INSTA800 Nordic cleaning standard - clean with your eyes

4th of November 2014
INSTA800 Nordic cleaning standard - clean with your eyes
INSTA800 Nordic cleaning standard - clean with your eyes

‘Cleaning with your eyes’, that is the basic idea behind the Nordic cleaning standard INSTA 800. The standard was introduced in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland 14 years ago. The new way of working has resulted in improved cleaning quality and higher employee motivation.  Petra Sjouwerman reports for ECJ.

“For many years we used to clean according to a fixed programme. On Monday we mopped the floors, on Tuesday we cleaned the walls, and so on. That meant that a coffee stain on the wall caused on Wednesday, stayed there until the next Tuesday,” chuckles Alice Bugge, general director of Rentek, based in Farum, a Copenhagen suburb. Three years ago Rentek was the first company in Denmark to achieve the INSTA 800 certification.

Rentek has long done away with fixed cleaning programmes.  “Nowadays, our employees systematically assess each room before they start to clean and then focus on the agreed quality level for that room or space,” explains Alice Bugge.

Instead of focusing on cleaning frequency and fixed programme, the Nordic cleaning standard focuses on the results, by describing clear and objective expectations.

The INSTA 800 standard describes in detail how to measure the cleaning quality and how many ‘impurities’ are allowed in each room after the cleaning. This way cleaning companies can prove their ability to deliver quality.

Alice Bugge explains: “There are five quality levels. Level five is the highest: for a hospital operating room. That makes it easy to understand for the owner of an office building that level five is unrealistic. And that a toilet should have a higher level then a corridor,” explains Alice Bugge, who has been working in the cleaning sector for over 30 years. She was one of the members of the working group that has developed the INSTA 800, a standard that was an initiative of the Nordic cleaning industry itself.

“We experienced that customers who were interested in buying our services wanted cleaning, but in fact didn’t know how clean they wanted it. Cleaning standards are very subjective. Many clients had difficulties in explaining what exactly they were looking for. We simply lacked common definitions. With the standard we speak the same language,” says Bugge.

Measurements are taken on four categories:  furniture, floors, walls and ceilings. The standard defines four types of ‘impurity’: waste and loose dirt, dust, stains and what we call surface dirt.
“Surface dirt’ covers in fact ‘method flaws’, like stripes of soap on the floor or lime scale in the sink,” elaborates Mette Olesen, service manager at GKR, the municipal public cleaning service in the Danish town of Gladsaxe. This company is the second in Denmark to have achieved the INSTA 800, earlier this year.

Measure results

The cleaning quality can then be measured by counting all impurities that are left in one room and by simply ticking them of on a sheet of paper, in a tablet or even with the help of an app. By counting these impurities a room will be approved or rejected. Within the standard a specific number of rejected rooms are allowed.

The customer sets standards for how clean each separate room should be. “Together with the client we choose the right levels. This is important as most customers have a tendency to choose a level that is too high,” Bugge says.

This means that the 100 employees of Rentek, a company with a broad range of clients - from private hospitals and schools to offices – have had to learn to ‘clean with their eyes’ first when entering a room or space. They have to decide what to clean in order to obtain the agreed quality level. “In stead of following fixed routines, our employees make their own decisions about what, within the time limits, is necessary in each room or space. This makes their jobs more satisfying,” says Alice Bugge.

“We all have opinions about cleaning and we can often see it immediately when an area is not clean. But it takes a trained eye to see what is necessary to clean that area,” says Mette Olesen.
“During evaluation sessions with her staff,  one of my employees remarked: now we have to bring our heads along when we go to work.”

“The staff has to understand the system before they start to clean,” agrees Dennis Andersen, ceo of Andersen Control. According to him education is an important cornerstone of INSTA 800. Andersen was of the members of the second Nordic working group, which optimised the standard for daily use. This resulted in 2011 in the introduction of the INSTA 800 certification for companies and also for individual employees. Up to now, 400 employees in Denmark and Sweden have been certified.

In cooperation with Dansk Standard, the Danish national standardisation organisation (DS), Andersen teaches INSTA 800 courses on two levels, either three-day or five-days courses. In the meantime, he has also launched an e-learning programme.

While teaching, he has experienced that the standard provides employees with a greater motivation. Job satisfaction has increased. “Their work is judged from a professional point of view and is not a subjective assessment,” he says. “The other day I visited the town of Gladsaxe the cleaners told me that they now love their work,” he says.

Proud employees

Mette Olesen experiences that the employees in her teams are more proud of their jobs. “Only a few years ago we would regularly have endless discussions about a room. Was it clean or was it not clean? Now we have a professional language. We are talking about numbers of stains and percentages of floor surfaces with stripes,” she says.

That is the greatest benefit of INSTA 800, according to Dennis Andersen. “We focus on the cleaning results, because the result is something you can control, improve and change,” says Dennis Andersen.

Mette Olesen gives an example: “For the first time, we now have a control tool and we can analyse our mistakes. We can analyse the results of the 2,000 spaces we control four times a year, and see if there are certain mistakes or omissions that are more frequent than others. If so, we can take a closer look at our cleaning methods and cleaning equipment,” says Mette Olesen, who calls the standard “fantastic”. Danish labour unions use the standards as a training tool for their members.

Dennis Andersen mentions nevertheless an important challenge. “Our clients understand what we are doing, but the clients’ clients, like patients in a hospital or residents in an elderly home, sometimes have difficulties in understanding the cleaning system. They don’t understand that it is okay to leave some dust or a spot in a room,” Andersen says.

“For too long the cleaning sector has been lacking training and education,” says Alice Bugge. “The standard requires knowledge and skills, that is a very important aspect of the INSTA 800 standard and the certification system.”

“Often you hear people say that anybody can clean. Not true. Not just anybody can clean! If you want to clean within the framework of INSTA 800 you need education,” concludes Mette Olesen.
She has no doubt that the standard will become more widespread in the future.  “This standard is very important for our sector, which has been plagued by a lot of problems like social dumping, tax evasion and bad cleaning quality. This is not only a Danish or a Nordic problem, so I expect that in the future the INSTA 800 certification will become a market requirement.”

Dennis Andersen has already received inquiries from cleaning companies in the UK and Belgium.

INSTA 800 Cleaning quality – system for the establishment and assessment of cleaning quality.

This standard describes a system for establishing and assessing cleaning quality. The standard describes two main principles: visual inspection and inspection using measuring instruments. For a certain cleaning task, it may be preferable to use either the former or the latter principle or a combination of both.

This standard describes exclusively the application of the measuring system for specifying a required quality and for inspecting the cleaning quality achieved. The standard can be used in all types of buildings and localities, eg, all types of premises in office buildings, hospitals, schools, nursery schools, shopping centres, shops, production halls, ships, buses, trains, aircraft, hotels and restaurants, irrespective of the cleaning methods, frequency or system used.

The standard describes the result achieved immediately after cleaning has been completed. Note - the standard does not comprise the measurement and control of cleaning-related services, such as replenishing of washroom articles, emptying waste paper bins, dealing with recyclable items, etc, unless stated in the cleaning contract.


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