The Science Of Cleaning

Just as science is applied in automobile production as well as in several other industries, many experts in the professional cleaning industry are now looking for ways to introduce science to cleaning.

Since 1908, when Henry Ford introduced the assembly-line to more efficiently manufacture automobiles, manufacturers across scores of industries have sought ways to bring more “science” into their factories.  Science, in a manufacturing setting, often refers to a system of acquiring knowledge through observation and experimentation and then, if possible, making improvements in the manufacturing processes.

Additionally, science can help develop methods to replicate the manufacturing of products so they are duplicated the same way every time. This helps guarantee each item – in Ford’s case, each car – is of the same quality.

The need for exact duplication happened when Ford realized that when individual groups of workers built a car from start to finish, the results and quality varied within the group and also differentiated from other groups performing the same tasks. Some groups might start building cars in different ways, which they conceived themselves to be correct. This could affect the quality of construction, the time it took to build the car, the safety of the workers, and various other hazardous issues and factors. Essentially, the manufacturer loses control of the production process.

However, with a chain of assembly-line workers specializing in a limited number of specific tasks in the automobile’s construction, Ford ensured that each car was built exactly alike – while also considerably speeding up production and producing high quality cars with fewer defects. In other words, he applied science to automobile production and reaped the benefits.

Bringing Science into Cleaning

Just as science is applied in automobile production as well as in several other industries, many experts in the professional cleaning industry are now looking for ways to introduce science to cleaning.

The goal is to develop systems that can prove manufacturers’ claims about their products as well as develop cleaning systems that can be replicated to deliver the same high-quality sanitation results every time. Such innovation would help remove the “homework” from product selection; and, enhanced cleaning systems could help prevent disease, improve worker productivity and efficiency, and maintain satisfactory appearance levels on a more consistent basis.

As far as ending the homework, or end user research necessary when selecting cleaning products, many of the Green certification organizations, such as EcoLogo and Green Seal, are accomplishing this by identifying environmentally preferable cleaning products.  These independent, third-party organizations work with accredited laboratories to determine if a product is effective and if it helps minimize cleaning’s impact on the environment.

These organizations have also established guidelines or parameters for the manufacturers of these products.  Manufacturers learn what standards must be met, the chemistry involved, and the technology necessary to make a high performing cleaning product.

Need is Clear

The need for science that can standardize cleaning processes is becoming more and more obvious.  Although there are different cleaning “systems,” such as specialist cleaning, zone cleaning, day cleaning, and no-touch cleaning, these systems can vary by how they are introduced to workers and how they are executed.

For instance, many manufacturing facilities use a version of day cleaning. Custodial crews clean while employees are still working instead of when the facility is closed. However, day cleaning can be – and often is — adopted in one form at one plant and in a revised manner at another. This means the effectiveness, productivity, and quality of the cleaning, while using the same system, can differ – and sometimes vary dramatically.

Most of the steps the cleaning industry is taking to help make cleaning more scientific – with the end result of improving and replicating the cleaning process so that the same results can be accomplished each time – can be incorporated in manufacturing facilities. These steps include:

     • Defining “clean.” Cleaning is the process of locating, identifying, containing, and removing unwanted substances from an environment. A “clean” facility is one that is free of unwanted matter that can harm people’s health or productivity, the environment, or valuable materials.

     • Developing cleaning terminology. Just as manufacturers may have their own language to describe tasks, processes, and products, cleaning has its own language. A language specific to cleaning helps define cleaning systems, concepts, and procedures.

     • Understanding cleaning’s benefits. Effective cleaning not only produces a healthier, more aesthetically appealing facility, but it can also promote dignity among workers as well as instill professionalism. Additionally, it can help induce a “sense of ownership” in the company and the products it produces, which can improve product quality and worker efficiency.

     • Measuring cleaning effectiveness. Cleaning effectiveness is measured in the amount of unwanted soil that is removed from a facility. This assessment can be accomplished through the measuring of soil, bacteria, or indoor air particulates that are removed from a facility after cleaning.

What Happens When You Clean?

The measurement of cleaning effectiveness has often been difficult to determine, and yet it is probably the most important element in making the process more scientific. One leading cleaning manufacturer has made determining the effectiveness of cleaning a top priority and is taking steps to answer the question, “What happens when you clean?”

The company, which manufactures no-touch or spray-and-vac cleaning equipment, has conducted studies to determine how much bacteria remains on floor and surface areas after using several cleaning systems. This provides the data science requires to improve the cleaning process.

Additionally, the company has developed an inexpensive urine detection kit. The existence of urine on restroom floors and surfaces indicates germs and bacteria are likely present and can spread. This increases the potential for cross-contamination, which can result in illness for workers. School districts were the first to use these systems to judge the effectiveness of their custodial cleaning workers. This kit can also be instrumental in a manufacturing facility. 

Assembly Line Results

When Ford introduced the assembly-line concept, he revolutionized the concept of mass production in the automobile industry and in industrial production as a whole. The automobile industry grew from employing 3,000 to more than 75,000 workers between 1908 and 1919, in Detroit alone. Worker productivity increased as much as 90 percent in some factories; the quality of workmanship also improved and product quality was consistent.

Similar results are also likely when science is applied to the cleaning process. Worker efficiency will improve as well as cleaning effectiveness. Manufacturing facilities will appear cleaner, be healthier, and complement other scientific measures to make manufacturing more productive.

More in Operations