Innovation in Housekeeping improves efficiency
However, in general housekeeping has not seen any fundamental changes for a number of decades. As consultants, the Lycette & Associates team is working all over the globe and see a lot of stagnant housekeeping management. While new technology has been introduced to increase efficiency in all other hotel departments, experienced housekeeping managers still rely on the same archaic procedures and tools as when they started their careers 20 or more years ago.
What’s worse, the new generation of Executive Housekeepers is often promoted too quickly and the position itself is no longer in proportion to the core importance for the hotel. The advent of the Rooms Division Manager, who is commonly from a front office background with little exposure to housekeeping management, aids in the de-sophistication of the position.
Who is left to drive the innovative processes to make efficiency and quality improvements? You can’t blame the Executive Housekeepers. With constraints such as a high staff turnover caused by a repetitive and physically demanding job and pressure to deliver clean rooms quickly at the lowest possible cost, there is no room for reflection for the manager. At the end of the day, the industry expects a better result, while doing the same thing over and over again. That is a clear case of insanity. We now have a global shortage of skilled and well-trained Executive Housekeepers who are all-rounders in people management, financial management and practical housekeeping operational skills.
But things are not as bleak as they sound. There have been noteworthy innovations in housekeeping over recent years, which are now gaining ground in hotels around the world.
Bamboo is an environmentally sustainable material for uniforms, towelling and sheeting and is gaining popularity as its cost is coming down.
Nano technology used in surface coating makes it dirt and dust resistant. Used in Korea and Japan for years, they are now showing up on other continents.
Microfibre as a cleaning system has been in use in hospitals for years and is now slowly adopted into housekeeping departments around the world. Not only is microfibre cleaning environmentally friendly through the absence of chemicals and cost effective, but it also produces better cleaning results. The Professional Housekeeper’s Association of New South Wales commissioned laboratory analysis of cleaning hygiene, comparing the effectiveness of 5 methods of cleaning bathroom glasses. The tests showed that all 5 methods; using dishwashing liquid, microfibre, a sterilizing tablet, all purpose cleaner and using a dishwasher were effective in removing bacteria and mould present.
L&A, has been educating, coaching and training Housekeeping Managers worldwide for over 10 years and has recently become involved in assisting with the training of a new Housekeeping software system called Optii Keeper. Without doubt, this new technology will change the way Housekeeping operates in the future. Productivity and quality improvements have hit the glass ceiling of what is possible with the trusted manual procedures and processes. Optii Keeper is by far the most exciting innovation because it breaks the ceiling down and allows housekeeping to go to the next level.
Consequently benefits to the hotel operation are numerous:
- Improving room attendant productivity by up to 20%
- Saving up to 40% of Floor Supervisor time
- Eliminating 80% of phone calls between Front Office and Housekeeping
- Ongoing optimisation of cleaning schedules throughout the day
- Allowing a fairer spread of workload among Housekeeping team members
- Improved quality and staff morale
- Savings of at least two hours every morning by automating the room allocation process at the push of a button
- Being able to see in ‘Real Time’ if the housekeeping team are ahead of schedule, on time or behind schedule
- Eliminating the current expense of overstaffing or understaffing on a daily, weekly, monthly basis
- Forecasting staffing needs with pinpoint accuracy based on real data specific to the PMS
- Providing instant communication between housekeeping staff
- Providing ‘Real Time View’ of room availability to streamline check-in/check-out at Reception
How does Optii Keeper work? Each Room Attendant and Floor Supervisors carries a PDA, which is connected via wireless technology and interfaced with the Hotel PMS system. The individual cleaning boards are automatically managed and dynamically optimised throughout the day. Room attendants can see in ‘Real Time” the next room to be cleaned and how long it will take. Room cleaning times are calculated based on the guest and room profile created through ever changing history, plus factors such as guest nationality, market segment, etc. Savings in productivity can be made on actual room cleaning times rather than the current inaccurate room credit system. Other great features include an inbuilt quality control checklist tool on the Supervisors PDA’s allowing them to record inspection results. Monthly statistics on average room-cleaning time and average quality scores can then be used for focused individual training and counselling. A spring cleaning or special jobs list is also included, ensuring weekly or monthly tasks are in the system and allocated onto the daily cleaning checklist for the Room Attendants to follow. At the Front Office, the Dashboard enables Front Office to see at a glance where the Room Attendants are and when the rooms will be ready. Integration with the PMS also alerts Front Office if the room is not going to be ready for the guest’s arrival so quick action can be taken. Plans for the future also include a function for public areas, turndown and Minibar posting.
And what about the people management, financial management and practical housekeeping operational skills of new-generation Executive Housekeepers? There may be a need to upgrade their skills.
Look after your housekeeping department. They are the guardian of your core product and your largest labour expense. If your rooms are not clean, it doesn’t matter how efficient your restaurants or sales departments are. If housekeeping productivity is not managed, watch your payroll grow!