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Inspection: How Reducing It in Process Cleaning Can Improve Quality - Process Cleaning for Healthy Facilities™
Healthy Facilities™

Inspection: How Reducing It in Process Cleaning Can Improve Quality

By PC4HS Staff

If you want your school cleaning program to be of high quality, assign plenty of inspectors, right? Maybe not. While proper inspection can catch poor results before they reach your "customer", it is not the same as improving the process or system that produces the results.

Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools® (PC4HS) strives to build quality in to the procedures, so it does not need to be "inspected in" later.

Consider some parallels from manufacturing. Companies that react to a high rate of product defects by hiring more inspectors often succeed in preventing flawed products from reaching the customer, but may fail to correct the underlying problems in the production system; thus, the level of defects - and associated cost - remains fairly constant.

Doesn’t inspection help find the flaws in cleaning processes in order to correct them? Sometimes. But inspection can also become a crutch and a way to make workers scapegoats for what are inherently system problems.

When you put good people in a bad system, the results are still bad.

This is especially apparent where quality issues are chronic. In this scenario, the reactive approach (a.k.a., inspection) is far more expensive long-term and less effective because a defective product (poor cleaning) costs just as much - and often far more - to produce initially as a non-defective (excellent cleaning) product, and the cost of inspection and re-work adds even more to the total overhead that must be passed on to the customer. This means inspection as a quality-management and systems-analysis tool is costing you money - plenty of it - and making you less competitive.

Also, inspection cannot detect problems built into (or buried in) the system. For example, if workers are supplied and using vacuum filter bags that are inefficient at trapping fine dust, then it’s not their fault that there is resettled dust on surfaces they dusted before vacuuming - or that building occupants are sneezing. Or if workers are using a dirty water (single bucket) mopping method as opposed to newer techniques that do not redeposit soil, you can’t fairly hold them accountable for buildup. Even when a worker is deliberately cutting corners and leaving dirt in her or his wake, it’s still a problem of the training, management, hiring and workloading system - not inherently the worker.

Management guru, W. Edwards Deming wrote: “Cease dependence on mass inspection. Eliminate the need for mass inspection…by building quality into the product in the first place.” The goal, according to Deming, was not to eliminate all inspection, but to eliminate the need for most of it (“mass inspection”) by creating systems that produce consistent quality to begin with. 

How can this be applied to cleaning?

Process Cleaning, properly initiated and managed, is an example of a cleaning system that reduces the need for inspection by building “one best way” methods and quality into the production mechanism of cleaning. Because the work is more refined, standardized and consistent, it requires less external inspection.