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Cleaning procurement – a clear way to the right provider


By Lee Duckworth

Getting the right cleaning service provider is so important as the supplier that you select could be the difference between an organisation that is open for business and one that forced to close. The first stage to ensuring your college, university or school gets the cleaning service it needs is to make sure you get a solid procurement procedure in place to help you to appoint your new cleaning supplier.

One of the main factors in determining success in education cleaning tender projects is finding the right balance between the service required and competitively priced proposals. Don’t just appoint the cheapest contractor as they maybe the cheapest for a reason, however, if you focus mainly on quality this will significant increase the cost. Weigh up the right balance for your institution which gives you the service you need and provides value for money.

All public sector organisations including; schools, academies, colleges and universities need to make sure that the tender process is EU compliant in addition to ensuring you get the right cleaning company in place with a service and budget that suits your requirements. Two assured routes of achieving this is using a public sector buying organisation (PSBO) framework agreement or getting a procurement consultant with expertise in the cleaning marketplace to complete the process for you.

Which route to market?

Cleaning service procurement requires experience, procurement expertise and a firm knowledge of the marketplace so it’s important to consider this when planning your route to market.

Framework agreement

Using a framework agreement also known as a deal enables the buyer to access a list of pre-vetted suppliers who have been appraised by the PSBO and deemed suitable to meet the criteria of the framework. This means that you will not need to complete an OJEU advert as this process has already been done. It is important to ask the PSBO for evidence that the framework provides the buyer with EU compliance.

Procurement consultancy

Due to the complexity of cleaning contract procurement, many institutions choose to appoint a procurement consultant to complete the procurement process for their college, university or school cleaning services on their behalf. A consultant who has the procurement expertise, experience and understanding of the marketplace helps to ensure a contract is put in place that best positions the educational establishment’s site to achieve a successful contract. It is advisable to appoint an established procurement consultancy which has significant cleaning marketplace experience and specialises in procurement within the education sector.

Appointing a specialist who understands the importance of an effective procurement process and has marketplace expertise and experience cannot be underestimated. The specialist can work jointly with your organisation to ensure the specification is accurate to the site’s requirements and ensures the site will achieve the level of cleanliness expected within the education sector.

Key considerations for the process

Our cleaning procurement specialists have highlighted a number of key areas of importance to support you when preparing to go out to market for a new college, university or school cleaning services contract:

1. Time – allowing enough time for the process is key to achieving a positive outcome for your cleaning contract. At the start of the process ensure you provide yourself and the suppliers with enough time to run an effective tendering process. A rushed process often means an unsuccessful one. We would recommend allowing at least 14 weeks for the full process;

  • Two weeks to prepare and make the project live to suppliers
  • Four weeks for suppliers to respond
  • Two weeks for evaluation, recommendation reports and feedback
  • Two weeks for the standstill period
  • Four weeks for the mobilisation of the successful contractor

2. Clearly defined evaluation criteria and weightings – having clear definitions assists in the compliancy and effectiveness in evaluating the submissions. It is important to tailor the criteria and weightings so that it is relevant to the requirements of your unique organisation.

3. Site visit – due to every educational site being individual it’s important that the suppliers can visit the site to gain a thorough understanding of what is required. Plan the visit in advance and make sure it is arranged to allow all suppliers to attend the site on the same day, at the same time. This ensures they all get the same experience of reviewing the site and see its buildings, floorings and individuality etc. It gives them the opportunity to ask any site specific questions and all suppliers will hear the same answers at the same time. For details of virtual alternatives to site visits please see our Tendering During a Pandemic article for more information.

Key areas of importance for tender packs

When preparing the tender pack, our cleaning specialists recommend considering these three key points:

  1. Accurate square meterage – cleaning is a science and suppliers will use their experience and expertise in developing formulas that can accurately determine the amount of hours/staff it needs to fulfil the cleaning specification requirements. Ensuring this is accurate ensures there are no surprises after you have awarded the contract as the space of your site has a direct implication on the cost of the service.
  2. TUPE data – make sure TUPE data is detailed as the Regulations preserve employees’ terms and conditions when a business or part of one, is transferred to a new employer. Suppliers need to be made aware of the current staffing terms and conditions to ensure they have an accurate understanding of the staffing provision they are taking on and can account for this when preparing their tender response.
  3. Bespoke specification – your site and requirements are individual so make sure your specification is bespoke to your exact requirements. Ensuring the specification is accurate will ensure that you receive a service tailored to achieving your specification. Make sure key performance indicators (KPIs) are included within the contract document as these will help you contract manage once the contract is awarded.

Challenges for cleaning tenders

Key challenges to be aware of when procuring contract cleaning services include:

Lack of sector knowledge

Without a firm knowledge of the marketplace, it can be difficult to understand the science and innovation behind the delivery of a cleaning service in today’s industry. Make sure you know the marketplace or appoint a procurement consultant that has this expertise.

Operational understanding

When buying contract cleaning services in the education sector you must understand both the market and the Public Contract Regulations. Failure to consider either could spell disaster for your tender process. Ensure significant research into both the cleaning industry and relevant EU procurement legislation has been completed before going out to market. Are you confident that you know both?

The financial data

When suppliers respond to the tender the financials they submit can be complex and difficult to interpret. As you review these, make sure you understand how they are calculated and how the different elements of the costings affect the service provided. Check to make sure that the costs are fully transparent.

Top tips for cleaning procurement

We’ve put together some top tips to help you when procuring you next cleaning service:

Know the marketplace

It is important to do research, seek expert advice and learn about the industry before designing a specification and conducting a tender process. If you’re appointing a consultancy make sure they have extensive cleaning procurement expertise, Tenet Education Services have 25 years experience in cleaning procurement. This research can be time consuming, so ensure enough time is built into your tender process.

Consider a framework agreement (deal)

Save your organisation time and money plus any potential legal challenges by using a ready-made framework agreement, such as Crescent Purchasing Consortium’s (CPC) Building Cleaning framework.

Get expert support

If you don’t have sufficient cleaning expertise in-house to maximise results from your cleaning contract when using a framework agreement use a procurement consultancy. Many education establishments turn to expert cleaning consultants to help manage the procurement and contracting process.

What a cleaning procurement specialist can do:

  • Provide expertise to enable to you to buy in confidence, as opposed to being sold an unsuitable service
  • Evaluate your current specification and highlight areas for improvement
  • Produce specifications and tender documentations
  • Host site visits including a detailed question and answer session with suppliers
  • Evaluate tender returns and lead supplier presentations
  • Provide detailed feedback to all unsuccessful suppliers
  • Appoint and manage the successful supplier across the contract lifecycle

What to look out for when choosing a consultancy:

Are they transparent in their costing model? Be wary of those costing models that charge the suppliers as this can often lead to many hidden procurement costs, see CPC’s Insider Insight into Procurement Consultancy and Further Insight into Procurement Consultancies articles for more information.

  • Have they got sufficient experience and expertise?
  • Do they understand the education sector, its drivers and challenges?
  • Are they specialists in the areas you require?
  • Will they make sure you are compliant with UK and EU public procurement legislation?

Tenet’s Cleaning Procurement Service

Tenet work with organisations throughout the education sector to create low-cost solutions that provide a service tailored to suit their individual needs. Our procurement experts specialise in the cleaning marketplace and can support you with advice and guidance, through to fully managed tender processes and contract management when you use our Building Cleaning Procurement service.

Tenet are the only procurement consultancy that is owned by the education sector and run for the education sector, meaning that our surpluses are donated to the registered charity Crescent Purchasing Limited which reinvests surplus funds into schools, academies, colleges and universities across the UK.

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