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Creating Synergies in Housekeeping

Automated laundry management

The most common application of automation in laundry is auto dosing of washer-extractors. Some other applications include tagging and billing of guest laundry garments. This point-of-system (POS) is interfaced with the PMS. Inbuild sensors in the washer-extractors to weigh the load of linen or garments to determine the quantity of water, level of detergents and running time. Similarly, residual moisture control sensors in dryers estimate the drying required and control the temperature and cycle time.

Long Term Focus

An HOS should serve as an all-in-one platform with excellent customer support and potential to provide the following:

• Guidance to management to maximize revenues
• An easy-to-use interface
• Data encryption on secure servers with the ability to restrict user privileges
• Third party integrations with Online Travel Agents
• Integrated mobile Housekeeping application
• Automatic backup
• Single click access
• Profile management
• Multi property configuration
• Multi language capability
• Global currency support
• Complete audit trial for financial transactions

The near future will see guestroom telephones paired with guest smart phones, the guests will then be able to speak to the department desired directly without having to go through the operator and waiting time for the call to be connected. The department receiving the call will be able to identify the guest without having to ask, resulting in guest satisfaction. Instant messaging services with the guests, after rendering the service will be possible.

Wi-fi will no longer be viewed as a luxury. At par wifi connectivity to guest and staff will ensure real time information dissemination culminating in seamless and timely service to the guest.

Technology will also assist in gauging the physical presence of guests in the rooms using a variety of sensors. This will eliminate the need to physically check the room for guest presence. The advantages will be reduction in the work load of hotel staff, less disturbance to the guest and also more security to the guests.

Hotels will increase their learning budgets due to broader scope of training programs, more learners and re-skilling the staff. Interactive training systems will therefore become a norm. Training budgets will be tied to organization’s growth goals converting knowledge into business outcomes.

Predicted outcomes

Technology alone can take the journey a long way, but human touch will always be the essence of hospitality. Maintaining the balance is important. Technology can capture information, but the service has to be rendered by a human. Technology can help to recognise a guest’s needs, record the time required for attending to them in his first visit. This data will be used for future visits of the guest. Technological support has the potential to trigger proactive service.

Technology can serve us on both the ends. While collecting data will be easy, harvesting it to convert it into meaningful information to be used for guest service will remain a challenge. E.g. user discretion will be required to deliver or repeat guest preferences as guest requirements will remain the same, but guest preferences may change over time.

[box type=”shadow” ]Exercising prudence while using technology will keep the human touch alive in Housekeeping operations.[/box]

Nuances of Housekeeping Procurement Globally

Procurement department is one of the major support departments of Housekeeping in a hotel. The procurement requirements of housekeeping differ from other departments. Some items are purchased through Annual Contracted Rates (ARC) for which purchase specifications are developed and followed. Developing purchase specifications could be a challenge in an owner driven, or small size hotel. The procurement and housekeeping departments need to work in close co-ordination for efficient purchase. Quotations will be invited based on purchase specifications. The actual purchase will depend on the purchasing policy of the organization. Not always will the lowest quote (L1) be effective.

In some cases, there could be a disparity between the willingness to pay and quality required. The reasons for this disparity could range from ignorance about the availability to a lack of confidence in the vendor. On the other hand, high level of comfort with the present vendor could lead to problems while developing a new vendor. Executive Housekeepers have reservations regarding new vendor introductions in terms of their supply consistency, reliability for quality and timely delivery of requirements.

The challenges of procurement for pre-opening properties are unique to an operational hotel.

Proposed Solutions & Applications

Developing purchase specifications (SPECS) for ARC items like linen, guest amenities, cleaning tools is a necessity. Ideally, this is a shared responsibility between housekeeping and procurement departments. The housekeeper develops the quality criteria, quantity requirements, and timelines for delivery where purchase supports with testing on the criteria, cost, reliability, and payment terms. An apple to apple comparison of the quotations will help in zeroing down on a vendor. The procurement manager hands over an item wise approved copy of the ARC to the housekeeper. The better the co-ordination, the more transparent the process. The more transparent the process the better the confidence between the housekeeper, the procurement manager and the vendor. The better the confidence the smoother the delivery through the year.

SPECS involves detailing of the product required. For example, for towels the development of SPECS would involve content (total fibre content by weight), construction features (content of warp and weft yarns), dimensions (length & breadth), type of cotton or fabric, type of yarn, hem, selvedge, colour to name a few.

While the above quality criteria are given by the housekeeper, the Procurement should contribute with information such as:

• Set-up charge: the one-time cost required to set up the loom for the specific design.
• Percentage of overs / unders / seconds clause: this is an industry standard, meaning the order may run a certain percentage over or under the required quantity. Here, the overs and unders are paid at the rate decided and the seconds are paid at a reduced price.

A different set of SPECS will be required to be developed for each of the ARC items. They serve as guidelines for every purchase. They are also used to check the items on receipt. Ideally, these are revisited and revised before signing a new contract.

It may not be feasible to develop SPECS for all items, as some of the items procured may be a one-time requirement, or they may be very unique and required in very small quantities or they may not be budgeted for. In this case a dialogue between the Housekeeper and the Procurement Manager is the best resolution. Recording such items separately would prove beneficial both in terms of time and energy.

Stand-alone hotels or smaller hotels have different priorities of the procurement criteria compared to the group hotels with centralized purchase. The Housekeeper, in such cases needs to be proactive, weigh and prioritize the criteria before presenting them to the owner or decision maker.

While the credibility of a vendor can be established only after using his services, the challenges of introducing a new vendor for Housekeeping can be overcome by setting strict delivery specifications, creating check points for quality adherence and conducting a market survey to verify the new vendor’s reputation.

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