Nearly all organisations are looking for cost reductions, asking the question how can we do more for less? These efficiency requirements may move from department to department but at some time the spotlight will inevitably fall on cleaning operations. It is better to be prepared for when this happens. This article offers some practical tips to see how efficiency savings can be made.
Thinking well in advance of deadlines allows more open and creative thinking to solve problems. So, set aside some time each week and capture your thoughts. Don’t be afraid to be radical and to think the “unthinkable”, you are not making decisions at this stage. Look at the payback of each option over a long period. Quite often, tactical savings cannot be sustained over the long term. Match the ability to implement any change to its long-term benefits and make sure any changes considered align within the overall strategy of your organisation.
- Look at your organisational structure
Being forced to consider change can be a great time to re-organise how you deliver services. Look at all the functions you provide and work out whether there are benefits in re-organisation. Look for duplication and consider whether parts of your service could be better outsourced or insourced. Look at your management structure to make sure that the workload is being shared equally with the right levels of training and ability to get the best out of the teams.
- Be a smarter buyer
Instead of focusing on the price of a supply of products and materials as a tactical saving opportunity, take a long hard look at value. It is often the case that products and suppliers can deliver increased value over price. For example, does your supplier work with you to recommend efficiency savings or new innovative solutions to help you with your challenges? If not, find one that does, as this constant care and support is invaluable. Perhaps look for a supplier who will assess and challenge the way you currently do things and recommend overall savings. Products too that are right for the job, can often reduce consumption and cost.
- Negotiate good terms
Having selected a supplier that offers a fully supportive ongoing service, negotiate on price. You may find that consolidating your purchases to one supplier can bring savings against multiple suppliers whose numbers have built up over time. Trade quantity for discounts as the suppliers can save on delivery and administration costs and share the benefits with you.
- Embrace innovation and technology
Innovation is everywhere. Trial new techniques, materials and machines on an ongoing basis (perhaps one per month), analyse the results and store up the benefits for when you have to respond to cost pressures. When change comes, there is often the opportunity to renew equipment through one off investments to save over the long term. Look at your ageing equipment and ask yourself, can this be done more effectively, reliably and with less time and effort if we change the tools and materials we are using? Doing this analysis on an ongoing basis demonstrates to your stakeholders that you are being proactive and trialling new things can often be achieved with little or no additional cost.
- Consider sustainability
Sustainable practice in terms of the environment, doesn’t have to cost more, in fact it is often a route to cost savings in itself. Think of reducing waste for example. As well as good practice, the reduction in waste, can also mean a reduction in consumption and costs reduced. In this way, you are not only responding to the cost pressures but also contributing to your organisations responsibility targets.
- Get stakeholders involved
If you start early enough with good preparation it is a great opportunity to float ideas and get stakeholders involved. Ask colleagues in other areas (like the finance department for example) to help analyse your trial results so they can see your initiatives at first hand. Get your teams involved in trialling new ways of working, or new products, so that they can contribute feedback and come up with their own efficiency ideas. Maybe set a challenge with a prize at the end of it for the best efficiency idea?
- Measure and compare
When the time comes, it is much easier to discuss what changes can be made if you are armed with facts. So, benchmark your performance so that you can have an informed discussion about your current levels of delivery. Again, good suppliers and industry experts should be able to help you here. This data is very important to help you maintain your service levels with the appropriate resources, rather than being arbitrarily asked to make cuts and do something it is impossible achieve. It is often an idea to share and socialise your benchmarks with other colleagues in other organisations perhaps through online industry forums or discussion groups.
So, the message to tackle cost reduction pressure when it comes, is primarily be prepared. If you have good data, good analysis and ideas, and engaged stakeholders who understand your challenges, you can transform the whole exercise into a positive organisational development program that can deliver not only cost benefits, but a re-energised and engaged labour force and secondary benefits like environmental responsibility.