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Facilities Management: New trends for maintaining hard- and soft-floor surfaces

BY Marianne Wilson

An open forum on best practices was among the highlights of the facilities management workshop track at SPECS/2007. The forum proved an ideal venue for sharing and discovering best practices in such key areas as fire protection, contact/scope of work and material procurement.

Additional workshops addressed disaster preparedness and recovery, and the use of Web-based computerized maintenance-management systems in managing day-to-day facilities activities at multisite locations. The latest trends in floor-cleaning equipment and processes, for hard- and soft-flooring surfaces, were discussed in the session, “Innovative Floor Care Solutions.”

The speaker drove home the importance of good cleaning practices.

“Janitorial is one of the largest costs of facilities,” said Ian G. Greig, CEO, Daniels Associates, Phoenix. “Cleaning must be efficient.”

Greig, an industry consultant with clients around the globe, is an advocate of using wide vacuums on hard-surface floors and carpets.

“They get under display racks and pull the dust in, as opposed to just pushing it around,” he explained. “Start vacuuming your hard-surface floors—stop dust-mopping. Dust mops just blow particles into the air, and the particles then resettle.”

Battery-powered vacuums are ideal, Greig added. They are fairly silent, at 25 to 30 decibels, and can be used during the day.

“We’re not going to get people working nights,” he said. “You need to look at converting to day cleaning.”

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In other suggestions, Greig advised damp-mopping hard floors with a micro-fiber flat mop and dusting surfaces with a micro-fiber wipe.

“Micro-fiber is the way to go,” he said. “String mops haven’t been used in Europe in 20 years.”

The speaker discussed a new product, a Swedish innovation called Twister, which he predicted would change the face of floor cleaning. Distributed in the United States by Continental Commercial Products, it is actually a three-step system that consists of patented cleaning and polishing pads (with specially formulated cleaners) that can be mounted on existing standard cleaning equipment, such as automatic scrubbers. The process eliminates the need to use any other cleaning method or chemicals, including finishes and sealers, to restore and maintain the floor surface.

“The Twister pad micro-polishes vinyl, marble, terrazzo, concrete or stone floor, providing a high shine level and great slip-resistance—without using any floor finish,” Greig said. “It works beautifully on marble and stone, and actually cleans the grout. And it’s phenomenal on concrete.”

Using the Twister will reduce labor costs significantly, he added.

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Weekly Retail Fix

BY CSA STAFF

THE NEWS: SAM’S REALIGNS STORE-LEVEL MANAGEMENT

BENTONVILLE, ARK. Sam’s Club is changing the management structure in its stores. In the realignment, approximately 250 positions will be eliminated, Wal-Mart Stores announced last week. The company said it’s replacing five lower level management positions at each Sam’s Club location with three new higher level and higher paying assistant manager positions.

“This is not a cost cutting effort. We expect a slight increase in payroll upon completion of this change,” said Sharon Orlopp, senior vp of Sam’s people division.

THE FIX: Differentiation would better help Sam’s

Since Sam’s decided that its refocus on the business customer was too narrow, it has sought to find ways to make its clubs more attractive to primary shoppers, i.e., women. And that’s a pretty tough row to hoe, as Costco has done a pretty good job at satisfying the club customer in general and BJ’s has been going after female shoppers for several years now, with some success.

Having fewer managers with more direct responsibility could create a tighter knit club-level management and shorten lines of responsibility and accountability. Yet, without differentiating the offering, execution isn’t going to overcome all of Sam’s challenges.

That being said, a store-level management realignment might be overlooked at other retailers, but, this being Wal-Mart, everyone has to make a big deal about it. But that’s the price you pay as the big guy on the block.

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Weekly Retail Fix

BY CSA STAFF

THE NEWS: TOYS ‘R’ US EARNINGS GAIN 40.1%

WAYNE, N.J. Toys “R” Us today posted net earnings of $199 million for its critical fourth quarter, which meant it turned a profit for the fiscal year ended Feb. 3. But special charges and gains had an impact on its numbers.

Sales for the previous fiscal annum were $142 million, the difference translating into a net earnings increase of 40.1% year over year. For the last fiscal year, Toys “R” Us posted net earnings of $85 million versus a net loss of $384 million for the previous period.

Operating earnings in the fiscal 2006 fourth quarter gained 53.1% to $571 million versus $373 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2005. For the last fiscal year, operating earnings were $649 million versus an operating loss of $142 million for the previous period.

THE FIX: Improved shopper experience ups comps

Of course, any observer has to take into consideration special financial circumstances. Fiscal 2006 operating earnings were positively impacted by $96 million from gains on property sales, slightly offset by restructuring and other charges. In fiscal 2005, operating earnings were negatively impacted by $410 million in costs relating to the merger of the company, as well as $58 million of costs and charges relating to contract settlement fees, restructuring and other charges.

Still, sales were trending up at last year’s end. Net sales gained 15.8% to $5.7 billion. In the full fiscal year, net sales advanced to $13 billion, up 15.2%.

Comparable-store sales for the Toys “R” Us’ U.S. division gained 0.6% in fiscal 2006, and that represents the division’s first comps increase in six years. Comps at Babies “R” Us were up 4.8% and those at Toys “R” Us international were up 2.6% for the fiscal year.

Jerry Storch, chairman and ceo of Toys “R” Us, said the company is “pleased with the strides we made in fiscal 2006 to improve at all levels of the organization and reposition the company for profitable growth over the long term.”

He said the company’s new management team has been focusing on executing a strategy that would turn the retailer into a global toy and baby products authority.

“This translated into higher overall sales, positive comparable-store sales, improved gross margins and strong operating earnings growth for the 2006 fiscal year,” Storch asserted. “The key to our strategy has been improving the customer shopping experience in our stores. We are accomplishing this by delivering a more compelling merchandise selection, better service and a cleaner and more comfortable shopping environment.”

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