SSC Magazine

2023 | VOLUME 1




Women in Facilities Management: How to Learn & Lead p. 40

Safe as water. Stronger than bleach.

Aqueous Ozone: effective and gentle on porous and nonporous surfaces, a deodorizer that that kills pathogens, microorganisms, mold, and mildew Sounds like magic, right? p. 14

The Real Numbers Behind Electric Equipment p. 22

3 SSC Year in Review

4 The Future of Custodial: Autonomous Mobile Robots

10 Developing Hourly Associates: Pathways to Career Advancement

14 Aqueous Ozone: Safe as Water, Stronger than Bleach

16 Developing Your Custodial Services Program

In This Issue

21 SSC Among the First to Achieve Advanced by GBAC


22 Don’t Get Zapped! The True Cost of Gas vs. Electric

28 Starting Your GIS Program for Grounds Management

32 Celebrating Our Teams: 2023 PGMS Green Star Awards

38 Women in Facilities” Learning & Leading in a Male-Dominated Industry

42 Creating an Effective Deferred Maintenance Program

44 Hiring Our Heroes: Supporting Veterans in the Workplace

50 SSC Named Top Workplace in Knoxville

52 Transforming Spaces with Large-Print Vinyl Graphics

20 23


Pounds (3,578 tons) of paper made from recycled fibers


Water bottles diverted from the landfill by using recycled floor pads

Hours of Career Advancement Training

Facilities services is a people-driven industry. From the person who has been with SSC for 38 years, to the Day One trainee, to the teams transitioning to SSC at the schools they have worked at for decades, we would not exist as a business without our people. In these pages, you will see showcased thought leaders, change-makers, and innovation drivers. We have made remarkable strides in innovation and sustainability, which has moved our partnerships forward and created a positive impact in the communities we serve. Still, I am most proud of the people behind the stories. These individuals are shaping the next generation within SSC. As we continue to grow, we are committed to developing more facilities experts to ensure we can provide excellent service to our partners for years to come.

Safety Improvement Trainings 524,628


Autonomous Mobile Robot Work Hours

Internal Promotions 629

Managed Acres 9,000

Athletic Fields 400+

Professional Licenses & Certifications

Students Impacted at Partner Schools 1.2 Million

Completed Work Orders 477,188 215,245 Preventative Maintenance Hours

- Seth Ferriell - SSC, CEO



The Basics Start with Why

The Future of Custodial Autonomous

AMR allows our associates the time to focus on the human-centric details that make an impact in a facility.

If your move to AMR is driven by a desire to reduce labor and save money, then move on. AMR has never reduced our staffing levels in our tens of thousands of hours of autonomous run time. What does it pro- vide? Efficiencies in detail. Robots are great for tak- ing over labor-intensive, but dull and repetitive tasks. AMR allows our associates the time to focus on the human-centric details that make an impact in a facil- ity. It also helps to ensure consistency in floor care even during this challenging hiring economy. The “why” is also innovation. Gone are the days when adding a magnet strip to the front of the vacuum to pick up staples was the game changer.

The room-mapping technology ensures areas are not missed and corners are not cut. It’s consistency; once a space is mapped, every nook and cranny will be retraced and cleaned every time. Depending on the learning program, the AMR will automatically map out the most efficient path. It’s built-in quality assurance. We have a historical log of imaged maps and detailed use hours. It’s job satisfaction. Hour after hour, night after night, month after month, a scrubber isn’t developing people skills - it’s erasing monotony and burnout for workers. Instead of floor techs, develop robotics operators on your teams to elevate responsibilities and empower people.

Mobile Robots

By Catherine Merritt

Are you thinking about taking the leap to investing in autonomous technology? Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) are the future of janitorial services.

The Equipment Which One to Choose?

If you traditionally use Pad (single or dou- ble), Cylinder, or Orbital decks, stay with that preference in the move to AMR. Con- sider tank size and battery life, cleanable square feet per hour and per charge just like you would with your traditional scrub- ber. A smaller tank and shorter battery may reduce the upfront cost, but it could reduce the productivity of your space. Vendor support for setting up the unit in a new location and new and ongoing opera- tor training is vital to sustainable pro- gram success. If something goes wrong, you want to have a local rep available for prompt support. The equipment is too costly for downtime to be tolerated. Another consideration is the choice of purchasing or leasing the AMR. If you lease the unit, a replacement can often be provided quickly to avoid downtime.

There are two sides to each AMR Scrubber – your familiar scrubber and the autonomous brain. Most AMR units consist of the scrubber manufacturer and a second company that maintains the AI. Start with what you are comfortable with, what already works best in your space. The brands we chose to use were a matter of convenience; we already had strong vendor relation- ships established, and it made sense to continue forward with the same equipment, but with the AI addition.

Isaac Asimov and the rest of classic sci-fi have been telling us this for decades. Whether sci-fi is predictive or society is derivative is a TED Talk for another day and probably a different publication, but I digress. Moving to autonomous equipment is a big step. Five years ago, we chose to leap into the world of AMR Scrubbers. Today, we share the lessons learned as we built our robotic fleet and recommendations for success from our internal product review team.

Catherine Merritt is the VP of operations for SSC and and has 17 years of experience in the field.



The Facility Aside from the operator, the building the AMR is placed in is the number one determination for program success. Not all fa- cilities are created equal and not all are appropriate for productive AMR use. The most obvious locations are wide-open spac- es with few obstacles: gymnasiums, atriums, and cafeterias, but wide, long hallways are also great locations. While some units are designed to be more maneuverable, they still need 7-10 feet to complete a U-turn, so beware of small spaces and older buildings, especially those with small elevators; many are not wide enough or deep enough to allow operators to move the units between floors.

We advise AMR Scrubbers be allocated to a single building

Two Main AI Maping Modes Teach and Repeat is simply a copycat mode able to repeat a map. This mode is benefi- cial for areas that change their layout. Area Fill-In mode is where the operator traces the perimeter in manual mode, and then AI calculates the most efficient path for the spaces’ interior. Once an area is mapped, each subsequent use sees the operator simply bringing the scrubber to the starting point, selecting the map, and watching AI take over. Multiple maps and routes can be stored for each starting point to aid in building occupancy timed cleaning as well.

The AI If you invest in multiple units, many companies provide access to cloud-synced digital dash- boards for reporting and fleet accountability functions. Some are decidedly better than others, so in the demo process, make sure to investigate the dashboard features because these can greatly aid in accountability and KPI tracking of a large fleet. And as technology is always progressing, make sure you are track- ing the AI’s latest software release so you can take advantage of the updates and improve- ments the equipment functionality. AMR Scrubbers have 360-degree sensors and cameras to control their movements. This includes movement for cleaning and safety. They protect themselves with drop-off sen- sors to avoid stairs or loading docks and obstacle detection and avoidance for when a piece of furniture is moved to a new location. The safety systems also protect peo- ple by automatically detecting and stopping when people get too close – for instance, a first grader who forgot their library book and is running back to their class- room and steps into the path of a 1,000-lb. ro- bot. For additional safety, the sensors overlap, and there are auto-stop buttons and beeps to alert passersby.

These machines are delicate, and more than one has succumbed to the handling of doorways, thresholds, uneven sidewalks, and lift gates involved in transportation to neighboring facili- ties. A broken sensor can cost between $10,000 to repair or $60,000 to replace a piece of equip- ment. Add to that the lead time for such special- ized parts and a unit could be down for over a month. So, for us, it is not worth the efficiencies obtained from increased use by assigning it to multiple buildings because of the increased risk of damage. When we decide to move an AMR to a new location, we have the vendor take on the responsibility of shipping.



While the AI is rapidly improving in simplicity and ease of use, only some people are comfortable with having a robot as their coworker. To get started, hands-on training from site leadership aids in confidence, but when there is high turnover, in-person vendor training produces the best results. Bonus incentives for maxi- mum use in facilities that are monthly target-based KPIs aid associate adoption. Since most floor work is completed when buildings are unoccupied during second and third shifts, account- ability provided by the custom reporting functions aid management who may work a first-shift schedule. The associate responsible for the AMR should have nearby detailed tasks to complete while the AI runs the pro- grammed map. Being nearby allows them to check on the unit if it needs assistance and reactivate the program once its needs are met.

The Operators

In 1997, I started with SSC as a trainee, learning the basics of daily floor care. It was a simple process. As the years went by, not much changed with that task; there was still a mop, a bucket, and effort. Improvements have come, but they were small and easy to overlook - the move to microfiber mop heads or a safer cleaning chemical. Sometimes, there were advancements in our custodial service that were cause for celebration, like the night we first placed a magnet on the front of a vacuum to collect all the staples from the office carpets. Now, 26 years later, so much has changed: I’ll visit a site and see a robot doing that same daily floor care. Innovations are leaping forward and transforming our roles: LIDAR, Collision Avoidance, Aqueous Ozone, and AI. But one piece I know will not change is the necessity of our people. Innovation and technology don’t replace our teams - they allow our teams to do those simple tasks even better and raise the level of service we offer our clients. It’s exciting to watch the advancements across our industry, but they have made me look back and understand that mop and bucket were only tools in the process, just like our AMRs are today. It’s the effort of the person initiating that simple task that drives us forward.

Is Your Program Working? For our teams, the goal is not to reduce headcount or labor hours, but to increase building occupant and associate satisfaction.

Our ROI factors in not only usage-based KPIs, which are customized to every location, but building client satisfaction, which can be a harder piece to measure. It is driven by awareness and visibility: naming con- tests, incorporation into STEM lessons, and googly eyes. Sometimes it means choosing to run the AMR during occupied times. Where cleaning was previously a disruption, a robot running down the halls inspires excitement, curiosity and, hopefully, a new generation passionate about driving technology forward.

- Derrick Parker - SSC, VP of Higher Education



Developing Hourly Associates Pathways to Career Advancement

The first step to supporting hourly associates is recognizing what they want and need, and in many cases, our associates are willing to tell us just that. If an associate ap- proaches their direct manager with a desire to grow and develop, SSC has training paths in place to make this possible, but it all begins with seeing an associate take a genuine interest in advancing their career.

Our frontline associates are highly motivated, deter- mined individuals with both personal and professional investments in the schools they serve. In many cases, a janitor at a school may have been born and raised in the town or have a student in the same district. A grounds- keeper could be an alumnus at the college they help maintain. Each associate has formed relationships with teachers, professors, school staff and leadership. They know the buildings inside and out in a way external can- didates do not. Providing an array of frontline training and development opportunities isn’t just the right thing to do – it also makes sense. Supporting the people who support our students and teachers is at the heart of what we do. But what does it truly look like to support and develop hourly associates? At SSC, we are proud to have a wide array of training and development opportunities available to our frontline associates.

By Nickie Dwyer

Nickie Dwyer is the training manager for SSC and has 14 years of experience in the industry.



Harvard ManageMentor: Learning Leadership, Strategy & More For frontline associates who do not have a college degree, Harvard ManageMentor (HMM ) is the perfect next step. Many of our frontline associates who have transitioned into manage- ment roles have received the education they need at no cost to them through HMM. These self-directed, online classes fo- cus on professional and personal leadership development, and are geared towars first-time man- agers. Topics covered include leadership basics, innovation, decision making, strategy and more. Frontline associates who have shown potential and the de- sire to enter management have the opportunity to be a part of our Manager in Training (MIT ) Program. MIT covers on-the-job training, with the goal of placing each participant in a manage- ment role upon training comple- tion. Each MIT participant works and learns alongside an experi- enced SSC manager to learn the day-to-day responsibilities of leading a team. Manager in Training Program (MIT)

HiPo Program: Developing Soft Skills & Professionalism

From Frontline to MIT Cheyenne Ragsdale

For many of our hourly associates, their career development process starts with participating in our HiPo program. HiPo is a 10-week, foun- dational training opportunity that gives hourly associates the lan- guage and skills they need to grow professionally. During the program, participants receive education and training on a range of topics, from professionalism to customer service; diversity, equity & inclu- sion; workplace safety, and more. Each topic lays the groundwork for a wider understanding of what it means to step into a leadership role and how they, as frontline associ- ates, can contribute positively to their teams from where they are.

At the end of the program, associates are challenged with a presentation oppor- tunity. Team members are asked to select a topic from what was covered in the program and present what they have learned to senior leadership within their region. These presentations encour- age each associate to feel comfortable “raising their hand” and speaking with all levels of management.

Cheyenne Ragsdale was a student at the University of Mary Hardin- Baylor, seeking a job during her first year. Her advisor recommended cleaning with SSC, and for four years following that conversa- tion, Cheyenne provided custodial services on campus as a frontline associate. Throughout all four years of her employment as a frontline team member, Unit Director Sohn Stan- cell saw promise and potential in her. During her senior year, Sohn recommended SSC’s MIT Program to Cheyenne, and following her graduation in 2023, Cheyenne be- gan the online courses and hands- on training. Cheyenne has enjoyed the oppor- tunity to learn how to manage a custodial program in both a higher education environment at the Uni- versity of Mary Hardin-Baylor and more recently in a K-12 environment at Queen City Schools. Her man- agers and supervisors have been essential to her as she learns and grows in her career.

Associates who complete the HiPo program and still crave more opportunities have various options for continued development.

“Sohn is an amazing mentor, and I also have great supervisors who are helping me as well. You can’t have a bet- ter team to support you and teach you things that you don’t feel like you know yet, but you’re learning along the way.”

We Never Stop Learning!

The goal for the training and development department is to set all new associates up for success on day one and continue to provide them with additional personal and professional development opportunities to promote career progression.



Aqueous Ozone

At many of our sites, SSC has adopted the on-site generation of ozone injected into water (aqueous ozone) that temporarily creates a clean- ing solution as safe as water, but testing has shown its efficacy to be up to 50% stronger and 3,000 times faster than bleach. Unlike bleach, aqueous ozone can be used effectively on porous and nonporous surfaces without damage. It is regis- tered with the EPA and is compliant with their Organ- ic Program, and exceeds standards set by WHO for effective sanitation. It’s also a deodorizer that kills mold and mildew. Sounds like magic, right?

Ozone is one of the strongest known oxidants. It can be used to technically burn dissolved com- pounds ( oxidation). The extra oxygen radical in an ozone molecule quickly binds to each component that comes in contact with ozone molecules. This is because of the instability of ozone and its inclina- tion to return to its original form (O2 ) . Both organic and inorganic substances may be oxidized by ozone ( oxidation) and microorganisms such as viruses, bac - teria, and fungi ( disinfection). This causes the extra oxygen radical to be released from the ozone mole- cule and to bind to other materials, so that only pure and stable oxygen molecules (O2 ) are left.

In May of 2023, SSC set the goal for all our sites to meet ISSA’s Green Clean requirements and to carry this commitment forward as part of our standard custodial contract. Safe as water. Stronger than bleach.

Aqueous Ozone, have you heard of it? It has been used to keep us safe and healthy for over 100 years as a method for water purification ( ozonation). More recently, it has been introduced as a safe and effective agent for swimming pools, dental rinses, produce rinses, industrial laundry, and residential and commercial cleaning and disinfecting. Ozone is a molecule that consists of three negatively charged oxygen atoms. The ozone molecule is very unstable and has a short half-life, causing it to revert to oxygen after a time. An ozone molecule is nothing but an oxygen molecule that has received an extra oxygen atom by electric high voltage.

What does this mean for SSC, our clients, and our communities? On-site generation means lowered carbon emissions associated with the manufactur- ing and shipping of supplies. We see landfill diversion from the removal of product pack- aging. It eliminates the health and safety hazards with employees associated with us- ing harsh chemicals. Its disposal is safe for our water systems because it is just water. It protects our most vulnerable populations in ways other cleaning chemicals can’t.

Ozone is most recognizably created during thunderstorms, where ozone forms due to the high voltages in- volved. The specific fresh scent after a thunderstorm is caused by ozone formation. Ozone generators can cre- ate ozone artificially by means of ex- tremely high voltages or UV light. Both methods involve the decomposition of the oxygen molecule. This causes ox- ygen radical formation. These oxygen radicals can bind to oxygen molecules, forming ozone (O3 ) .

Using aqueous ozone removes the risks caused by VOCs found in more traditional chemicals and is safe for asthma sufferers. The toxic quats from harsh disinfectants that can cause burns or cross our skin into our bodies are not present with aqueous ozone. Testing has proven it removes pea- nut protein while still being food safe.

An ozone molecule is an oxygen molecure with an extra oxygen atom acquired from high electric voltage.



Custodial Services

Process Custodial programs are made or broken by the pro- cess behind them. There are many standards and certifications that aid in creating a solid foundation for a custodial program, one of the most significant being CIMS certification. CIMS is the Cleaning Indus- try Management Standard. Simply put, it outlines the characteristics of a quality cleaning organization, and certification means an organization is equipped to deliver consistent and efficient service to clients. Organizations that attain CIMS certification meet or exceed a client’s standards and ensure customer sat- isfaction. This well-managed custodial program cre- ates lasting relationships between a service provider and client that can be counted on to provide optimal learning environments for students and teachers. At SSC, we have seen great success in our client partnerships because of the accountability and consistency that the CIMS certification provides. Our teams across the country are unified by these standards and our partners have come to know and expect a quality of service that is unmatched in the industry. If your organization is noticing frequent cli- ent complaints, inconsistent service or team mem- bers failing to meet standards, evaluate the process you have in place and consider additional certifica- tions to add value to your program.

When it comes to educational spaces, the top priority is ensuring students, faculty and staff have safe, clean environments that support learning and development. Essential to this is the implementation of an effective custodial services program. It seems simple on the surface: Keep class- rooms clean to keep students safe. In reality, creating a custodial program has never been more complex. With cold and flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic circling year - round, and recruiting and retention efforts more dif- ficult than ever, it has never been more im- portant to ensure our students and teachers are supported with spaces that are properly sanitized on a regular basis. As a facilities management provider focused on educational spaces for over 50 years, SSC has a perfected process for creating custo- dial programs that satisfy client partners and ensure the health of our students in K-12 and higher education spaces.


By Jennifer Mitchell

Jennifer Mitchell is a regional direc- tor of operations with SSC Services for Education. She began her career as a custodial supervisor in 2012, and now oversees SSC’s operations throughout Texas.

We believe that successful custodial programs are rooted in process, partnership, and people.

Our partners have come to know and expect a quality of service that is unmatched in the industry.



Partnership & People Partnership goes hand in hand with process. When your client feels seen, heard and valued by your company’s leadership, the relationship turns from a service provider and client to a partnership between teams. A large part of creating a strong partnership is ensuring the process in place meets or exceeds expecta- tions, but another key factor is hiring people who share a passion for the work you are do- ing. In the facilities industry, it isn’t uncommon to see employee turnover rates between 200- 300% annually. Within SSC, we have seen turnover drop to as low as 30%. Speaking from true experience, it is essential to find people who share the same mission as your organization. Many of our associates are passionate about education and the next generation, which motivates them to come to work and excel at what they do. Beyond employee passion, providing team members with opportunities to grow and thrive in their careers improves employee satisfaction. Additional training, educational courses and leadership programs can encour- age team members to take their careers into their own hands and hone their skills in the industry.

We have over 100 K-12 school district partners in SSC, and each one is as unique as the communities that surround them. Their concerns, their passions, the actions that drive them all – are all different. The one unifying aspect I see is that we all want what is best for our children - we want to see them thrive, and we want to see them succeed. 2022 was the first time SSC became an active participant in Unity Day and combined our voices to help raise awareness around bullying. The goal of Unity Day is to bring together youth, parents, educators, businesses, and community members across the nation to emphasize the message that bullying is unacceptable and all students deserve to be safe in school, online, and in the community. It takes courage to stand up to bullying. We believe that together, we can create learning environments that foster inclusion, acceptance, and kindness.

- Vallen Emery - SSC, VP of K-12

Scan Here to learn more about Unity Day



SSC Among the Fi rst to Achieve ADVANCED BY GBAC

The Advanced by GBAC Certification requires organizations to have: • Established and maintained a cleaning, disinfection, and infec- tious disease prevention program to minimize risks associated with infectious agents. • The proper cleaning protocols, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention program to minimize risks associated with infectious agents. • Highly informed cleaning profes- sionals who are trained for outbreak and infectious disease preparation and response. Achieving Advanced by GBAC reflects SSC’s commitment to providing high- quality services that promote health, safety, and environmental sustainability.

Partnerhsip goes hand in hand with Process

As the industry-leading provider of educational facilities management, SSC prioritizes continuous growth and innovation in our services to ensure we provide the best, most effective custodial, grounds, and maintenance programs to our partners.

This spring, SSC became one of the first organizations to receive Advanced Certification in infectious disease response. In addition to achieving recertification of ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS ) Green Building (GB ) with Honors, SSC received the Advanced by the Global Biorisk Advisory

Council Certification (GBAC ) . This certification is given to organizations that undergo a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation of management practices, sustainable

cleaning practices, and performance systems.





feasible based on their location.

What a facility service company found when going electric at sites across the country. The decision to switch a landscape maintenance fleet to electric will have major financial implications. Being a national education facility service company, we knew that using electric equipment would help provide a better learning environment for students through noise reduction, and we wanted to reduce the carbon footprint of our fleet. Our values toward the environment and our goal to be at the fore- front of a new era of grounds management drove our commitment to switch to electric equipment. However, accounting for the lifetime costs of these purchases required a plan to ensure our success with this switch.

It is no secret that electric equipment is much more expensive than its internal combustion engine (ICE ) counterparts. This is mostly due to the cost of batteries, which can be com- pared to prepaying for fuel, but the higher upfront purchase price is only the beginning of the story. There were also facility infrastruc- ture concerns that needed to be addressed to ensure we could charge all the equipment. Having both site - and route-based crews, we also had to figure out how to make electric power mobile so our crews did not have to go back to the shop every time a new battery was needed. Input costs vary from year to year and by their location across the country. Our total cost of ownership for electric equipment is dependent on local costs of fuel and electric, not national averages. The ROI on handheld equipment is much clearer, but larger equipment, such as electric zero-turn mowers have a breakeven point that may or may not be economically

What Are the Costs? Understanding how fixed and variable oper- ating costs work together can create a clear picture on the ROI that can be expected. ICE equipment has been the industry stand- ard for decades, and the costs to own and operate traditional mowers are well-known. Determining all the costs for electric equip- ment, however, requires some research at each site. Fixed costs are the costs that do not change based on usage. For ICE equipment, this is the cost of the machine and any fuel stor- age. Electric equipment has many more fixed costs to consider, such as the machine, batteries and chargers, infrastructure up- grades to the facility, and methods for mo- bile charging. It is well-known that electric equipment is more expensive to purchase, but determining the exact upfront costs al-

Getting a Clear Picture on ROI

Purchase Price: 20%

Maintenance & Repair: 15%

Maintenance & Repair: 7%

Electricity: 14%

We have learned many lessons since our first piece of electric equipment went into service, the largest being that determining our exact return on investment (ROI) is complicated.

Purchase Price: 79%

Fuel: 65%



Battery Use Schedule (based on four batteries)

We use a simple chart based off manufac- turer’s expected run times to determine battery purchasing needs. We have found these charts to be accurate, and usually add a few minutes to them since it is highly unlikely that an operator will be going at full throttle the whole time. Of course, if we are blowing leaves, we expect little non-throttle time. The chart should include the time you expect the battery to be used, when it is expected to be charging, and how many minutes of reserve power are left waiting in the vehicle . Our goal is to prepare a crew to be able to work without ever having zero minutes of reserve power. Overtime can and will happen. Always having a spare charged battery ensures that our crews are ready for any change in plans. A good practice would be to purchase one more battery than needed.

Charge Time (75 min)

Reserve ( run time)

Battery # Run Time (45 - min usage)


8:00 - 8:45 8:45 – 10:00 135 min


8:45 – 9:30 10:00 – 11:15 90 min


9:30 – 10:15 11:15 – 12:30 75 min


10:30 – 11:15 12:30 – 1:45 65 min


11:15 – 12:00 1:45 – 3:00 45 min


12:30 – 1:15 3:00 – 4:15 45 min


1:15 – 2:00

End of Day

30 min

It can take up to 75 minutes to charge one battery, requiring more advanced prep.

lows for proper ROI analysis. Depending on the amount of equipment and electric- ity needed for charging, these costs will vary wildly. Consulting a licensed electrician to help determine the total amp load and the serviceability of the cur- rent electrical infrastructure in charging location is always the first step. An important lesson we have learned is to confirm the service line for a building can carry the amp load need- ed for charging a fleet of equipment. A ser- vice line upgrade may take weeks or months to com- plete, impacting the entire landscape operation. It has also become a practice to confirm plug locations for handheld battery charging. Spreading chargers throughout the shop based on crew can ease morn- ing trailer loading and eliminate traffic jams. While some manufacturers have developed swappa- ble batteries for their zero-turn mowers, most units on the market will have a defined amount of power for the day.


2:15 – 3:00

End of Day

20 min


3:00 – 3:45

End of Day

0 min

Determining the quantity of batteries to purchase for handheld equipment directly impacts the costs and success of a switch to electric. We found early on that we underestimated the number of batteries needed to keep a crew mov- ing all day. Part of this is due to electric equipment operating differently. With gas handheld tools, it is assumed that there will be more gas in a can to refuel with. This reserve fuel is available instantly and a crew can go back to work. With electric equip- ment, it can take upwards of 75 minutes to charge a battery. This meant the crew needed to prepare for their battery swap over an hour before needing it. We found that new SOPs were needed to ensure a battery was always on the charger.

While more expensive upfront, electrical equipment has much lower variable costs in maintenance and fuel. We have found electric equipment to be very reliable and they require little maintenance. For most major manufacturers, the warranty period is very close to our desired life ex- pectancy, bringing repair costs down even more. Electricity is much cheaper than petroleum-based fuels, though its cost can be nearly doubled across the country. To properly forecast the electricity budget for a site, it is important to look at local utility rate charts that detail kilowatt-hour costs. These costs are then multiplied by expected demand to give an electricity budget that can be compared to a fuel budget for ICE equipment.

To make charging efficient, it must be able to hap- pen on the go. For departments that are on-site, this may be as simple as going back to the shop or another defined location. For crews that are mobile, they need to take their power with them. While we anticipate that mobile solar charging systems will be- come more affordable and efficient in the future, the current answer is battery inverters. These units cost around $1.00 per watt and can power chargers in the field. These inverters come in multiple sizes and can be sized to the daily charging needs of a crew. The higher upfront costs of electric equipment are hard to process in an environment where everything is becoming more expensive by the day. It is im- portant to not become discouraged by the higher upfront costs of electric.



Internal Combustion Mower

Electric Mower



This is a sample break-even calculator for an electric mower. This electric mower is: • $495 less expensive over a five-year lifespan • $6.71 less expensive per hour • Break-eaven point at 2,534 hours












Upfront Infrastructure






- $1,500



























ANNUAL COSTS Fuel/Electricity Cost

-$2,450 -$2,450 -$2,450 -$2,450 -$2,450

-$240 -$240 -$240 -$240 -$240

Parts & Repair

-$368 -$561 -$942 -$1,543 -$2,310






TAX IMPLICATIONS Depreciation (Infrastructure)











Depreciation (Purchase)

$840 $840

$840 $840 $840

$2,220 $2,220 $2,220 $2,220 $2,220

Operating Expense Tax Savings

$845 $903 $1,018 $1,198 $1,428


$72 $72 $72 $72


-$1,132 -$1,267 -$1,535 -$1,955 -$2,492


$2,052 $2,052 $2,052 $2,052



-$1,267 -$1,535 -$1,955 -$2,492 -$27,448

$2,052 $2,052 $2,052 $2,052

Total Cost of Ownership (NPV) $21,183


Knowing all our costs to purchase, outfit, and operate both electric and ICE equipment gives us the ability to make a sound financial decision every time as we look to continue our transition to electric.

What’s my Breakeven Point?

We have found that electric handheld equipment costs around $0.99 per hour less than ICE equip - ment. This gives us a break-even point of less than two years for handheld electric equipment. If we are using blowers for leaf season, more batteries will be needed, but the breakeven point is still less than three years. This number will continue to drop as batteries get better and store more power. Over- all, we find that our purchase price of ICE handheld equipment is roughly 20% of the total cost of owner- ship, and the upfront cost of electric is 80%. Zero-turn electric mowers and stand-on mowers are much more expensive upfront, and we find that their total cost of ownership is very similar to ICE equip- ment. The operating costs for electric equipment per hour are $6.31 lower than their ICE counterparts, but this is offset by the significantly more expensive upfront cost. There are large tax credits available for zero-turn electric mowers which could completely change your analysis.

Without these tax credits, we have found our breakeven point to be close to 2,500 hours. Each site is different, but this break- even point is very close to our expected life of a mower. Battery-powered electric equipment is changing the environment we work in and there are many intan- gible benefits that cannot be easily determined, such as allowing for longer workdays due to noise ordinances. There is also the ability to market our sustainability initiatives to clients and customers. The benefits of using electric equipment are begin- ning to be fully understood inside and outside of our industry. Determining the ROI on an electric equipment pur- chase is important to the financial well-being of any landscape management department and it is critical to use the most accurate input costs possible to de- termine where it makes sense to use electric equip- ment across a fleet.

Brandon Haley, CGM, is a senior project manager, grounds and sustain- ability for SSC. He is also a certified grounds manager through the Profes- sional Grounds Management Society with 24 years of experience in the Green Industry.



STARTING YOUR GIS PROGRAM Many grounds teams are faced with ongoing questions about their operations: How much product should be applied to the grass areas or bed areas? How many square feet of annual beds are there on-site? How many square feet of sidewalks need to be plowed? By lever- aging innovative Geographic Information Systems (GIS ) technologies, we can remotely capture, manage, analyze, and display all areas of a site geographically referenced. GIS is a tool to drive efficiencies as well as allow teams to communicate through the use of location data and digital mapping. Teams can visualize and interpret data to create a full site inventory as well as plan for the future utilizing in-field data collection or remote mapping. GIS is an analysis tool used in almost every industry, including facilities in higher education and K-12 The maps displayed with GIS technology are only limited by the amount of data that is col- lected. As the GIS model undergoes addi- tions or edits, managers can optimize service to increase client satisfaction.

What Does GIS Technology Answer for? In grounds management, GIS technology answers the what, where, how, when, and why of your program.


What: Your Identity •What do I manage? •What are the best ways to make my crews efficient? •What areas are managed by contractors? My responsibility vs. someone else’s. Where: Your Location •Where does my property start and end? **the biggest conflict we have. •Where are my annual beds? •Where are my paver walkways vs. con- crete walkways? •Where are the shrub beds? •Where are my irrigated areas? Step 1: Creating a Base (map) Before we start with any true mapping, we must collect the necessary items to create our base (map). To fully capture a site’s accurate data, the following items must be collected: Aerial Imagery: Aerial Imagery provides a first look at the site, but it may not be always accurate, up to date or entirely visible. Two common issues can be if new construction has rendered the imagery obsolete or the area of interest has dense tree cov- erage that obscures the site. For example, images found online, such as the top image, may not be up to date. The below image is of new construction that added roadways, sidewalks, and landscape features. Contract or Scope of Work: Having the contract or full scope of work is needed to ensure all landscape areas are accurately collected and calcu- lated.

How: Quantity & Measurement • How many acres of mowing do I have? • How many square feet of beds do I have? • How much mulch do I need to purchase? • How much fertilizer do I need to apply? When: Timing •When was the last mowing cycle? •When was this particular bed weeded? •When was this last tree inspected? Why: Information •Why did this tree die? •Why are the annuals not flowering?

By Melissa Boffa

Melissa Boffa is the senior GIS and data project manager for SSC. She has 12 years of GIS technologies and grounds management experience.



Step 3: Define Your Data Maps can enhance what you have, creating an easy-to-understand visual for grounds teams and clients to reference. The information in GIS, is just as important. Behind each layer – for example, lay- ers highlighting turf, flowerbeds and sidewalks – is a live data table, comprised of unlimited data and attributes. By collecting your data points, polylines and poly- gons, you set yourself up to collect accurate invento- ry and measurements, including quantity, acres, and square feet of grass/lawns, fields, beds, parking lots, sidewalks, and overall maintainable grounds.

Building & Campus Addresses: Accu- rate addresses are essential to ensuring your teams arrive at the right place. In education, we have found that when researching K-12 schools online, buildings may have several addresses listed or inaccurate addresses.

Boundaries: The most important and frequent question a grounds team will get is, “Where does our property start and end?” Determine boundary lines – don’t just assume, or you may accidentally include areas that the client does not own or leave out an area entirely, resulting in inaccurate calculations.

You are also able to dive much deeper with applica- tions such as: • Acres of turf for mowing {IMAGE 3}. • Analyzing your total turf area to determine the amount of sod you need to purchase. • Organizing trees by species, tracking height and age, etc. • Sorting areas by what APPA level they must be maintained to. Your data is only limited by what information you choose to collect.

Step 2: Creating Your Data Within your GIS technology there are three different ways to create data:

Polygon Data: A closed shape, defined by a connected sequence of x,y coordinates. Polygons are used to determine area and can be used to mea- sure acres, square footage, square yards, etc., of an area, such as: • Area for Mowing, Turfs or Athletic Fields

Point Data: Most commonly used to represent nonadjacent features and data by location only. Points have zero dimensions; therefore, you cannot measure length or area with this dataset. Examples of practical usage include: • Tree Inventory • Irrigation Control Box Locations • Light Poles Polyline Data: A shape defined by one or more paths connected by segments. This dataset can be measured in linear feet and/or miles. Examples include: • Irrigation Lines • Utilities (Above & Underground) • Centerlines for Roads • Trails

Here is a real-world application from defining data. Upon analyzing data, we learn that in this one spot, there is 0.48 acres of mowing to manage to APPA 1 standards (highlighted in yellow).

• Area of Plant Beds • Area of Hardscape

Below is a map showing all three data types. The blue and red lines represent polyline data, showing irrigation lines and utilities. The dark green dots represent point data, showing tree inventory on campus. Polygon data is shown by the light green space, showing areas of mowing, turf and athletic fields.

What do we gain from a GIS program? An effective GIS program helps grounds teams plan for best-utilizing crews and equipment. This ulti- mately drives efficiency and ensures your grounds program meets or exceeds your team’s and client’s expectations. As a living, breathing plan, GIS maps and zones are updated in real-time, allowing you to easily reallocate staff and equipment if your con- tract area grows or changes. Using accurate data measurements prepares a foundation for successful grounds operations and landscape planning.

Software & Programs: GIS software is available for purchase online, but to optimize your usage, it is critical to ensure you have someone on your team is educated and trained in GIS. Degree programs are available, as well as certificate courses.



Aurora University

Led by Grounds Manager Kevin Baumann, the grounds team at Aurora University strives to provide a campus environment that is encouraging for the entire campus community, supporting inclusivity, and emphasizing the transformative power of learning.

The campus has maintained their Tree Campus USA designation for 10 years. All SSC staff have completed the certified grounds technician program, and we are heavily invested in training our workforce so we can work together to provide the campus with the best grounds possible. Excellence is the standard at Aurora Uni- versity, and our goal is to make that obvi- ous when students and visitors first walk on and through campus.

Aurora University is a private, four-year, nonprofit accredited higher education institution offering excellence in education. It was founded in 1893 in Mendota, Illinois, before moving to Aurora in 1912. The main campus is in Aurora, approximately 45 miles from Chicago. The campus is com- prised of a 42-acre main campus and a 90 - acre sports park.

Each year, the PGMS Green Star Awards® nationally recognize private, public, commercial, and industrial landscapes maintained with a high degree of excel- lence. This year, SSC Services for Education is excited to announce awards received for operations on four of our partner campuses. 2023 marks the seventh year that SSC has received recognition from PGMS.



Nord Anglia Led by Grounds Manager Cristina Harville, the grounds team’s mission at Nord An- glia Education schools is to exceed expectations by us- ing our team’s outstanding knowledge and work ethic, resulting in an exceptional environment for students and staff. The Village School is located on over 28 acres in Houston, Texas, with over 200,000 square feet of facilities divided among sev- en main buildings, including gymnasiums, sanatoriums, and residential life. Sports areas cover 6.42 acres and consist of ath- letic, practice, and synthetic fields. British International School is located on 33 acres in Katy, Texas, with modern glass archi- tecture, a unique design for the area. The sports area covers seven acres and con- tains two NCAA-sized gymnasiums, a FIFA regulation soccer field with two additional practice fields, a fitness center, gaga ball courts, and an aquatics center. We also complete special projects upon request, overseeding once a year, fertil- ization, and weed control following the grounds cultural calendar.

Our partnership with Nord Anglia includes a comprehensive grounds management program with mulch replacement once a year and bed enhancements twice a year.

Henderson State University Led by Grounds Manager Josh Hebig, the team at Henderson State University takes pride in the work they do each day and their impact on creating beautiful curb appeal and a safe on- campus experience for students and staff. Henderson State University (HSU ) is a public, co-ed university in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

Founded in 1890 as Arkadelphia Methodist College, HSU is Arkansas’ only public liberal arts school and one of the state’s oldest pub- licly funded universities. The campus is located on 156 acres. The grounds department manager and eight full-time team members are responsible for daily grounds management, including over 44 acres of mowing, plus 5,000 annual plants. The team manages lawns, trees, shrubs, and perennials changed out twice a year, many special requests on campus, and three ath- letic fields for events.

Beautiful curb appeal and a safe on-campus experience.



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