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Profiles in Parking Area Sweeping

Setting Their Sweeping Sights On Perfection

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross Atlanta Sweeping Employees

Atlanta Sweeping is close to achieving their goal of zero complaints.

Danny Mead (in white shirt on left), supervisor, along with the route managers and Jimmy Wettlaufer (white shirt on right), general manager, are ready to begin a new shift.

Schneider: I was looking for a place to use my skills, and had identified that there was no dominant sweeping operator in the Atlanta marketplace. There was no one in the market who, in my opinion, ran their business as a business. No one was targeting the professional property managers as their market. I was convinced that if we could provide a quality, cost-effective, reliable service, one which was totally responsive to the needs of customers, we would be successful. I began as owner of Atlanta Sweeping Services on January 1st, 1995, with a total of 7 sweeper trucks.

WORLD SWEEPER: You have already achieved significant growth, and a recognizable level of success. Where would you say your pricing is in the market - toward the low end, the high end, or in the middle someplace?

Schneider: We are at the high end of the market, and I'll tell you why we are successful there. The requirements from the professional managers we work with are very rigid. Some of their contracts are extremely detailed and quite specific. Most of the contracts for our targeted clients require, for example, uniforms for our employees and a top level of insurance. They also require some sort of reporting structure for when we arrive and when we leave in terms of a call slip or a phone call or some other type of follow-up. In order to provide these services, there is a cost associated with them. The biggest expense in sweeping, however, is keeping all of the equipment maintained. We want all of our machines to be completely reliable and we don't have any extra units. Every sweeper runs every night - 8 shifts a week, actually, because we run a Sunday day shift also. Everything else is night.

WORLD SWEEPER: And you're targeting parking areas?

Schneider:We target anybody who needs us. However, the bulk of our clientele is shopping malls, strip centers and those type of operations, and we also do a large amount of industrial and parking deck-type work. Additionally, we track the needs of team promoters and management companies for concerts, music festivals, and other types of periodic situations. We know we have the flexibility to meet their requirements.

WORLD SWEEPER:How many sweepers do you run currently?

Schneider:We run 15 sweepers, 7 nights a week. We have 11 Schwarze 348s, two Tymco 210s, and two Schwarze 222s. [After this article was written, Atlanta Sweeping went to an all Nighthawk fleet for its parking area sweeping.] In addition, a supervisor is out in a pickup truck every night to perform other services, coordinate the night's work and help out wherever needed. All of our trucks are radio-dispatched, and there are specific radio procedures for calling in stops and advising the supervisor of anything that's unusual. Another thing we do at Atlanta Sweeping that's unique is that nobody's finished until everybody's finished. That sometimes means that at the end of the night we do a lot of moving people around to get everybody in at the same time. That's our kind of teamwork, however, and developing teamwork is a key.

Nobody's finished until everybody's finished. That's our kind of teamwork.

WORLD SWEEPER: What do you do that sets you apart from the competition?

Schneider: We are committed to exceeding our clients' expectations for quality and service, and to have the best customer service operation in place. There are three things we believe we have that sets us apart: we are responsive to the needs of our customers, and we have reliable equipment and reliable people.

We are very fortunate to have a general manager who I think is the best in the business. Jimmy Wettlaufer was with Atlanta Sweeping before I took over. He was actually the mechanic; however, I found that he knew the business, knew the trucks, knew the people - so I promoted him to general manager. We are also fortunate to have a maintenance manager, Lamar Moore, who has over 25 years experience in automotive and truck repair. That kind of experience makes all the difference in the world.


We keep a wide selection of standard wear parts on hand. We stock everything that we anticipate could put a truck or sweeper down. Because, again, every truck has to go every night and Lamar's basic responsibility is to be sure that every truck moves every night. We've never missed a stop in the almost three years that I've had the company - never - and that's one of our stated goals. We do whatever has to be done, and Lamar's on call. We all have pagers, we all have cell phones, and Lamar, Jimmy and I are all on call 24-hours a day. If a sweeper goes down and our supervisor and operations managers can't handle it, Lamar will go and fix it. Everybody helps out.

We've identified the major problems of the sweeping business as the hours, the scheduling, and the quality of the work done. For example, most of our customers want us to sweep on the weekend. That's our heaviest concentration of time, so we've come up with a four-day, ten-hour schedule for our route managers. Our route managers are assigned to the same sweeper and the same route each night. Each route manager has a route partner, and there is another route manager who also runs the same sweeper and has the same route. Between them, they are responsible for that route. By using that concept, rotating the schedule gives all of our employees a 40-hour work week with every other weekend off. That's a big difference between us and any other sweeping company I know of. Then, we even go a step further. If one route partner is scheduled to work and had something come up, management has no problem if the route partners want to agree to swap days. They can also swap their days off, as long as the route's covered. That gives our route managers more flexibility and more time with their families and, because of that, everyone stays much more tuned to the company goals.

We also operate with a strong incentive package. Forty percent of the route manager's weekly compensation is what we call a 'quality bonus.' This is a carrot, not a stick. Our goal is zero complaints and we're pretty close to it now. If there's a verifiable complaint on a property, Jimmy himself will go and check it out. If it's verifiable that something was not done properly, the route manager will lose the quality bonus for that day.

What we've tried to do with the route managers is to get them thinking like owners. We've kept the best of small companies, and yet tried to incorporate the best of large companies by offering them full health, dental and life benefits, and a 401K plan. We have a very unique vacation plan that can give the operators, through wise scheduling, four 7-day weeks off in one year. The biggest factor in producing top quality work, however, is our cross-checking plan. By tying that in with our compensation program, it gets everyone pulling on the rope instead of trying to push it. Everyone's goals are the same. Everyone is tied in to profitability, and that, of course, comes from customer satisfaction. It works.

WORLD SWEEPER: How about discussing your maintenance and cost tracking programs.

Schneider: We've found that the operators are the biggest determinant of machine and fuel costs. Once they understand this, they can then be shown how to control those costs. Good examples are tire wear and fuel usage, our two biggest maintenance items. Lamar does a weekly mileage check. We are absolutely religious about servicing the equipment in terms of oil changes, fuel filters, air filters. That's a top priority for us. He also keeps the tires rotated and makes sure the air pressure is adjusted to get maximum wear out of them.


Upon return, route managers fill out a sweeper checklist. They also inspect their sweeper before leaving to make sure everything is clean and operates just exactly the way it should. The supervisor will also inspect it to be sure the machine is still in the same shape. We want everybody to start a shift and end a shift with their sweeper in exactly the same condition. So, when a shift is over, each sweeper is washed by that route manager, inside and out: the hopper, the screen and the whole exterior of the truck. Then it's inspected and, from that, another checklist is written up. By washing every truck every day, we avoid a lot of maintenance problems, because we can see the leaks that develop. We even park each truck in exactly the same spot every day, so we are able to see any leaks right away.

The biggest part of our sweeper checklist is the safety portion. This is tailored after my experience in my previous job. In addition to our twice daily route manager checks, Lamar performs a complete safety check on every vehicle every Monday and every Friday. He goes over the entire unit, down to every light bulb. We choose Monday because the sweepers are just coming off the heavy weekend usage, and Friday in preparation for the upcoming weekend. Our commitment is that we don't send any truck out that's not 100%.

A complete safety check is performed on every vehicle twice a week...down to every light bulb.

WORLD SWEEPER: What part do computers play in your business?

Schneider: Everything at Atlanta Sweeping is computerized: We know the mileage and fuel usage of each truck for each driver, and the tire usage on each vehicle. Because all of our maintenance records are on computer, we can tell exactly what has been required on every sweeper and chassis - every nut, bolt, washer, tire and service procedure. This gives us a tracking mechanism for exactly how everyone is performing. We know what kind of sweepers perform the best, and it's also an advantage to have that kind of paperwork when it comes time to trade the equipment in.

Our software is PC-based. It's an off-the-shelf package called Proven Edge that we've adapted to our needs. We maintain all of our inventory on the same system. Everything is tied in together. We 'invoice' each sweeper every time any work is done or parts used on it. This accurate record-keeping system keeps our on-hand quantities accurate. From this, we've developed our own ordering points with our suppliers. This, combined with the experience of Jimmy and Lamar, has resulted in us very seldom being caught with our stock short . The worst thing is to have to wait to get parts. Having worked for a manufacturer, we're pretty tough on what we require from our equipment manufacturers. We expect a lot from them.

We have, as far as we know, every property manager and potential property in our computer system. So, when we do get a call, we have information about that property before we ever speak to the people. All of our invoicing is done on a current basis, and all of our contacts are in the database. Another thing we do that our clients like is to either call or FAX them every time we spot an unusual situation about their property. If there's graffiti, if there's furniture dumped in the back, if there is a tenant making a mess or causing a problem, we notify them. That kind of attention to detail gets us a lot of extra business.


We now feel that we have all the pieces in place to continue to grow in the future, to become successful as a company. We know that if we all think and act like owners, we all benefit. We must focus on teamwork, quality, and customer satisfaction. If we maintain our commitment to attaining our long term goals, we see a bright future for our company and our industry.

This article is reprinted from American Sweeper magazine, Volume 6 Number 2.

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