Thomas Holland has a rule of thumb: “If it costs more to disinfect your facility than to clean your carpets, you’re likely getting ripped off,” the APEX Property Services CEO and founder says.
“$25,000 to disinfect an office building? Toxic chemicals sprayed in a daycare? Trash cans overflowing and restrooms a bit sketchy?” These are complaints from offices, hospitals, schools, and restaurants have with their janitorial services, Holland says.
And yet, in today’s environment no organization can cut corners on cleaning, he says.
That’s why his 24-year old company recently launched APEX Property Services, or APS, a commercial cleaner that wants to “turn janitorial services on its head.” Holland intends to provide next-level building maintenance with APS, adding to the 24-year-old company’s family of brands that include Corporate Floors, APEX Surface Care, and Texas Carpet Recycling.
APS uses cleaning and disinfecting methods that are high tech, good for the environment, and socially responsible, according to Holland.
And they’re aiming high to serve clients in Fortune 1000 corporate facilities, higher education, data centers, and offices over 50,000 square feet, the company says.
Robotics, tech, and green clean
APS is one of 25 companies, so far, to become a preferred partner to apply Allied BioScience’s SurfaceWise2, the first antimicrobial surface coating approved by the EPA to continuously protect against SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19.
Holland said that the new electrostatic spraying solution is “a remarkable coating that provides lasting protection against workplace pathogens.
“This has been especially important during COVID as the various chemicals that are approved for use against the coronavirus change rapidly.”
APS also partners with ICE Robotics and Z BioScience to provide high tech, non-toxic, effective solutions to improve cleaning efficiency and indoor air quality.
They use ICE Robotics’ Cobots—collaborative robots—with whimsical names like “Whiz” for an autonomous vacuum and “EMMA” for a robotic scrubber.
Holland said robotics, such as the Whiz, and other high-tech solutions are a critical part of its new business. “They do two things that traditional janitorial services do not,” he said in an email to Dallas Innovates: Reduce headcount and cost in a commercial building—“something that every facility manager is trying to do”—and create a complete record of all the work that’s done.
“Use of robotic vacuums alone can save 60 to 70 percent on the cost of vacuuming in a commercial building,” Holland said. “In one example, a 500,000-square-foot building was able to save $90,000 per year by incorporating robotic vacuums alone.”
Using robotics is not only to reduce headcount, he noted, adding “It also helps facility managers re-allocate labor to higher-level tasks.”
The robotics can record the time, length, and quality of a cleaning, “which is essential for customers to know,” Holland said. “Too many times companies wonder if their janitorial crew showed up, what they did, and whether they did all the required tasks.”
Still, the CEO emphasized that “there’s extensive training involved in using the robotics, so facilities managers and companies seeking enhanced cleaning should ask whether their cleaning team has the right certifications and training to use robotics.
The robots are “not totally autonomous and still require human interaction,” Holland said. While “robotics are critical to ensuring the work is done,” people are just as critical. That’s where APS comes in: Expertise and “dedication to quality can’t be replaced by robots,” he said. “We’re able to re-allocate labor from a low-skill task such as vacuuming, to a higher skilled task. APS has both: an excellent, committed team and the most modern robotic solutions.”
APS also uses a line of probiotic cleaning products from Z BioScience, which contain beneficial microbials that keep surfaces clean longer than traditional disinfecting cleaners.
Shaking up the janitorial status quo
The global health crisis is bringing cleaning practices into the spotlight.
Holland said the pandemic “has accelerated the need for a disruption of the janitorial industry.”
But the new company was in the planning stages before COVID-19 appeared on the scene, beginning to build the business model two years ago by interviewing multiple facility managers.
While the pandemic slowed down the needs for some portions of their business, like flooring care because offices went unoccupied, the surface disinfection sector saw positive growth.
COVID clean and infection protection
“We’ve been in the infection control business for over ten of our 24 years in business—and we were one of the first companies to bring electrostatic-applied disinfection to Texas,” Holland said. “This allowed us to scale up very rapidly to meet the initial and ongoing needs to clean and disinfect office, retail, and schools.”
With the expectation that the focus on thorough and safe cleaning will continue, APS company officials are hiring in Dallas, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, and several other locations. Based on revenue projections, APS will hire an additional 100 employees in the Dallas area before the end of the year, nearly doubling the current workforce.
Between cleaning, flooring, and surface care, the company has some major customers. They do a lot of work for Dallas County and Fortune 500 companies in the area and beyond, high tech companies, large airlines, public and private banks, and third-party property management companies. NDAs prevent Holland from name-dropping.
APEX takes aim with purpose and accolades
In the area of social responsibility, values-based APS gives staff members industry-leading wages and benefits to reduce employee turnover and provide a better workplace.
“Most facility managers are unhappy with their nightly cleaning service, usually due to inconsistent service,” said Holland. “The root cause is a lack of innovation coupled with high staff turnover due to poor wages and benefits. We plan to change that.”
The Corporate Floors group recently achieved B Corp certification, an alliance of businesses that qualify by meeting high standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. According to the B Corps website, bcorporation.net, their certified companies promise to work towards reduced inequality and poverty, creating more “high quality jobs with dignity and purpose.” Other Certified B Corps include Ben & Jerry’s, Hootsuite, and Patagonia.
Holland also takes pride in APEX Surface Care’s recent achievement of CIMS-GB (Cleaning Industry Management Standard: Green Building) with honors certification from ISSA, an international cleaning standards organization.
“This is an industry-specific certification that verifies our quality and environmental standards are of the highest caliber,” Holland said. “We also founded and continue to sponsor Women in Facilities Management – the only organization dedicated to promoting opportunities for women in the industry.”
The company recently became a silver member of the Conscious Capitalism Dallas Chapter and belongs to CoreNet Global (the global association for Corporate Real Estate), Starnet, a leading national flooring co-op, the International Facility Management Association, and ISSA.
During the pandemic, educating people on safe cleaning products and on what goes into disinfecting spaces has been of top importance.
Holland said, “We’ve been astounded at what profiteering companies are charging to disinfect buildings, and not everyone knows they are getting fleeced.”
Holland is taking aim at the status quo with purpose: The brand’s B Corp status both “validates and solidifies our commitment to operating ethically and empathically as a leader in the sustainability and social movement in our industry,” he said in a statement.
“For more than 20 years, we’ve been inspired to use our business as a force for good in the world,” Holland said.
Allied BioScience’s Antimicrobial Surface Coating Becomes First Approved by EPA to Continuously Protect Against COVID-19
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