FM Articles

Requests For Proposals


A cleaning consultant was working with a major university in California. His job was to help them streamline their in-house cleaning operations, with the goals of improving the quality of service, the morale of the custodial workers and, most especially, to help reduce their overall cleaning costs. As we know, the cleaning and maintenance of a facility, especially a large university campus, can be one of a school’s most significant cost expenditures.

As part of his job, the cleaning consultant also analyzed the cleaning solutions, tools, and products being selected for cleaning. What he discovered was that many of the products were older brands, cleaning solutions and related products that had been introduced several years ago. That’s not to say they were necessarily bad; it’s just that newer products had been introduced that in many cases were more efficient, more cost-effective, easier to use, “green,” etc.

The cleaning consultant asked why these products were still being purchased. What he discovered was that the university had been using the same Request for Proposal (RFP) for cleaning supplies they developed several years ago. What they did, apparently, was recycle the old RFP to distributors and vendors each year, but just put a current date on it. In other words, the RFP developed for the year 2015, was used for 2016, 2017, and so on.

If this were happening in the 1950s, it would raise very few eyebrows. Cleaning products just did not change that much in those days. But today, and especially with the introduction of environmentally preferable cleaning solutions, things are changing… and fast. Virtually all the manufacturers of janitorial products are continually introducing new cleaning solutions and products that are designed to improve upon the old standbys.

Why Update the RFP?
This recycling of old RFPs is a situation many facility managers find themselves in. Submitting RFPs and then evaluating them as they are returned, interviewing vendors, and then comparing RFPs, is a time-consuming process. So, if they can cut a few corners by reprocessing an old RFP, it helps make the process move along a bit faster.

However, there can be a significant cost for doing this. As we mentioned, the world of cleaning is changing fast. Just to see how things have transformed, years ago many facilities had their floors refinished two or three times per year. Today this is viewed as a costly, time-consuming, and disruptive process, and it can also be unhealthy for cleaning workers and the environment, because the cleaning solutions used are so powerful.

To address this, manufacturers have introduced floorcare products that:

  • Last longer; with proper daily and interim care, many floor finishes can last 12 to 18 months, sometimes longer, before a complete strip and refinish is needed. This lowers costs, is less disruptive, and reduces the impact of floorcare on the cleaning worker’s health and the environment
  • Dries as much as 50 percent faster than older products; this reduces the time to refinish floors significantly
  • Requires fewer coats; now instead of four, five, or more coats, two or three are all that is necessary to produce a high-quality shine and protect the floors making this another time and cost savings
  • Have “brains.” These are floor machines programmed to safely perform “repeatable” cleaning tasks such as cleaning and scrubbing floors. While they are more costly than a human-operated machine, the return on the investment is surprisingly fast.

If a facility manager is still re-ordering a floor finish, for example, one designed to last only three or four months instead of one designed to last twelve months or longer, they are making a purchase that is costly and unwise on a variety of different levels.

How to Update the RFP
Updating an RFP is a process. The steps are all interconnected and we will examine them below. But before beginning, a couple of things we need to know.

This process can be performed in-house. It is not complicated. However, some managers work with a distributor to guide them through the process or call in a cleaning consultant. Or, there is at least one free online “dashboard” program that can guide managers through this process.

With that clarified, let’s begin. The key steps in this process to update an RFP includes the following steps:

  1. Discovery – This first step requires managers to consider what the facility’s key challenges and goals are when it comes to cleaning. Usually, these are such things as reducing cleaning costs, improving the health of the facility, meeting green and sustainability objectives, and increasing cleaning worker productivity. Surprisingly, this is a question that is rarely asked or addressed.
  2. Evaluation – Another surprise is just how often facilities order supplies designed for the same or similar purposes. These are referred to as “procurement redundancies.” They are costly and unnecessary. An analysis of the products currently in use can help eliminate these redundancies. This helps reduce costs, frees up storage space, promotes worker safety, and reduces training needs.
  3. Exploration – This is where we explore current cleaning products in use or those we are considering selecting, and compare them with others used for the same or similar purpose. For example, using our floor finish example again, let’s say we are comparing two different floor finishes. Both are very similar as to costs and performance; however, our distributor, consultant, or dashboard system points out that product “A” covers 2,000 square feet of floor space whereas product “B” only 1,500. Knowing this, it becomes clear that A is the most cost-effective selection.

At this point, we have examined our needs, what products are in use now, eliminated redundancies, and have discovered newer, more efficient and cost-effective products to select. With this information, we can now prepare a new RFP that addresses our cleaning needs today, and will help us make more effective product selections now and into the future.

Ron Segura is president of Segura Associates. His company works with large and small organizations and cleaning contractors to help them streamline their operations as well as promote sustainability and healthier cleaning strategies; this allows them to function more effectively and efficiently and realize cost savings. He can be reached through his website at