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Challenging Cleaning Projects: A Chat with Curtis McLemore

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After more than four decades of experience providing day and evening janitorial and related-facility services, it’s probably safe to say that McLemore Building Maintenance has seen it all. Founded in 1970, the family-owned and operated company has a team (that has grown to include more than 1,000 employees) that provides janitorial, custodial and facility support services to clients throughout Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Colorado at over 850 locations.

Services magazine recently sat down with owner Curtis McLemore to discuss some of the more challenging—and unique—projects that the company has undertaken. As you read ahead, McLemore paints a very vivid picture that is humorous and nauseating at the same time.  

Services: Please tell us about a particularly challenging cleaning project(s) that your company has been involved in?

Curtis McLemore: I was called to look at a warehouse/manufacturing clean-up job. When I arrived, the front office looked like any normal office environment. However, once we walked through the office area and reached the door to the entry to the warehouse/ manufacturing area, it was like walking into the “bat cave!” Even though it was lit, everything was black. The walls, floors, ceilings, machinery—everything. Hanging from the ceiling in various shapes, sizes and lengths were what appeared to be black stalactites.

"While we try as BSCs to be a source of solutions for our clients, know your limitations."

In reality, the client manufactured a special lining used in landfills. It was plastic sheeting that rolled through their press. However, to give the sheets texture, a fine mist of additional plastic was sprayed onto the sheets as they rolled through the press. To get the textured plastic to spray and stick to the sheets, it had to be liquefied at a very high temperature. Naturally, there was some overspray of the textured plastic that would float into the air and stick to whatever it came into contract with and then harden. The “stalactites” were actually long strips of dried plastic that had been accumulating over many years.

Another challenging project we encountered was for a large convenience store chain that approached us about floor work, window cleaning, pressure washing, etc. One of the caveats of their request was on-call emergency blood borne pathogen cleaning. We thought, how bad could it be? Probably vomit on occasion, slip, fall or cut, causing blood spills, etc. Right? Oh, it was that and then some.

Services: What made these projects especially challenging?

McLemore: At the time of the manufacturing plant project, their finished product was in high demand and, therefore, the plant would not shut down the manufacturing process. So, just as soon as we would clean one section one day, that same area would be coated again the next day. Not to the same extent, of course, but it did require another cleaning.

With the project for the convenience store, the types of calls we received turned out not to be normal at all. Examples included: • Two street people getting into a fight in the parking lot and one using the public telephone receiver to beat the other senseless. • A new store clerk is left alone at a store without the proper training to work the cash register. Although, try as she might, she simply got confused and couldn’t produce change out of the register. A line had formed as she was trying to desperately solve the problem. Some people in the line waited patiently, others stormed out of the store and, finally, one person really wanted to let the owners of the establishment know just how disgruntled he was because he couldn’t buy a pack of cigarettes. He climbed onto the counter, dropped his pants and defecated on the counter. • We also received a call early one Sunday morning for a blood spill. When we arrived, we discovered the blood spill was caused by the shooting death of a store clerk by her ex-husband. An average human body contains more than five quarts of blood. And, although the body had been removed, let’s just say, “other tissue” was left behind for us to clean up.

Services: How did you overcome these challenges?

McLemore: At the manufacturing plant, we finally covered the walls and ceilings in plastic sheets—much like painters would utilize for floors—as we completed a section. Then, at the completion of the job, we pulled all of the plastic down at once and said to the client, “Voila!”

As for the convenience store job, after I had emptied the contents of my stomach from dinner the night before, and after a few visits for therapy, the actual work wasn’t too difficult.


 

Robots Help Do the Work

To help with especially challenging cleaning projects, Intellibot Robotics is offering three autonomous floorcleaning robots for use in multiple environments. The Hydrobot is a robotic hard surface scrubber; the Aerobot is an autonomous robotic vacuum for carpeted surfaces; and the Duobot, also for hard surfaces, is a robotic sweeper/ scrubber.

“Intellibot robots offer solutions for BSCs who face challenging cleaning projects,” says Jennifer Quinn, marketing director for Intellibot Robotics, an “intelligent floor care company” that is based in Richmond, Va. “For environments with a significant amount of square footage to be cleaned, our robots can autonomously clean these large areas freeing up workers for higher value tasks.” Intellibot robots can work in the dark making them an excellent solution for after-hours cleaning projects. And for BSCs who are challenged with providing green solutions, Intellibot robots offer an onboard water recycling and filtration system so there is significantly less wastewater going down the drain.

intellibot

“Intelibot robots are also an ideal solution for environments where consistent cleaning and high sanitation standards are priorities such as hospitals or educational facilities,” says Quinn. “Intellibot robots run at the ideal operating speed for floor cleaning. Additionally, the reporting capability of the robot provides documentation of the areas cleaned for BSCs who require cleaning accountability.

One specific company that has realized the benefits of Intellibot robots is the 944-bed Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla. The completion of a sevenfloor new patient tower increased the size of the facility from approximately one million square feet to 1.53 million. Faced with staffing shortages, they were challenged to find a solution for cleaning this new facility, as well as the existing building. Intellibot robots proved to be the solution.

“Halifax Medical Center is home to six Intellibot robotic scrubbers that clean the floors of the facility and run approximately 24 hours per day,” adds Quinn. “ The robots allow Halifax to maintain sanitation standards and clean a significant amount of square footage despite staffing shortages.”

Services: What was the end outcome of each project?

McLemore: For the manufacturing plant, it got them through their client’s inspection of their facility for one day and then the accumulation started all over again.

For the other job, we got out of the retail blood borne pathogen cleaning business.

Services: What advice would you offer BSCs who find themselves in unusually challenging situations?

McLemore: Have a very clear and documented scope of work and expected outcome before accepting any job, no matter the “projected” profit margin. And, while we try as BSCs to be a source of solutions for our clients, know your limitations.

Curtis McLemore is the owner of McLemore Building Maintenance in Houston, Texas and be reached at (800) 524-0290 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also visit www.mbminc.com

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