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Custodial program changes save money without layoffs

U academic and support units are searching for ways to share the burden of the budget shortfall


August 17, 2011

University custodial staff adopted a new team cleaning model on Aug. 15 that will help keep University buildings clean in a time of historic budget cuts at the U. With a state-funding cut of $90 million over the next two years, U academic and support units are searching for ways to share the burden of that reduction.

To undertake the overhaul, Facilities Management spent $1.5 million on new equipment and training, while the new model will save $3.1 million annually.

Associate vice president for Facilities Management Mike Berthelsen said the changes allowed the custodial staff to maintain their high-quality of service with 52 fewer positions and no involuntary layoffs.

“The budget realities forced us to review all aspects of how we take care of our buildings,” said Berthelsen.

A key element of the new process is a switch to “team cleaning.” Under the old structure, a single custodian was responsible for all cleaning tasks within a given space, known as an “area” cleaning model. That method is often more expensive and not the cleaning method of choice for many universities and large office buildings, said Berthelsen. The new process divides tasks among teams of specialists who concentrate on fewer responsibilities. This specialization frees custodians from making multiple trips to a custodial closet for different pieces of equipment.

All custodians and supervisors were trained in the new model during a two-month period. Teams received training in hygienic cleaning techniques, including using microfiber cloths, dual chambered cleaning buckets, and an increased use of riding equipment.

The new techniques and products will lead to improved indoor air quality which will be further enhanced because the custodial teams have reduced the number of cleaning chemicals to six, four of which are “green seal” approved, which requires sustainability standards for products.

Facilities Management also consolidated 14 different start times to three primary shifts, which means fewer supervisors are needed to start and end shifts. Taken as a whole, these steps enabled Facilities Management to clean the same amount of space with 52 fewer positions. Through actively managing vacancies and offering a retirement incentive, there was no need for involuntary layoffs.

The new process is part of an overall budget approach that encourages the University community to set clear priorities, to reduce costs and increase productivity, to grow new revenues, and to hire carefully and strategically. Academic and support units U-wide have worked together to close the significant budget gap. Average budget reductions at UMTC were five percent for non-collegiate support units (with individual unit reductions ranging from two to fifty-five percent). For academic units, reductions ranged from zero to six percent.