Maintenance & Operations

You Can't Manage What You Can't Measure…
...Starting With the Janitorial Closet

When it comes to cutting costs, one area that is often overlooked in park and recreation centers is cleaning supplies. Very often when pressured to cut cleaning expenditures, managers reduce cleaning frequencies or the number of cleaning workers servicing a location.

While taking these steps can result in cost reductions, it also can affect the overall health of a facility, which, of course, is a top concern for all park and rec managers. Therefore, it is wise to take a look at the supplies used to maintain the location and see if we can find some savings before taking more drastic measures.

Although the cost savings will likely be smaller—after all, labor cost is the most expensive part of cleaning—cost reductions from analyzing supplies can and will materialize. This is why many major contract cleaning companies in the United States join group purchasing organizations.

A group purchasing organization works directly with manufacturers, securing special pricing on a wide variety of products for their members. Unlike a buying group, which actually purchases products, individual members of a group purchasing organization continue working with their own distributors, which honor the special pricing arrangements with manufacturers.

The discounts these groups receive on cleaning supplies can be significant, and very often these savings can be passed on to members' customers, such as park and rec centers, resulting in cost savings for them as well.

Further, taking some of these steps can help a park and rec center accomplish the following:

  • Operate more efficiently.
  • Reduce the number of cleaning-related products used in the facility, which can streamline ordering and cut down on clerical processing time (a cost savings).
  • Reduce inventories, allowing for more storage space.
  • Secure rebates or cost savings from distributors.
  • Enhance custodial training; using fewer cleaning products typically means less training time is need—another cost savings—and the products selected are used properly and more effectively.

The Big First Step

Do you know what cleaning supplies are in your janitorial closet? Do you know which supplies are most effective? Do you know which are the most cost-effective? The least cost-effective?

If you answered no to any or all of these questions, don't worry; it just means it's time to turn things around in order to accomplish some of the benefits just discussed. Working with your cleaning workers, empty the cleaning closet and put all of the products used for general cleaning in one area, floorcare products in another, window cleaning products in a third area, and so on.

Similar to many other facilities, you will likely find there are some products made for the same purpose from different manufacturers or even different brands of a product used for the same purpose from the same manufacturer. Let's take the general cleaning products as an example, and let's suppose we have three different brands. We analyze each of them as to the following criteria:

  • Effectiveness
  • Ease of use
  • Costs
  • Green (if a green cleaning program is in place)

What invariably happens is one of these three products will surface to the top. By eliminating the other two, we can now: streamline ordering and related costs; ensure our custodial workers are properly trained on only one cleaning solution and not a variety of cleaning solutions; free up storage space; etc. And, because we will now be purchasing more of only one product, we can approach our distributor to see what types of product discounts or rebates are available.

Now, take the same steps with all of the other cleaning supplies and products. These steps can also be applied to cleaning equipment, such as vacuum cleaners, floor machines, etc.

Other Cost-Saving Measures

We now know exactly which cleaning products to purchase for our park and rec facility and are already realizing some savings, but there's more to come. A lot depends on how your center orders these products. For instance:

Compare pricing: Now that it is clear exactly which products meet your cost and performance criteria and how much you need for a set period of time, select three distributors in your area and ask them what they would charge for these products. In most cases, the distributors will offer bulk purchase discounts—some more favorable than others. If the distributor does not carry a specific product, it will likely offer an alternative. Make sure that product compares in cost and effectiveness.

Avoid spot buying: Spot buying occurs when your center has run out of a product and needs replenishment as soon as possible. Unless it's a large order and the supplies are in stock, a distributor will rarely offer a special price for a rush order; to prevent this, track product usage. Purchase enough products to last for three to six months, but no more. In most cases this is a large enough order to warrant a product discount from the supplier but it is not significant enough to waste resources, including space and money, on inventory.

Keep the "new product" door open: Many times, facility managers and contract cleaners purchase certain cleaning supplies simply because they have always purchased them before; this can be a very costly mistake. The professional cleaning industry has been evolving very quickly in recent years. Many manufacturers meet with our contract cleaning members to "beta test" new products before their formal introduction, and some of these new products—chemicals and equipment—are proving to be very effective. Partner with your distributor. Distributors can prove to be your best allies when it comes to keeping your facility clean and healthy in the most cost efficient way possible.



Terry Sambrowski/ is the executive director of the National Service Alliance LLC, one of the largest group purchasing organizations for the professional cleaning and related industries. She can be reached through her organization's website at


Terry Sambrowski