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08/10/2020

Thoughts on How to Make Hotel Operations More Efficient

Efficiency and having a slick operation have always mattered. When competition is fierce, and margins are under pressure, every second spent on essential tasks counts. But our efficiency challenge just got much harder. Occupancy rates and revenues have been slashed as people travel less, and it looks like there will be ongoing disruption to tourism until a vaccine is found, widely distributed and guest confidence rebounds.

In addition to this, the workload for hotels just increased significantly. Rooms need to be deep cleaned between guests and high touch surfaces need to be cleaned multiple times across the day. There is a need to not only comply with the increased cleaning regimes but to go even further and be seen by guests as complying.

Your tried and tested staffing rotas are probably no longer working. With changes in how guests behave, lower occupancy and different processes, hoteliers need to rethink how many team members need to be on duty at any one time and how to fit in the extra work. If you have a workforce management planning system in place, it will use your revised volumes to forecast workload hours and team members required. The trouble is: the time it takes to complete a task has increased. And your system won’t include the extra cleaning tasks your team now have to complete. One way to get your staff planning system back on track is to do a short time and motion study to remeasure your revised tasks and new processes so you can plan more effectively. And if it’s just a tweak to a process, then clever workstudy experts can use some standard activity data sets, to calculate how much extra time you should allow.

To be efficient you need a good ratio of  colleague resources to combat the workload. Too many colleagues create inefficiency and too few impacts quality and guest experience. If you don’t know how long your core workload tasks take, you’ll only be estimating time for tasks – likely incorrectly –  and not being as efficient as possible.

An additional advantage to reviewing your operation and timing your processes with workstudy, is that it will quantify opportunities to improve efficiency from the data collected and having a set of expert eyes taking a fresh look at your operation. The output is a prioritised list of productivity improvement projects. It’s something that many hospitality businesses use, and the studies always surface new insights and opportunities, as well as putting a number to that hunch you’ve had for ages.

Where there is challenge, we also find a good environment for innovation. COVID-19 has helped many organisations achieve change they thought was difficult in a surprisingly short time and has encouraged them to consider changes that were previously unthinkable. So, what have we seen that is helping hotel operators reduce workload and drive efficiency?

  1. Cleaning innovation – the viral pandemic has focussed minds on cleaning, both to make it quicker and to improve the quality. Housekeeping is a huge task for hotels and improvements that shorten the cleaning time of a room can have a big impact overall. Smart businesses have started to look at nano technology to speed up cleaning. Nano technology has already been used in other sectors and can be used to create a stay clean film on objects it is applied to. Whether that’s to keep mirrors shiny, shower screens grime free or sinks and toilets squeaky clean; it reduces routine cleaning times and eliminates the need for expensive cleaning agents to tackle tough stains. No need to spray and scrub, just wipe with a damp cloth and ozone water and the surface is as good as new and germ free. 

    You’ll need to apply the initial nanotechnology film and renew it each month and many are finding the time saving and enhanced cleaning quality more than offsets the costs. 

    It makes sense to apply the nano technology film after a deep clean, or when the hotel is brand new or just had a refit. Some nano technology businesses also offer a deep clean that removes the existing “biofilm” to ensure the surfaces are free of bugs and viruses before applying the nano film – a useful service when deep cleaning is so important.  And a message in the guest bathroom that you provide a guaranteed high standard clean could go a long way to reassure guest that you are doing a great cleaning job while saving yourself time.
  2. Robots have been pitched to hotels as a novelty to welcome guests as they arrive. The best use of robots is to help cleaning the miles of floors in a hotel. Robot vacuum cleaners are available for commercial use and can be left to finish up the room by the housekeeper when he or she moves on to the next room and can also take care of public spaces. They save housekeepers time and do a great job too. They’ll clean under the bed every time and brush up the carpet whether it is visibly dirty or not.
  3. In the warehouse sector, “Cobots” are used alongside a human to do the heavy lifting of moving totes around as the human picks stock, making the whole operation much quicker. Adopting a similar approach to moving linen around the hotel could save time and prevent all those extra trips back to the linen store.
  4. Housekeepers can be helped in low tech ways too. We’ve seen extra work caused when colleagues share equipment such as a vacuum cleaner or mop and must track it down before getting on with the job. It’s most efficient to use trolleys that carry everything the housekeeper needs, yet we often see trolleys that are too small pressed into use meaning an extra trip to move a mop bucket or drop off dirty laundry. When margins are tight, and processes are repeated many times every day; shaving off seconds adds up to a big difference.
  5. COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to review guest rooms and establish what really needs to be there and what can be removed without affecting guest experience. This has the benefit of reducing possible virus transfer and speeds up room clean. Do you really need that extra cushion? The runner on the bed? Can robes be stored in the wardrobe so you know when they’ve been used and don’t have to change them every time? Review everything a housekeeper touches to clean a room and consider if it needs to be there or if there is a better way to deliver the guest benefit.
  6. Reception is an important part of guest experience and can suffer from lines when it is busy and having colleagues with little to do at quieter times of the day. Operators have looked at options to reduce avoidable down time at reception – everything from placing an “office” at the end of reception so admin work can be done while waiting for guests, to looking at how digital services can support guests with what they need. Tech can be used to automate check in, provide local information, book a table in the restaurant and offering guest support via a centralised line have all been deployed. These new ways of doing things can ensure a good guest experience without having colleagues waiting around in case they are needed.

Guest expectations are changing – while some enjoy a warm personal greeting and chat, others just want to get their key and get settled in themselves. This means that new ways of servicing guests’ needs are important for customers as well as creating potential efficiency opportunities. Using time and motion studies to measure your operation quantifies opportunities for changes, supports creation of business cases for investment and provides a baseline for future measurement to track your efficiency.

Simon Hedaux is the founder and CEO of Rethink Productivity, a productivity partner which helps businesses to drive efficiency, boost productivity and optimise budgets. For more information see https://rethinkproductivity.co.uk/