IT SAVVY HOUSEKEEPING
Many hotels have invested heavily in information technology (IT) infrastructure and networking that deploy the latest technical advances in their operations.
The latest in IT amenities
The newer technologies that are gaining entry into the hospitality segment are Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity), radio frequency identification, and the possibility of tracking inventory and guest data through the convergence of cellular and wireless technologies, GPS (global positioning system), VoIP (voice over internet protocol), handheld communication devices and so on. Over the past few years, in addition to the more common wired networks, hotels have been giving greater importance to wireless local area networks (WLANs) and mobile computers
Wireless connectivity is developing rapidly, enabling the whole world to stay networked and connected. Business travelers in particular are always looking for ways to stay productive while on the move and expect wireless connectivity at their facilities as wireless connections improve a guest’s experience by providing complete mobility.
WLANs allow guests to share high-speed Internet connections, browse the Web, access their corporate networks remotely yet securely , access the business centre from their room, organize video conferences, play games online , and use multiplayer gaming options.
In India, although there are on the whole relatively few hotels that provide wireless connectivity for guests, the hospitality industry was among the first to implement this technology. Hotels either provide Wi-Fi as a value added amenity to guests or offer the service at a cost to their guests . Wi-Fi is provide in guestrooms as well as public areas, lobbies, meeting rooms, lounges, and so on. Wireless connectivity permits users roam unrestricted throughout the hotel facility, with real-time access to critical information as and when required.
IT in the Housekeeping Department
WLAN technology is enabling a wide range of hospitality applications in the housekeeping department. Housekeeping staff can now conduct room checks after the guest vacates the room through a handheld Wi-Fi–enabled device to report the status of the room. They can also communicate with security personnel instantly over e-mail in case of an emergency. Staff can also ensure from a remote spot that fire extinguishers are charged, emergency lights are functioning, and so on check and communicate inventory information for guestroom supplies and the stocking of mini bars in order to ensure that provisions are replenished in an efficient manner. Housekeeping managers can also contact workers and identify their locations quickly, resulting in quicker response times.
VoIP is the fundamental enabling technology that converts voice signals into a form that can be sent over a data network, such as the internet or one of the typical local area networks (LANs) found in most hotels today.
Many housekeepers have strived to keep their department computer-savvy. Computers are now being used in many housekeeping departments for rooms management inventory control, linen management, and so onto varying extents. Many software packages are now available in India that provide specific applications for housekeeping operations .Computers can now be linked to telephone system in each individual guestroom. This technology greatly reduces the cost of individual wiring in each guestroom. For instance, an interface can be created between the telephone system and the CPU (central processing unit) of the hotel’s computer network by the GRA dialing a specific sequence of numbers on the phone from a specific guestroom. Once connected, the computer immediately recognizes the room number to which it is being connected. After the connection is established, a specific list of dial-up codes become available to the GRA; by way of which he or she can now transmit information to the computer system directly without the need for additional input devices in the rooms.
Housekeeping operations modules are now an integral part of integrated hotel management software. The modules widely available include applications such as forecasting GRA requirements, daily housekeeping scheduling, tracking housekeeping history, and monitoring GRA performance.
Forecasting GRA requirement This module is designed to forecast the total number of, GRAs needed each day in the future, based on the current in-house occupancy and staffing and the expected arrivals /departures over the forthcoming period. these modules can forecast staffing requisites up to365 days in advance, given the right inputs.
Daily housekeeping scheduling This application can automatically create and print estimated cleaning time needed per room , and the number of GRAs in the establishment. A ‘housekeeping status screen’ is the core element of the system, and tracks each housekeeper, updating the status as rooms are cleaned and inspected. The module tracks the status from ‘dirty’ to ‘ready for inspection’ to ‘clean and ready for guests’. This is made possible by marking the rooms ‘clean’ using an in-room intercom or handheld wireless PDA (personal digital assistant) as each GRA and supervisor is through with them.
This module can also schedule the servicing of guest requests. For instance if a guest calls the front desk and requests a crib or extra towels, the front desk can simply input this request into the computer and it then appears on the main housekeeping monitor screen. A guest request notification to the most suitably placed GRA can also be sent automatically to a handheld wireless PDA or cell phone by way of a text message or e-mail.
Housekeeping history and GRA performance reports This is a historical reporting module. It is possible to measure the performance of each GRA by tracking the ‘estimated clean time’ and the ‘actual clean time’, as well as the variances. Supervisors can enter comments on each cleaning too. Since supervisors use the intercom in the room to mark the room as ‘ready for guests’, this system can also store the time at which the supervisor finished the inspection. thus ,reports are available that show how much time elapsed between the GRA marking the room as ‘readyfor inspection’ and the supervisor completing the inspection. The executive housekeeper can thus track the time and duration for each room cleaning by each person. For instance, if a guest is found to have checked into a dirty room, the housekeeper can determine which GRA or supervisor erroneously marked the room ‘clean’.
There are now many and various innovations and trends in housekeeping, the principle ones being outsourcing and eco-friendly housekeeping. Professional housekeepers are striving to get housekeeping its due recognition in the hospitality industry. After all, this department is responsible for bringing in the largest share of profit to an accommodation operation, but this fact is hardly acknowledged and veterans of the industry too often must consider it a thankless job.
Housekeeping operations are increasingly becoming scientific and mechanized .However the fact remains that the majority of the lower rung housekeeping workforce are unskilled. Hence training in housekeeping procedures and equipment is essential and this should be a continuous when the department spends time, energy and resources on training employees, all efforts should be made to motivate and retain them as well. This chapter has also discussed the training issues in housekeeping today.
A major trend in hotels is towards becoming more eco-sensitive. This trend is influencing the housekeeping departments in the hotels too. Housekeepers are developing and adopting new ways to conserve water and energy and opting for eco-friendly amenities and products. Use of ozone in various areas in the housekeeping area in particular has been a big step toward environmental protection.
This chapter discussed information technology in housekeeping at length, mentioning Wi-Fi, GPS, VoIP, and WLAN applications. Many hospitality–specific software’s having comprehensive housekeeping applications are on offer in the market now. Hotels in developed countries have utilized IT in a big way in housekeeping, which is not yet the case in the Indian scenario, however. Thus housekeepers need to become more IT-savvy and collaborate with software professionals in developing modules for various applications in housekeeping operations. Almost all subroutines in housekeeping tasks are amenable to being adapted to IT systems.
Amenity: a service or item offered to guests or placed in guestrooms for their convenience and comfort at no extra costs.
Ayurveda: A Sanskrit term made up of the words ayus (life) and veda (knowledge or science) this refers to a system of using the inherent principles of nature to maintain health in a person by keeping the individual’s body, mind, and spirit in perfect equilibrium with nature.
Biodegradable: Substances capable of being decomposed by living organisms.
CPU: Central processing unit of a computer system.
Crib: cot for babies, provided to guests on request.
Cross-training: Training employees to work in departments other than their speciality during periods of staff shortage.
Duvets: Quilts filled with down feathers or synthetic fibers. Many hotels use duvets with a decorative duvet cover to replace both blankets and bedspreads. They are sometimes referred to as ‘comforters’ as well.
Ergonomics: The study of the efficiency of people in relation to their working environment.
GRS: Guestroom attendant.
GPS: Global positioning system, which uses satellites and receiving devices used to compute position on the earth.
Hygiene: The science that deals with the preservation of health by maintaining high standards of cleanliness.
IT: Information technology.
LAN: Local area network—a group of computers and associated devices that share a common communication line or wireless link and typically share the resources of a single processor or server within a small geographic area.
Outsourcing: A conscious business decision to move internal work to an external provider.
Ozone: A form of oxygen where each molecule is composed of three atoms of oxygen instead of the more usual. It decomposes quickly and easily, turning into regular oxygen, where the extra oxygen atom splits away from the ozone molecule.
Performance standards: A required level of performance to meet the quality standards set by the organization.
PDA: Personal digital assistant-–a handheld computer that serves as an organizer for personal information; it may be also combined with a cell phone and other wireless technologies, providing a mobile office for the people on the go.
Productivity standards: An acceptable amount of work to be done within a specific timeframe according to an established level of performance.
Sanitizer: An agent used for reducing microbial counts to an acceptable level.
SOPs: Documents of a standing nature that specify a certain method of operating or specific procedures for the accomplishment of a task. SOPs can be developed for all important housekeeping activities and tasks.
VoIP: Voice over internet protocol---a category of hardware and software systems that enables people to use the internet as the transmission medium for telephone calls by sending voice data over the internet. VoIP is also referred to as ‘internet telephony ’, ‘IP telephony ‘or ‘voice over the internet (VOI)’.
Wi-Fi: Wireless fidelity—an amenity provided nowadays by most world-class hotels, this technology enables guests to access wide range of information, applications, and computing resources without having to worry about connectivity issues.
WLAN: Wireless local area network---a typical of local area network that uses high frequency radio waves rather than wires to communicate between nodes. It is also referred to as ‘LAWN’ or ‘local area wireless network.’
Work study: An analysis of the tasks, the equipment, and the time taken to do a specific job. This is an important tool for determining standard operating procedures.