It is very unlikely that private colleges and universities would be using history books-or even worse, textbooks on software or computers- that are more than a decade old. On the other hand, it is quite likely they are using requests for proposals (RFPs), especially for the cleaning and maintenance of their campuses, which are usually a decade old or more.
An RFP is designed to list all of the services, frequency of service, and other information required to keep campus buildings clean and healthy. They are used for two key purposes: (1) For school administrators, so that they are familiar with the cleaning needs of their own facilities; (2) For cleaning contractors, so that they can review all of those cleaning needs and submit an estimate-a monthly or annual charge-for maintaining a school’s facilities.
Flaws of Outdated RFPs
But, there are flaws in many RFPs used today. With all due respect, all kinds of settings, from private universities to high-tech corporate campuses throughout the country, use RFPs that are very outdated. While there may be a variety of reasons for this, including it just being an old habit, in my experience administrators at educational facilities, public and private, have simply not kept up with changes in the professional cleaning industry.
While it is true that for decades the cleaning industry changed very little as to products and procedures, that all changed about twenty-plus years ago. That’s when the industry became far more “Green” and sustainability focused; when ergonomics and worker productivity began playing a bigger role in the way cleaning tools and equipment were designed; and when the cost of cleaning started mounting.
Cleaning costs are as much as 90 percent labor related and as wages and related employment costs started escalating, so did the cost of cleaning. So this tells us that an outdated RFP can have serious cost repercussions, which is something no private college or university wants if they can avoid it.
RFP Case in Point
Here is a perfect example of the problems an outdated RFP can cause: For decades, RFPs as well as cleaning contractor proposals indicated that floors would be “stripped and waxed” every three or six months. The first issue here is that we no longer use the words “stripped” and “waxed.” Those terms date back to the 1950s or earlier. Today we simply say the floors are “refinished.”
Next, when labor costs were low and even though this is invariably one of the most labor intensive cleaning tasks, refinishing floors simply were not considered significantly expensive. Today, whenever we see the words “labor intensive” used as it pertains to professional cleaning, that’s a polite euphemism for “costly.”
In addition to the higher costs of refinishing floors, what likely put the final nail in the coffin of stripping and waxing floors every three to six months was concerns for the environment. While great strides have been made to help “green” floor refinishing, the fact remains it can be a very unhealthy cleaning task both for the user and the environment. In fact, in some states, the “slurry” that is created when refinishing a floor must be treated as hazardous waste and cannot be poured down drains. So, if an RFP still indicates that the floors are to be stripped and re-waxed every few months, not only is it expensive, but this frequency also puts workers and the environment at risk.
Ending the Old RFP Habit at a Large Campus
Now that we hopefully are aware of the problems that can be caused by an old RFP, how do we turn things around? One way to accomplish this in a large private college or university is to hire a cleaning consultant.
Cleaning consultants are typically retained for the following reasons: (read more below)