MITIE is a British asset management and outsourcing company that operates predominantely in the UK but also has international operations, mainly in Europe. Jon Lightowler, Director of Lean Environment, discusses the way the facilities management specialist applies lean to improve the quality of its services, while becoming more environmentally friendly.

MITIE runs, maintains, designs and invests in every service it provides, and by integrating these services it can deliver constant innovation. We have a unique approach to specialist outsourcing that drives our strategy, guarantees cost savings and means we can meet the changing demands of our diverse customer base.

We self-deliver integrated facilities management (FM) with services that include document management, front of house, catering, cleaning, maintenance, landscaping, pest control, security, waste and environmental management. Our client base includes government organisations, critical infrastructure (including nuclear power stations) and blue chip companies. In its 25 years of existence, MITIE has grown year on year and now employs over 63,000 people, with a turnover in excess of £2bn.

Our clients, like other consumers, regulators, and shareholders are all looking for sustainability now, in every aspect of their operations. With the public’s growing environmental awareness, clients these days are actively seeking “greener” options. Our shareholders and investors have made environmental and social performance a top consideration. At the same time, many clients already know that cutting greenhouse gases, reducing waste, increasing recycling and broadly shrinking a company’s carbon footprint will reduce costs. We have worked closely with global professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to enshrine sustainability in the way we do business.

There are six strategic sustainability themes:

  • Looking after our clients properly;
  • Operating our contracts smartly;
  • Using fewer natural resources;
  • Doing more for our clients for less, wherever they are in the world;
  • Nurturing our people’s talent;
  • Enabling our people to work safely, and go home safely.

A growing number of our clients have now recognised that a lean six sigma culture not only provides a wellunderstood and trusted way to reduce cost, but also provides a framework for exploring sustainable initiatives. Lean six sigma is grounded on removing waste, whether that is materials, resources, manpower, energy, or time. It can also help in removing so called environmental wastes, such as the unnecessary or excess use of resources or a substance released to the air, water, or land that could harm human health or the environment.

Although the application of the lean methodology is commonplace in manufacturing and is now also becoming better known in the service sector, it’s still relatively new across the FM service sector, particularly in commercial cleaning. But it makes sense for us to implement lean six sigma in our operations: it adds real value to clients in what is a very challenging market place.

MITIE’s lean offering is called Lean Environment, which I run. I have had a lot of experience in the application of lean operations to the commercial cleaning environment: lean six sigma promotes and creates an operational and cultural environment that is conducive to waste reduction, pollution prevention and indeed sustainability. It’s all about better use of resources to generate less chemical and energy usage and less wasted activity per contract. Our lean processes are now delivering contracts that are smarter, greener and better value for money.

Our lean approach is now setting the standard for a lean and green approach to FM services, giving us a real competitive advantage. By adopting a lean philosophy in the initial design of commercial cleaning systems MITIE is able to determine the most efficient and effective processes and equipment that are best suited to achieve the Critical To Quality (CTQ) requirements of the clients. The design process conforms to the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control) model.

One recent design in 2012 was for two large office buildings belonging to a major UK high street retail bank. In order to define the project, a full data gathering exercise was carried out in both buildings over a two-week period. During this time the specification was analysed and on-site staff questioned to identify CTQ areas. Employees were asked what was important to them and where they believed improvements could be made. By taking the time to analyse each of the processes, as they occurred, the project team quickly gained a full understanding of the cleaning activities, and the essential processes used to achieve them. Quality audits were carried out to highlight any non-conformances. A full listing of the current labour hours and shift patterns were also obtained as well as a complete list of machinery and equipment that was being used.

The site visit also allowed for accurate measurements to be collected and collated. Using the floor plans the net cleanable area of each floor plate was measured using AutoCAD to give accurate square footages. Manual counts were carried out to determine the contents and use of each area of the building. These measurements were then put into the bespoke soft ware that MITIE has developed, known as LeanIT. Here the data can then be compared against a set of default metrics that allow for the accurate prediction of how long a particular task will take a specified team of cleaning operatives using specified equipment.

Analysing this data via structured brainstorming sessions helped to identify wasteful activities which don’t provide any real value. Subsequently our lean project team held a design meeting where the outputs from LeanIT were debated, leading to firm recommendations for improvement and the creation of standard work that generated a saving to the client of about 15% in the first year.

To highlight how these improvements had a very real impact on the environment, MITIE was able to demonstrate that by using HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filtered back vacuum cleaners instead of traditional tub vacuums, the cleaning productivity rate increased from 2,500 square feet per hour to 7,273 square feet per hour; a 190% increase. Although the machine itself did not use any less electricity, the very fact that it doesn’t need to be switched on for as long to achieve the same or indeed improved results meant that less energy was used.

The mopping of the hard floors also provides an excellent example of how the selection of the right equipment made a dramatic effect not only on the efficiency and effectiveness of the process itself, but also on the environment. Traditionally, string mops and buckets filled with warm/hot water together with a chemical detergent were used to clean hard floor surfaces on both sites. This necessitated the use of chemicals that immediately contaminated the water, as well as using energy consumption to heat the water in the fi rst instance. Time was expended by the cleaning operators who had to frequently empty buckets of dirty contaminated water and refill them with more hot water and chemical detergent. First use of the water in the bucket also meant that thereafter dirty water was placed on the floor with each application until the water was changed. MITIE’s lean team introduced the ‘Rubbermaid pulse mop’ that utilises microfibre technology; this generally only requires water to provide effective cleaning, thereby eliminating the need for chemical detergents. Additionally, the ‘pulse mop’ has an integrated water reservoir that means that only clean water is ever applied to the floor – significantly reducing the time expended on refilling and the amount of water used.

Where there is a requirement for the use of a surfactant or cleaning agent, we are championing the use of non-chemical based enzyme or microbiological cleaning products. These products lead to greater levels of sustainability and because they are available as concentrates it means that less packaging is used (and subsequently disposed of) as well as reducing the number of deliveries required.

Spreading the Lean Environment message is important to MITIE and as such we have developed our own Lean Academy, which allows us to train key personnel up to recognised Yellow and/ or Green Belt standard. These courses are externally accredited by the National Open College Network. This, together with our install process, means that the onsite cleaning managers, supervisors and cleaning operators have the necessary tools to maintain the system and make incremental continuous improvements.

It is clear to both our clients and MITIE itself that the applicati on of lean to the cleaning acti viti es we perform is leading to a cleaner and greener operati on. The challenge for other FM providers is how to adopt this powerful tool and make it work for their clients too.