete range to support a fully integrated system whether products are supplied in bulk containers, dosing or dilution control systems or in pouches for specific equipment and machines. Removing guesswork promotes efficiency and compliance but equally importantly the colours help users avoid cross contamination between different areas.
While colour coding was originally introduced for chemical products some manufacturers have gone further by applying it to their tools, equipment and machines. Microfibre cloths and mops, for example, are routinely supplied in the standard colours or with coloured tabs that help users identify them. Cleaning trolleys can be supplied with coloured boxes or box-lids to help segregate cloths and mops. Support materials such as user guides can include diagrams showing the appropriate areas to be cleaned in the same colours which promotes understanding and simplifies training.
Innovations in product formulation also support simpler and more efficient cleaning processes. Migrating from multiple products to multipurpose formulations reduces the number of items in use. Some of the newest products on the market replace four traditional formulations to simplify routine tasks such as daily cleaning. This should be an important consideration for any integrated solution. Multipurpose formulations also simplify training and implementation processes because users need to know about fewer products.
Reducing the number of suppliers and products in use has clear implications for the supply chain. Procurement and purchasing is simplified because fewer items need to be sourced and approved for use. Fewer invoices are processed in any given period. A smaller total inventory often results in less cash being tied up in the supply chain. It can also reduce on-site storage requirements and free up space for alternative uses.
Formulations have evolved as manufacturers have developed innovations to take advantage of some unique properties of specific ingredients. Many traditional constituents have been replaced with more sophisticated alternatives. These changes have resulted in a much greater variety - and choice - of products compared with even a few years ago. The documentation and labelling required for these products and the classifications, rules and regulations covering their storage, handling and use have grown more complex. Effective training and compliance processes are always essential but users will naturally want to simplify wherever they can. Multipurpose and non-classified formulations reduce this burden. It is even better if the products in question combine both of these attributes.
Alongside the innovations from individual suppliers the cleaning industry itself has developed a more consistent approach. In the next year or so the industry will complete a global harmonisation of labelling that will create greater uniformity for businesses operating internationally but should also help simplify training and compliance for organisations in the UK employing people with differing first languages. Leading manufacturers have for some time supplied their products with multilingual labelling and documentation.
Training and implementation is simplified with an integrated system. Reducing the number of products in use, through simplified processes or multipurpose formulations, often means fewer training sessions are required. Consistent colour coding, availability of training aids and user guides, and clear and unambiguous labelling all help to promote understanding for new users.
However, the biggest advantage can be that users are trained on each product in the context of the others in an integrated system. For example, training for washroom products can be combined with training on mops and cloths so that users understand how each works on its own and with each other. In this way training becomes more focused on applications and outcomes rather than specific products which can help users become engaged with the role they play in the overall performance of the organisation. While third parties can deliver some of this suppliers with a broad range are more likely to have the in-depth knowledge and understanding of their products and how they work together to add greater value.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of an integrated system is the closer working relationship that develops between supplier and customer. Suppliers invest considerable time and resource in developing products but the best will also invest in their relationships because it is better for their business. They will work with their customers to review processes and identify opportunities to introduce best practice, innovations and new ways of working that improve hygiene, reduce costs (especially by better productivity) and promote sustainability.
A good example of this would be to help a customer migrate from rotary floor care machines to the advanced performance of scrubber driers. Another is to replace inefficient wet-mopping with ergonomic microfibre systems. In each case users can cover larger areas more quickly, reduce chemical consumption and achieve better and more consistent appearance and hygiene.
Suppliers with the largest ranges covering alternative application techniques are uniquely positioned to offer advice based on their in-depth knowledge of the market and understanding of processes. They can then recommend solutions based on the best combination of products without the limitations faced by smaller suppliers. Similarly they understand their products better than independent or third party advisors. There is less likelihood that end users will be presented with conflicting advice or be exposed to the risk of disagreements between suppliers leading to lack of co-ordinated support.