Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: McGill AXES Progam in Custodial Services
Year Submitted 2019
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
George Lazaris Director, Buildings and Grounds Department
Name of Institution McGill University
Office Address 1010 Sherbrooke Street West
Suite 612
Montreal, Quebec H2A2R7
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Telephone: 514-398-6205
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Professor Yves Beauchamp
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Vice-Principal
Office Address McGill University - James Administration Building, Room 531 / Université McGill - Pavillon de l'administration James, bureau 531
845, Sherbrooke Street West / 845, rue Sherbrooke Ouest
Montréal, Quebec H3A 0G4
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Telephone: 5143982883
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The McGill Building Services unit oversees a team of 176 employees providing custodial services to 50 buildings. As in any large public institution, the unit strives to deliver outstanding services despite intensifying budgetary pressure.  In this complex operational context, data-driven decision making techniques offer a valuable opportunity. The question was: how to implement such a program to increase quality and decrease costs in the university context?

From this challenge sprung McGill AXES, a program leveraging low-cost data collection and analysis approaches to optimize custodial service across the campus. The program infuses a data-driven approach into four levels of operation:

  1. Inventory Management: Providing the right tools to custodial teams through detailed inventory databases, scheduled maintenance and repair, cost tracking and equipment reuse and recycling.
  2. Work Routes and Loading: A data-driven division of labour by building square footage and use type, resulting in optimized work routes for each employee surpassing APPA productivity standards.
  3. Quality Control: Benchmarking results through regular inspections, detailed progress reports and quantified performance scores.
  4. Training: Turning weaknesses into strengths through a trackable employee training curriculum.

These innovative approaches decrease costs through three principles. First, no expensive software was necessary, with the majority of the program using Microsoft Access and Excel and the remainder housed in a web-based platform developed in-house, making AXES highly transferable. Second, preventative maintenance and equipment reuse or recycling were prioritized, decreasing equipment costs. Finally, the program optimizes existing resources, using data to attain quantifiable efficiency gains from current personnel and equipment. AXES thus attains better results for every dollar spent.

Overall, AXES allows management to better understand their service offering, make data-driven decisions, and optimize all operations. Since the inception of AXES in 2010, overall custodial services quality has increased proportionally by 38%, despite budgetary constraints leading to a 12% decrease in personnel. Thanks to this adaptability and demonstrable success, the McGill Buildings and Grounds Department is now expanding AXES to their other operational units, already delivering promising results. AXES is truly an innovative program to attain the best possible university operational services in the digital age.

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

The AXES program's transferability stems from its use of only basic but powerful software. Unlike other programs necessitating expensive or complex downloads, the majority of AXES is housed in Microsoft Excel and Access which most organizations are already very familiar with. Despite the simplicity of these tools, AXES does not compromise on its powerful data analysis or intuitive reporting. Furthermore, the remaining aspects of the program use USIDS, a web-based platform created by the McGill Building Services Team. By making the platform web-based, the program can be easily shared with other institutions by simply creating additional user profiles. Additionally, AXES strives for a maximization of existing resources (personnel and equipment), meaning that once the IT-based components have been adapted to the context in question, the program can immediately begin providing insights and optimizations. The transferability of the AXES program is already being demonstrated through its recent expansion into other operational units under the McGill Buildings and Grounds department, namely the Grounds Services, Events Support and External Contract Management.

Quality Impact

Since its inception in 2010, AXES has had a quantifiable impact on the quality of custodial services at McGill. First, the Work Route Optimization system ensures that employee time is used as efficiently as possible. Next, the Quality Control inspection framework is conceived to rate the each employee's output against McGill's cleaning standards, organized by custodial task. Finally, the corresponding AXES training program is based on the same task categories as the inspection. In this way, each employee's weaker points are clearly indicated, and then supervisors are provided with a concrete roadmap to improve their team's scores. Thanks to this fastidious approach to incremental improvement, campus custodial services have been improved by 38% relative to 2010, surpassing a grade of 80% for overall quality.

Productivity Impact

As demonstrated by its Quality Impact (see previous section), AXES allowed McGill's custodial services to make quantifiable improvements to its service quality. However, this success is further emphasized by the fact that budgetary constraints forced the unit to decrease its custodial staff by 12% between 2010 and 2019. This means that thanks to AXES, fewer people are now able to accomplish the same work at significantly higher quality. Additionally, the AXES Inventory Management framework allowed equipment purchases to proportionally decrease by 68% (total annual equipment purchase cost, 2010 compared to 2018) while improving the sustainability footprint of the unit by recycling or reusing all parts at the end of a piece of equipment's lifecycle. 


Several factors make AXES innovative. First, it achieves invaluable data-driven insights using simple tools (Microsoft Access and Excel, USIDS), rivaling traditionally more complex or expensive software while respecting the often thin margins of para-public institutions. Second, AXES applies quantitative insights at a level beyond the industry norm for custodial services, especially in terms of the granularity of its inspection framework. Finally, AXES has been in development over eight years specifically in the university context, meaning that it is formulated to demonstrate efficient use of public funds in operations, encourage environmentally sustainable equipment and resource use, and conform to highly structured unionized environments. 

Supporting Documents