When your cleaning and janitorial supplies disappear, there are right and wrong ways to track the problem.

If life was a movie, missing cleaning and janitorial supplies could be the plot device that kicks a mystery into action. Our ace detective tracks down the likely suspect (the janitor) only to learn that someone stole the supply closet key from him. After a run-in with a competing janitorial company earlier in the week, the janitor noticed the key that he always keeps in his pocket was missing. While questioning suspect #2, our detective discovers there is a third janitorial company that was feeding rumors to both of the first two companies. While they were arguing, suspect #3 stole the key, snuck into the supply closet, and ran off with all the toilet paper.

Okay, missing cleaning and janitorial supplies aren’t generally the basis of a Hollywood blockbuster. It is, however, a serious problem for a lot of cleaning operations. Granted, the wholesale price for a roll of toilet paper isn’t that much. Even a few missing cases won’t cut into your budget that much. But the problem isn’t the cost, at least in small quantities. There are, in fact, several problems that arise with missing supplies.

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Cleaning And Janitorial Supplies

Mr. Clean and the case of the missing cleaning and janitorial supplies

Among the many issues that arise when your inventory vanishes is the fact that your customer service suffers. Your clients are expecting you to supply and refill toilet paper, paper towels, and trash liners. They expect you to have the cleaning supplies to do the job you’re expected (and paid) to do. When you don’t have them available, you can’t do your job the way you need to.

Another problem is that once your supplies start disappearing, the rate at which they vanish can quickly and easily grow. One missing roll of toilet paper turns into two. Two becomes five, then a case, and then a case each week. That leads us to the problem of money.

While it may only be a few dollars worth of supplies at first, as more items go missing, that can start adding up quickly. A 50-cent roll of toilet paper turns into a $20 bottle of floor cleaner, and so on.

Lastly, missing supplies tell you something greater is wrong. It could be that your inventory protocol isn’t working the way it should; it could be carelessness or waste on the part of your team. There is the possibility that someone outside of your organization is stealing supplies. Unfortunately, you also can’t rule out that one of your employees is taking supplies.

What to do when your cleaning and janitorial supplies disappear

First of all, don’t automatically assume your employees are stealing from you. While that is certainly a possibility, anytime you accuse someone (directly or indirectly), your employee engagement plummets. If you’ve worked hard to hire and train the right people, and if you treat your team well, you’ve already done a good job of ensuring they will be honest and committed.

At the same time, don’t be afraid to bring it up to your team if cleaning and janitorial supplies regularly go missing. See if you can find out what’s going on. It could be something as simple as increased usage that’s not accounted for.

Of course, the best way to deal with missing supplies is to keep them from disappearing in the first place. How? Here are a few steps you can take to limit your losses.

Carefully tracking your cleaning and janitorial supplies is the single best way to determine what products you’re using in any given location. That makes it easy to see if one site is using substantially more supplies than another (based on square footage). If location A has 5,000 square feet, three bathrooms, and 20 employees, it’s unlikely they’re going to use more toilet paper than location B, with 10,000 square feet, six bathrooms, and 40 employees.

Take the type of location into account, too. A private office will probably not get the kind of foot traffic that a popular restaurant will. This type of information is easy to track if you have good janitorial management software.

If you do notice a big discrepancy between two similar locations, you may want to explore that. Are multiple locations showing more supply usage as compared to others? Is there someone on your team who works at one set of locations and not the other? Again, with janitorial management software, supply tracking and employee scheduling are built-in and easy to reference.

Hold on, though. Just because an employee schedule happens to coincide with missing supplies, that’s still no reason to assume they are stealing. Explore further to find out what might be happening. Is it a training issue? Are they using too much product? Designing a robust training program can help limit or even eliminate this kind of problem.

Or maybe you’ve switched to a new product. Even experienced janitors can use incorrect ratios if there is a product change. Was there an accident? Did someone spill a bottle of cleaner on the floor, or did a water pipe burst over your supply of toilet paper?

These are all easy questions to answer with reliable janitorial supply tracking and reporting software. Consider, too, that it isn’t your employees (either through theft or misuse) who are absconding with supplies.

Is there a secure space to keep your equipment and supplies? How many people have keys to the area? You may need to consider storing your supplies offsite. This is something to determine when you do your initial walkthrough.

Finally, give your team an incentive to carefully and consistently track products and supplies. Offer a quarterly bonus if supply inventories remain stable. Offer cleaning products at cost. Send employees home with a case of toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

You may not be a detective, but there is a lot you can do to keep your inventory safe and accounted for.

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