Lean Clean: The Analytical Janitor

Here’s a great example of applying process thinking to a business that many people might not consider as a candidate for analysis: commercial cleaning.

Eilene Zimmerman wrote an interesting story in The New York Times about Squiffy Clean, a start-up by Simon Brooks who originally was working on a game app but then fell into the idea of improving how commercial cleaning is done through process analysis.

His company is unusually high-tech for the industry. It collects more than 700 points of data, like the time it takes to mop a square foot, and uses the information to improve and refine its cleaning methods, and to set prices.

Most small cleaning companies charge by the number of labor hours, but Squiffy Clean created an algorithm that sets prices based on the data it collects about cleaning sites.

Compared with other office cleaning companies, Squiffy Clean generally pays a higher hourly wage (about $17 per hour). The median hourly wage in the industry is $11.27, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It also gives cleaners equity in the company and makes their safety a top priority.

One of Squiffy Clean’s first clients was Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank and start-up accelerator.

“A lot of people view janitorial work as just a way to make money, but Simon embraces it as the very important job it is and takes a very scientific approach to it,” said Tom LeGan, the facilities manager at Singularity. “He’s also very compassionate about his workers. You don’t see that in many corporations, let alone a janitorial services company.”