Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Quality Assurance Applied to Campus Cleaning Services: Innovative Approach Yields Significant Results
Year Submitted 2006
Name of Institution University of Alberta
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) <br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> Ray Dumouchel<br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Associate Director, Buildings and Grounds Services
Telephone: 780 492-4048
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

The Quality Assurance Program heralded a new attitude toward stakeholder involvement. The initial steps in the program were a baselining initiative and benchmarking with other post-secondary institutions. These first steps allowed us to evaluate the quality, cost and customer/staff satisfaction of cleaning services. Because we had been providing cleaning services for years, our Division assumed that we knew what people wanted. We were shocked to learn that in many cases we didn't understand their real needs. Although this process was painful, it was worth it. The Quality Assurance Program is based on a new way of thinking about cleaning services. It puts the focus on understanding and meeting the needs of faculty, researchers, and students as they relate to cleaning services. By opening the lines of communication, we have been able to better understand what people want and find ways to satisfy their needs. We continue to involve building occupants in decisions about cleaning services - they are part of the selection teams that hire contractors. Division staff and product/service suppliers are also engaged on a regular basis for feedback on ways to improve service. Supervisors meet every two weeks, and bring forward input from their own regularly scheduled staff meetings. On the supply service/contracts side, we hold formal meetings once a month (in addition to regular daily contact) with the site supervisor and the contract manager of the cleaning company to discuss the previous month's performance and plans for upcoming months. We meet with representatives of the cleaning supplies company on a regular basis and formally every six months. The contractor must also provide a written report of activities during the previous six months. We have taken the time to ensure that ail our private-sector partners are very aware of the Division's goals and work with us to ensure they are meeting our expectations.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

The Quality Assurance Program was developed for cleaning services within buildings with a variety of uses - offices, laboratories, classrooms, washrooms, lecture theaters and open spaces. Its success has been such that the Program has been expanded to include landscape features, and is generating positive feedback from Division staff and University users. The post-it notes that we use to advise customers of work in progress have been adopted by Operations. On a broader scale, the key elements of the Program are fundamental concepts that can be applied to any organization: customer awareness/feedback, inspection, employee recognition. It uses a well-defined process, recognized standards, standardized forms and clear evaluation criteria. Our particular program is tailored to a university setting, and is grounded in the recognition that the cleaning of buildings is not a core university business. We know that most of our customers will not seek us out unless there are problems. Therefore the Program is designed to be proactive - to understand customer needs, and to increase their understanding of the services we deliver. Staff responsible for the program continue to share our knowledge and experience with post-secondary institutions organizations across North America - in face-to-face meetings during benchmarking exercises and at conferences. The Division has recently had an article on the Quality Assurance Program accepted for publication in a U.S-based trade publication.

Quality Impact

The Quality Assurance Program has established standards of service so that ail stakeholders know when and what services to expect. These standards were developed with input from University staff, taking into account the fiscal resources assigned to each building. The University of Alberta now has an objective tool by which to measure the quality of cleaning services. Our Program is results-oriented.

When we say that the quality of cleaning services has been maintained during a period of significant budget cutbacks, we have 10 years of data to back up that statement. The Program allows us to track the quality of cleaning services across the university, for each building, and even for specific rooms in specific, buildings. This capability gives us a unique window on trends and anomalies. We can zero in quickly to correct deficiencies, or to recognize staff for jobs well done. For example, when poorly cleaned blackboards emerged as an issue in a building, training was identified as the problem. The issue was quickly resolved. The Program is also central to our outsourcing strategy. Contractors currently provide cleaning services to about 35% of the campus area, and this may increase to 50% within the next five years (accomplished through attrition). The Quality Assurance Program ensures that everyone - contractors as well as in-house staff - understands what expectations are.

Productivity Impact

The Quality Assurance Program has been - and continues to be - central to our success in reducing costs and ensuring that cost reductions do not compromise the quality of cleaning services. Quantitative results from building inspections provide solid proof that quality has been maintained. Reasons for our success include our co-sourcing model of service delivery and long-term single-source relationships with suppliers. For example, the supplier of ail cleaning supplies and equipment provides a number of other services to the Division, such as door-to-door delivery, ecommerce ordering and training for Division staff. We have recently upgraded our cleaning equipment and continue to source the most effective cleaning products and product delivery systems. These cost savings have also been achieved in the face of increasing enrollment and new building construction. The following chart shows student population, total area of buildings cleaned, and the Division budget for 1994/95 and 2004/05 fiscal years. It highlights the cost savings we have realized through the Quality Assurance Program.







Student Population





Area of Buildings

(sq. metres)





Division Budget





Cost per student





Cost per Sq. Metre






Our Program is unique because of its scope. It is not just a building audit/inspection program; it is not just an awareness program - it incorporates these elements and more. The Program embodies our Division's decision to streamline its services and operate in a more business-like fashion. We designed our Program by studying other quality assurance programs - many of them not university based - and adapting various parts for our use. For example, our inspection process is augmented by the use of customer comment cards, similar to those used in hotel rooms. The cards are left by staff upon completion of seasonal work. They indicate which service was performed, by whom, and solicit comments on the quality of the work. Our Program is also rigorous. Many cleaning inspection programs are based on surveys, written comments and customer feedback. They are subjective, inconsistent and do not meet a set of defined standards. In contrast, our Building Inspection Program is an objective tool that provides a quantitative approach and numerical measure for cleaning services. It is applied to ail buildings whether cleaned by in-house or contractor staff. Another key aspect is our commitment to 'closing the loop' to ensure that customer needs are attended to. Training for in-house and contractor staff emphasizes this customer-oriented approach. Finally, we have dedicated resources to quality assurance. The Division has two Quality Assurance staff who head up inspection teams and administer the program. Our contractor also has a full-time Quality Assurance Inspector, who works alongside in-house QA staff.