ICS Magazine

Attention to Detail: Your Ace in the Hole

May 4, 2009
Detail work puts you a step above your competition


Recently, after one of my classes, I was asked by a student if I would go out and take a look at one of his accounts. Marcellus was very concerned that he would lose the account and, by extension, the potential for more buildings from this particular manager.

The account included janitorial and floor maintenance and, although he was very comfortable with the janitorial aspect, he was less confident about maintaining the sheet vinyl and vinyl composition tile (VCT) within the facility. He said he wanted my honest opinion and suggestions as to what he could do to better his position with this customer.

“I will do whatever it takes to keep this account, so don’t hold back,” he said.

“Be careful what you asked for,” I replied.

This was not a small facility, and after touring it completely there were a number of items on my list. Almost all of the problems had the same basic root cause: lack of detailing. Problems with edge build-up, wall splashes, and excess finish on the cove base and door kick plates were prevalent throughout the facility. It wasn’t surprising that Marcellus was concerned about losing the account; these were obvious and unsightly issues.

After talking with him a while, I determined that a lot of his situation was inherited from the previous building service contractor, but regardless whether someone else had contributed to the overall problems, they were his problems now.

Sometimes we wait too long to address a situation and it teeters on the brink of cancellation, which was the case here. I told Marcellus to go to the facility manager and lay out a plan of how he was going to overcome the issues. The facility did not get this way overnight, and I assured him that it would not be remedied overnight either. It was better to be upfront with the customer than to ignore it and hope it goes away.

Build-up along the edges and corners is not an immediate phenomenon. It is an accumulation of bad floor-maintenance practices that may ultimately cost you a customer. It begins as dry soil that is pushed to the outer edges of any room in the process of dust mopping or sweeping. These dry particulates are of no big concern, because they are dry and can be swept out with an angled, flag-tipped kitchen-type broom or counter brush. As long as it is removed from the corners and along the edges, it will pose no problems.

Once the floor is wet mopped, moisture is introduced and becomes a binder for the soil. It solidifies the individual dry particulates into a solid mass that will adhere to the floor. The soil is now more difficult to remove and will require stronger cleaning chemicals, maybe even a putty knife or abrasive pad to agitate the surface to break up the soil. This moderate or heavy soil along the edges and corners can be removed during the detailing function of the medium or heavy scrub-and-recoat service procedure.

If the detailing is poor or neglected all together while performing the scrub and recoat service procedure, the problem is compounded by applying floor finish to the area without first completely removing the soil from the floor. Now heavy soil build-up becomes encapsulated soil trapped between coats of floor finish. Once the floor reaches this state, it is very difficult to remove the soil; about the only way to remove it correctly is to strip and refinish the entire area.

Your attention to detail won’t go unnoticed

Splashing of slurry onto the wall or kick plates usually occurs when the abrasive pad is larger than the shroud of the rotary floor machine. When the pad sticks out beyond the shroud it tends to flare up, flinging the contaminated cleaning solution (slurry) away from the machine and upward. It is not uncommon to see splashing 1 to 2 feet up a vertical surface.

Buying the right size pad will reduce fling-off tremendously. The abrasive pad should be exactly the same size as the pad holder, and the pad holder should be approximately 1-inch smaller than the machine shroud. Another thing that will reduce fling-off is a splash guard, which can be purchased or made. To make a splash guard all you need to do is purchase a few feet of cove base – enough to wrap around the circumference of your rotary floor machine – cut a slot for the wheels and staple it together. This will ride freely on the floor, but will prevent solution from being splashed up onto the wall.

The final problem with this account was the finish build-up on the cove base. This is a common problem that occurs when the floor-maintenance technician is applying floor finish. If the technician is not careful and touches the cove base, the finish will dry on the base. It will leave a very visible line, and over time may build-up considerably, resulting in very unsightly cove base. This is easily remedied by carrying a towel and wiping the cove base when it is hit.

If cove base build-up is allowed to go on, it will create a very difficult situation to correct. Because the build-up is on a vertical surface, it is extremely difficult to remove. In some situations it may be more cost effective to replace the cove base than to dump massive hours in attempting to clean it off.

To clean accumulated build-up on cove base, during strip and refinish maintenance apply an ample amount of stripping solution or aerosol foam to the affected areas. Allow maximum dwell time and replenish often. The objective is to soften the finish enough to remove it with a terrycloth towel and fresh water. You should not use abrasive pads on cove base, as they will scratch the base and make it look bad. It is a long, arduous process that is not always successful, but with patience and repeated applications it will be successful most of the time.

Three weeks after giving Marcellus this information, he called and informed me that not only did he retain this customer; the customer gave him three more facilities to maintain.

If there is one thing that I can tell you about floor maintenance, it is that no matter how good you think the end results might be, if you don’t pay attention to the details, all of your hard labor will be for naught, but if you pay attention to the details, there is a good possibility that you will be rewarded.