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Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS)

What is CIMS?
The Cleaning Industry Management Standard certification program was developed over 3 years ago by the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) in cooperation with the American Institute of Cleaning Science (AICS). Since that time the ISSA and AICS have certified over 140 organizations and businesses as being in compliance with the requirements of the standard.

I complete four to six assessments or recertification audits each year in all types and sizes of facilities throughout the country. My assignments have included health care facilities, school districts, universities, and contract cleaners. The largest was the Crothall Services Group, where I audited 17 hospitals in 12 cities over a two week period, to Mr. Clean Maintenance Systems, a specialty cleaning contractor in Southern California that maintains hard floors in grocery stores.

CIMS is based on the following six best practice management principles that are built around the foundations of success and improvement in any business or organization.

Quality Systems
Service Delivery
Human Resource
Health, Safety, and Environmental Stewardship
Management Commitment
Green/Sustainable Building Cleaning Practices (GB)
Role of the Assessor
My responsibility as an assessor is to verify that each organization meets or exceeds the requirements of the CIMS standard and in some cases it’s optional add on Green Building (GB) endorsement. Each assessment involves the assessor going through the CIMS check list (about 130 items), one point at a time, to validate that the applying firm has the required documentation and processes in place. The next and most important (as well as most difficult requirement to achieve for the applicant), is verifying that the documents, procedures and policies are in place and actually being used in the day to day operation of the business or organization. If the application includes the GB endorsement, there are roughly another 105 requirements that must be met.

An on-site assessment visit normally starts in the corporate office where the documents are reviewed and questions asked of key staff members for clarification and to assess everyone’s understanding of and involvement with the CIMS program. Once this is complete, the assessment moves to account locations or buildings to verify that documents and processes are in place and being used, which includes speaking with cleaners, supervisors, customers, and the sanitary supply distributor.

Once the assessment is complete, the assessor generally meets with key staff members for a debriefing session regarding findings, observations and recommendations for improvement. If the company does not meet the minimum requirements and the deficiencies are minor or easily correctable, the assessor I may guide the applicant in getting their documents or processes in place so they can meet the requirements during my initial visit, if this is not possible and the applicant fails the assessment, a revisit must be scheduled. So far each applicant I have been assigned, has met the requirements on the initial visit. I’m one of nine approved assessors for the International Sanitary Supply Association’s (ISSA), Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) certification program. Recertification audits are scheduled every two years to assure that standards are maintained.

What I’ve learned doing CIMS assessments:

The benefits of CIMS certification is not really about compiling the documents and binder or hanging a plaque on the wall.
The principles of success embodied in the CIMS and CIMS GB program are based on and provide the foundation for success and process improvement in any size or type of business, department or organization.
To obtain the maximum return on the CIMS investment, a company and its management must see completing the assessment process as only a starting place for ongoing process and quality improvement.
CIMS must be a living process that is updated and improved on continually.

Why Bother Getting Certified?
If I had to sum CIMS up in one word, it would be Benefits, with a capital B. Of course not all companies benefit as much as others. To get the maximum return on investment with CIMS a company has to go the extra mile. Preparing the documentation and putting the plaque on the wall, in my mind are just a starting place. It’s what the team does after the assessment that determines whether CIMS is the best investment a company has ever made or just another flash in the pan idea that costs money, but never goes anywhere and is soon forgotten.

The Benefits I See in Organizations that Embrace CIMS:

Going through the CIMS certification process provides a focus for the organization that results in unexpected cohesion and synergism of staff members, from the management team to the most recently hired cleaner.
This includes breaking down the barriers between departments, locations and shifts

CIMS provides a foundation for ongoing process and quality improvement within an organization.

CIMS provides a mechanism for taking an organization to higher levels of quality, efficiency and profit.

CIMS provides Independent industry recognized 3rd part analysis and validation of an organizations achievement regarding quality and process improvement. CIMS certification goes a long way putting a certified firm ahead of its competition.
The documentation and binders complied while preparing for the on site assessment turn into great marketing and sales tools. When you show a potential customer one of the sections, it often leads to a discussion about other sections as well.

Being CIMS Certified opens up new markets and enables a firm to compete when contract specifications require third party, green or CIMS certifications.

The documentation prepared and compiled provides a framework for company or department wide standardization, consistency and management control. It’s often the first time the company has organized and put all its operational documents in one place for easy access and revision. This alone often results in improved efficiency and cost savings.

Quality enhancement, along with education and training go hand in hand with the CIMS process.

CIMS is a comprehensive management certification program that provides a lot more than just a Green Certification. Stand-alone green certification programs are narrow in their focus; an organization can be as green as a cucumber, yet die on the vine because it lacks the management controls to assure operational efficiency, quality assurance, cost control and staff development.
Preparing for the Assessment

Put together a team or committee to assist in pulling together all the required documents and seeing that processes are in place and being used at all levels of the organization.
Don’t try to this by yourself or rely on one person to do all the work, preparing for certification is and should be a team effort involving as many people at all levels of the organization as possible.
Allow time to make sure all the required processes and forms are actually being used on the job.
Orient and train supervisors, managers, leads and production staff as to what the CIMS program is all about and why your company is going through the certification process.
Complete a self-audit using the same check list the assessor will use when he or she visit your office and job sites.
Gather all the documents and proof of compliance for each check list item in a 3 ring binder with tabs that are numbered the same as the check list sequence.
Utilize the services of an independent ICE Consultant (ISSA Certification Expert) to assist you, they know the process and have access to many of the documents that are required by CIMS.
Involve your local sanitary Supply distributor in the process, they can provide much of the information needed, especially for the GB (Green Building) endorsement requirements.
Budget time and financial resources to meeting, implementing and continuing reap the benefits of completing the CIMS certification process.
Set an implementation schedule and do your best to stick to it. If you fall behind in the preparation process, reschedule the assessment visit.
Information on and a free download of the CIMS Standard and checklist are available at or by contacting Dan Wagner at the ISSA: Ph- 800-225-4772