Building Services team conserves resources through standardization

Author: Katie Rose

At right, Rosalyn Palus, custodian in Fitzpatrick Hall of Engineering, shows the new, standardized system for handling cleaning products Below right, Fitzpatrick team members include (from left) Harold Ditsch, Paula Hopkins, Rosalyn Palus, Karen Horvath and Angela Donaldson.


Custodial supplies are purchased, stored and used in every building across campus, but there was not enough standardization in the process—different people did things different ways, staff had changed over the years, and ordering supplies for buildings required the approval of many different people. The result was an inefficient use of resources.

To attack the problem head-on, David Harr, associate vice president for Auxiliary Operations, and Valerie RiChard, director of Building and Landscape Services, sought the support of the Office of Continuous Improvement to help simplify the supply ordering process and standardize the management of custodial supplies.

To understand all aspects of the process, a cross-departmental Green Belt project team was created, consisting of building custodians, supervisors and managers.

“The team members were creative. They came to the meetings excited,” says RiChard. “They had creative ideas. Everyone was very engaged.”

Fitzpatrick Hall cleaning crew

The team spent several months gathering information, including documenting what supplies are required in different buildings, what the supplies cost and how quickly the supplies are used.

The Green Belt project team found a number of areas where processes could be improved.

To simplify supply ordering, the team created standard, building- specific order forms that let the custodians and their supervisors know how much of each product should be kept on hand. Now, supply levels are monitored on a weekly basis so items can be ordered at the right time.

In addition to the improved order form, the team gave supervisors direct responsibility for approving supply orders—saving time by requiring fewer supervisors to approve orders.

Custodians, supervisors, managers and executives improved the supply closets in buildings across campus as well. These improvement sessions are known as 5S events, since there are five steps in the process: *s*ort, *s*et items in order, *s*hine (clean) the area, *s*tandardize it, and create a way to *s*ustain it.

To maintain the improvements, the Building Services teams will hold monthly huddles to review expectations, and supervisors will continue to monitor the supply levels and supply closets. Each closet will be equipped with a “before and after” poster to help everyone keep equipment and supplies organized. All building teams are trained in supply management, the ordering process and the order form so they can hold each other accountable.

These efforts have significantly reduced spending on supplies, since many closets were overstocked. But the biggest benefits have been time saved, the increase in team engagement and ownership, and the standardization of processes—all of which enable Building Services to better serve campus buildings.

According to Darla Hansen, a project member from Building Services, “This effort helped us be more efficient. Seeing how it makes our jobs easier is the best part of this project.”