Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Friday, September 23, 2011

Housekeeping Tech: Old Trade, New Tricks

Housekeeping is considered as the backbone of the hotel industry. The latest technological advancements has brought about a change in this department’s work system. SANJAY PATHAK finds out how modern technology is playing an important role.

Housekeeping services in a hotel is entrusted with maintaining a hygienic and clean environment. A decade ago, staff were involved in completing the paper work after their assigned job. Room checklist, lost and found, discrepancy report, vacant, dirty and occupied cabin list etc, were mandatory and was noted down manually.

Housekeeping department has large number of staff working right from the Executive Housekeeper (EHK) to housemen. Right from the EHK to housemen, everyone was responsible to finish their respective paper work. Most of the vacant space in the department was occupied by these paper sheet in the folder and were maintained for future references.

As time passed by, technology came into existence and the workload of paper and manual job was cut down to minimium but not completely. However, technology has improved the work efficiency and eliminated most of the time consuming work in the housekeeping department. With development in technology, the work pattern changed a lot in the housekeeping department, which resulted in reduction of manpower and time.


Prior housekeeping processes

Housekeeping job always being a physical work but at the same time it was also a clerical job for the housekeepers. Housekeeping department has large number of staff working right from the EHK to housemen. The supervisor used to note down all the occupied, vacant, dirty rooms of the day and send it to the EHK and the front office. This was done three times a day i.e. in the morning, afternoon and night. Supervisors were responsible for the inventory of the linen. A work list or maintenance slip was prepared for engineering departments for all maintenance work. The housekeeping staff had to undertake these things everyday. The above work was done manually on paper and used to consume a lot of time.

According to Meghana Tendulkar, Executive Housekeeper, Hotel Marine Plaza, “Previously there were a lot of things in the hotel, which were done manually, right from the room status to guest request. Supervisors used to check the room, come down, fill up the register and call up the front office or send a note stating which rooms were clear for business. Even the guest request was a time consuming process as it used to be directed from room maid to supervisor or desk and then again through the same channel to complete the request. The only way one could know that the request is completed was the guest request book at the desk.”


Echoing with the above statement, Rekha Mehta, Director Housekeeping, Intercontinental Marine Drive said, “Earlier we assigned one person to do all the paper work. He had to come down or call the desk to update the maintenance job or for any other work . Lost and found procedure was time consuming and sometimes there used to be discrepancy in room reports sent to the front office. There were no means of communication apart from the phone line at the desk and guest request used to take time to complete.”

Present Scenario
Today, technological evolution being the mantra globally, most of the hotels in the world have installed and applied various applications and software systems. This helped hotelier and also the staff to learn, understand and aware of the latest technology. Today, there are various technology solution company providing the application and services to the hotel industry in India.

“Housekeeping, though a core operational department for any hotel, has not seen many changes, as far as technology is concerned. A few PMS (property management systems) just brush through a small portion of the entire accommodations operations but do not provide a comprehensive solution to the host of activities. The technology at present is limited to majorly just two activities i.e. PMS - caters to the room status coordination between front desk and housekeeping and maintenance related coordination between engineering and housekeeping,” Manish Jain, Director, Kazzam- housekeeping solution company, said.

230911_cs_3.jpgDevelopments in the industry - Benefits of technology
Since the inception of technology in the housekeeping department, work has become easier. “Previously, the housekeeping department was considered responsible only for maintaining basic cleanliness and upkeep of the property. Not much emphasis was laid on analysis-reports, software, training of staff related to the latest happening in field of housekeeping. However, in the last five years, trends have definitely changed with more focus on creativity, innovations, training, use of the latest equipments and technologies and software with new processes and standard operating procedure in place, said Mandeep Aasht, Executive Housekeeper, Jaypee Palace Hotel and Convention Centre, Agra.

According to Prem Samuel, Executive House Keeper, Vivanta by Taj, MG Road Bangalore, “Technology is being upgraded every single day and the housekeeping department has seen a sea of change when it comes to technology. Technology helps us in simplifying our work and brings more efficiency to the system. For example, personal digital assistant’s are being used by the supervisors to clear rooms, to get all the information and preferences of the guests and to update the same. In case the guest is checking in for the first time, preferences are taken from the Internet and social websites. Computers reduces the number of papers used thus reducing the impact on the environment. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) are being used in linen to track pilferage. Automatic chemical diluting machines are being used to get the right dilution thereby reducing wastage and increasing efficiency.”

Multiple Uses
PMS, iPads, smartphones, maintenance related coordination, inventory tracking system, RFID (a chip, created by linen technology tracking, are being sewn into anything made of cloth inside a hotel room where a sensor will go off to alert the hotel immediately while taking it) is an example of how technology has been applied in the housekeeping department.

Amlan Ghose, Managing Director, Prologic First informed, “We have offered features to update room status from guest room phones (Today, we enable the same through High Television also known as HITV). We were the first international vendors to introduce features for lost and found tracking and loaned items control. We were also the first to allow maintenance requests to be logged and monitored through the housekeeping software. Today, we offer guest response management system that registers all guest requests, assigns it to staff over mobile text messaging, monitors completion, escalates service delays and records cost of service failures.”

solomon_james.jpgAnother company which has been active in making housekeeping solution is IDS Softwares. Solomon James, Vice President, IDS Networks Group said, “The housekeeping department has always looked for, and in most cases adopted comprehensive technology solutions that enhance their overall efficiency, for example, iPads and smartphones with specific housekeeping applications on it, kiosk-based stations at floors and text message modules to address guest grievances rapidly. Numerous functions such as room cleaning, lost and found, housekeeping supplies and inventory, accessing the mini bar using telephones and other common housekeeping functions have been automated using smart applications. We at IDS NEXT constantly engage in research and involve our customers in the process to develop better software offerings especially targeted at addressing their pin-points.”

Overall Impact
The housekeeping department has always been criticised but usually has the least customer interaction. Now, it is fast becoming the most significant department with the management of rooms being high on the priority list.

Liz Moores, Director of Product, Quadriga Worldwide Ltd, UK said, “The industry has definitely made use of the new technology available to increase efficiency and standardise operations. Overall, hotels are using innovative technology within guest rooms to promote hotel facilities and drive revenue opportunities, in short, provide a better service and connect with the customer. Staff retention has also become a driving force in the adoption of new technology. Increased communication between housekeeping staff help to add value. The multiple language feature in technology also enables management to help staff understand fully what is expected in terms of room maintenance and stock control.”

“The largest expense on a hotel’s balance sheet is manpower, out of which 40 per cent is due to housekeeping. Hotels are now looking for solutions that enable them to optimise manpower through innovative means, which is why technology is vital to the housekeeping department,” added Jones.

With a similar view, Jain said, “Housekeeping is responsible for all-important first impressions (cleanliness, upkeep and maintenance). A successful team can influence the profit margins of the hotel than any other department. It is humanly impossible to keep a track of various activities and to remember how many rooms in a 400-room hotel need a room painting or out of 100-plus team members who is most weak in bed making. The worst comes when a housekepeer leaves and a new one joins with no clue of where the department is headed. So, the need to have technology assist in planning the departments progress synergised with the hotels vision is top priority.”

230911_cs_4.jpgFuture Technology
No one can predict the future and no one can say what could be the future in technology in coming years. However, there are individuals who are working and want to develop or want something with some more productivity, which can be useful to the housekeeping department in the near future.

According to Moores, “As innovations in the consumer electronics world evolve, this trend will undoubtedly influence what guests will come to expect during their stay. Travellers will be demanding access to more Internet-based content through the in-room television, acting as a digital concierge to access information. Internet applications on TV sets and 3D viewing and this will further influence consumer choices and the ability for the hotel to deliver the ‘complete experience.”

“The future technology for hospitality would be better sleep management system, innovative service designs for quicker and efficient service,” added Samuel.

However, India is fast catching up with the latest technology and in some areas are better than what the others can offer. It is time, which will decide the excellence of technology in India.