The Domination Factor of CIMSBy Jeff Cross | May 1, 2019 << Back to Articles
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If you weren’t involved with the cleaning industry, you would have no idea what “CIMS” stands for.
CIMS is the acronym for the Cleaning Industry Management Standard. It is especially a game-changer for cleaning business owners, specifically building service contractors working in a competitive marketplace.
Yes, it’s a certification program. But not just your normal type of certification, where you attend a workshop or conference and take a test. It’s about changing how a cleaning organization operates and creating a real competitive edge for building service contractors, which makes up the majority of CIMS-
certified organizations. It’s also a great cleaning management program for facilities and in-house cleaning organizations.
At this time, there are some 200 organizations with CIMS certification.
The nuts and bolts of CIMS
CIMS is a comprehensive management and operations standard for cleaning organizations. It was launched about 12 years ago by industry veteran Dave Frank, with ISSA acknowledging the value and adopting the entire concept.
Since then, ISSA has worked with both Frank and business partner Jim Peduto, who operate the American Institute for Cleaning Services (AICS), which serves as the registrar for CIMS.
ISSA is the sales and managing organization for the entire CIMS program. If you want CIMS, then you need ISSA. Period.
The CIMS program uses third-party accredited assessors in the field to investigate, analyze, and determine if applying cleaning organizations are compliant with CIMS protocols and requirements. Initially, it is rare that any are without going through the CIMS system. After a period of time, with compliance and many adjustments, an organization can be granted CIMS certification.
What does this mean? For BSCs, it’s a competitive edge as many “requests for proposals” or RFPs, request CIMS certification from those submitting bids. For facilities, such as hospitals or schools, it’s a guaranteed way to maximum and track cleaning efficiency and productivity, saving costs, and more.
“The intrinsic benefit should not be overlooked,” according to CIMS Account Executive Charlie Janowicz. “Standardization increases productivity and efficiency, which create an immediate financial saving. The most exciting part is the marketing aspect of CIMS from current customers and to prospects. Presenting the certificate and the checklist can be very powerful.”
CIMS certification takes the same pathway as the well-known ISO 9000 family of standards, meaning the framework is in place for service organizations using CIMS.
The CIMS certification program is actually comprised of two main elements.
The first is the flagship CIMS certification, five elements put together by the input of up to 100 industry experts, which provides those who qualify a way to improve virtually all aspects of their organization.
The second is CIMS Green Building (GB) certification, which only comes in addition to successfully completing the traditional CIMS program.
CIMS-GB was implemented as the sixth dimension of CIMS, with the criteria and designation offering cleaning organizations a certification that is closely tailored to provide their customers with what they need to secure the requirements under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for existing buildings. The presentation of the CIMS-GB certification is all you need, and you not only meet the requirements, but in many cases exceed them.
“In an ever growing need to be more sustainable, the sixth element, Green Building, meets the requirement for LEED O+M: Existing Buildings, version 4,” according to Janowicz. “So CIMS-GB makes you a more desirable company to work with, under LEED, and portrays the company to a market that is becoming more and more environmentally conscious.”
You can get all the details online at www.issa.com/certification-standards. There you can review all components of CIMS, including CIMS-GB.
Digging into the history of CIMS
The CIMS program wasn’t just written up and launched. It went through a heavy vetting process in its creation. At times, it was a painful and slow process, but a necessary one.
“The first step was identifying the unique characteristics of the market,” according to Frank. “We started with a ‘clean piece of paper’ and identified all stakeholders. We decided to go with ISSA because we had to have a neutral organization that represented all market verticals.”
Frank is proud of CIMS for many reasons, and in the beginning because it included a vigorous process that other standards have not. “We used focus groups, consultants, had three committees, and took the feedback to build CIMS,” he said. “We had some 100,000 industry stakeholders review it all online, with an appropriate comment period. We followed the creation of this with a textbook basis. We had to do this right. The adoption of it by the industry was a critical component of the business model.”
And it isn’t “once certified, always certified.” Frank explained that every two years there is an assessment of each CIMS organization. “Sometimes, they fall off the wagon and there is confusion. This helps keep everyone on the same page.”
Brant Insero is the director of education, training, certification, and standards with ISSA. The management of CIMS certification falls under his leadership.
“Coming from outside the cleaning industry and learning about the CIMS brand as an employee of ISSA, provided a completely different level of respect for professionals within the industry,” Insero said. “CIMS has allowed not only the end customers to define the gaps within their operation, it provides continual growth opportunities for the supply chain side of the industry.”
One component of CIMS that Insero values is how CIMS has tied the entire cleaning industry together with one single standard, which is constantly adapting to the sea of disruption that our industry goes through.
There is one change Insero would like to see across the board for building service contractors, and that’s getting away from the knee-jerk reaction of obtaining CIMS at the last minute, due to necessity.
“Often a property manager, government agency, or building owner will put out their RFP—and it will specify CIMS as a requirement to win the contract,” he said. “Once this happens, a contract cleaning company that is interested in the contract will connect with ISSA to send their CIMS application to us.”
The challenge at that point is the bid deadline comes up, and the contractor is spending valuable—but necessary—time obtaining CIMS certification and perhaps losing out on that job.
“A company that is organized and well-run can achieve CIMS in less than three months. Companies that need extra work to comply can take more than six months,” Insero said.
It’s best, obviously, to get your CIMS certification now rather than when you discover it is required in an RFP.
Taylor Bruce is the chief operating officer with IH Services in Greenville, SC. His company embraced CIMS and has seen positive results because of it.
“Our companies are always looking for something that will differentiate us from our competition. CIMS certainly does that as it shows we have a company certification. Being associated with ISSA was also a plus,” Bruce said.
He has seen CIMS as a driver for making IH Services a better company by forcing them to have operations and personnel policies in place that they might not have accomplished otherwise.
For the competitive edge, “CIMS has allowed our companies to be able to bid on some projects that were exclusive to companies with a CIMS certification,” he added.
Jason Lee is with Harvard Maintenance, a nationwide service provider. He notes that CIMS has provided his company the standardized corporate guidelines to assist with scaling company operations across the entire country.
“Also, our CIMS-GB with Honors recognition offers our clients validation of our ongoing service delivery that complies with LEED green cleaning certification criteria,” he added.
CIMS is getting the attention of organizations outside of the United States, although the vast majority of those who embrace CIMS are in the U.S.
If you read the ISSA Worldwide column in this issue of ISSA Today, you will see details about the first CIMS certification in the Middle East. This is big news. A United Arab Emirates-based facilities management firm is now CIMS-GB (Green Building designation) certified.
What did it take? What it takes for all cleaning organizations who adopt CIMS: Demonstrate compliance with the core principles of the standard. The company will be able to save money, reduce costs, and be more competitive. That’s bad news for other contractors in that specific marketplace.
No one left behind
All it takes to get your own cleaning organization on board with CIMS is to start the application process. It’s all online at issa.com.
But if you want to keep this simple, drop me an email and I’ll send you the application you need.
Get the competitive edge. Get your cleaning organization the CIMS advantage.
About the Author.
Jeff Cross is the editorial director of ISSA Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.