IoT can help hospitality organizations stay ahead of the curve in the guest experience and streamline operations.
Housekeeping and maintenance are critical components to hotel management. Not only are they essential to keeping a place running smoothly, but depending on their quality can make or break guests’ experience. When done well, guests may hardly even notice that housekeeping or maintenance is happening -- things just work. Issues are fixed before the guest even realizes something is wrong, or if the guest does notice, requests are addressed promptly and seamlessly.
When not done well, things can go downhill pretty quickly -- guests may complain, demand recourse, or leave a negative review, and the hotel may lose out on any chance of repeat business.
Coming up with a housekeeping and maintenance model that balances both the needs of guests and hotel management is tough. If you spend too little on housekeeping and maintenance, quality and thoroughness may suffer and guest satisfaction will fall. Spend too much on housekeeping and maintenance, and while guests will appreciate the attentiveness and detail, you may be left wondering if you’re spending more than what’s really needed. So how do you strike the right balance?
The first step to finding this balance is to understand the state of current operations. To do this, you will want to ask questions about your housekeeping service such as: “How many rooms do we clean on a daily and weekly basis? How much time is spent cleaning each room? How many rooms is each staff assigned and how are the assignments made?
On the maintenance front, you may want to ask questions such as: “How often do we get maintenance requests? What are we repairing the most and how much does it typically cost? How often do we perform preventative maintenance and how often does it stop bigger issues from happening down the line?
While these questions are important, the answers may not be easy to find, as they’re difficult to derive without the right systems or processes in place. It’s not surprising that many organizations discover that their current systems are:
Manual and Inconsistent - With housekeeping and maintenance being hands-on and physical work, it’s likely that recordkeeping is also physical. Room assignments, time spent inspecting each room, or service requests may be recorded manually and are prone to inconsistencies or missed all together.
Fragmented - If a software system does exist, there are often separate systems for each function, making it hard to figure out who’s doing what or what happened when. The system for housekeeping may be different from the one used for maintenance, or the system for maintenance requests varies depending on the type of service or vendor.
Reactive - Most maintenance systems are based on submission of service orders to address or fix things that are already broken. This results in a system that is forced to react to problems that arise rather than one that actively works to get ahead of them.
These disparate and manual systems have persisted through time despite their limitations, and now many companies offer software to digitize and aggregate housekeeping and maintenance functions. However, these solutions still rely on some level of human intervention. Whether it’s recording time spent completing a certain task or determining if something is in need of repair, this means the degree of uncertainty and variation in the data will always remain in question.
Fortunately, the internet of things (IoT) offers the opportunity for hospitality industry professionals to view the current status of key services like housekeeping and maintenance in new dimensions, analyze historical data in a centralized form, and use data to take meaningful actions to improve their business. Benefits of a housekeeping and maintenance solution using IoT include:
Configurable Alerts for Proactive Maintenance - Leak sensors by water lines and bathroom fixtures, vibration sensors on HVAC appliances, and air flow sensors in ducts can be installed in common utility areas or on an individual room basis not only to alert you of when things are broken, but also to identify problems before they become bigger issues. By setting thresholds for how much moisture, vibration, or airflow is expected (or even what thresholds constitute low, medium, and high criticality problems) you can get alerts to perform preventative maintenance or proactively address the situation accordingly. With enough data, some IoT solutions can use artificial intelligence or machine learning to implement more complex models for predictive maintenance.
Optimized Staffing and Resource Planning - Adding proximity sensors and indoor positioning beacons to housekeeping staff uniforms or housekeeping carts can provide data on which rooms are being cleaned at any given moment. As staff move from one room to the next, it also can capture how much time staff spend cleaning a room without the need for manual reporting. By providing zone and room level data, hotel management can understand the current state of rooms that have been, are currently, and are going to be cleaned. Occupancy sensors in rooms can provide staff a real-time indication of which rooms to skip without the need for repeated manual follow-ups. Aggregating and analyzing historical housekeeping data can be used to pinpoint operational bottlenecks to inform total staff headcount and reduce housekeeping costs.
Improved Guest Experience - Interactive tablets can be added in each room for guests to place room service orders, request for extra towels, or mark their room as ‘Do Not Disturb’. When integrated with housekeeping and maintenance data in a centralized system, front desk employees are empowered with a real-time dashboard of the current ‘health’ of every room, giving them the information on-hand to respond to requests and dispatch the right personnel. The result is an improved service experience that appears prompt and seamless to guests.
Analytics and Performance Monitoring - Data from housekeeping, maintenance, and guest service requests can be used to generate reports and metrics such as average cleaning time per room, number of maintenance requests per week, or average request fulfillment time. Sensors on HVAC appliances can be used to monitor energy usage and optimize it in response. As a result, organizations are informed with metrics that can be used to make measurable operational improvements.
The sensors used in an IoT solution will vary depending on the specific demands of the hospitality use case. In the case of tracking housekeeping activities through indoor positioning, current hardware technology includes BLE beacons, WiFi tracking tags, or RFID tags. On the maintenance side for leak sensors, consider looking at ultrasonic-based and mechanical impeller leak sensors. Vibration sensor technologies include piezoelectric and MEMS-based accelerometers.
For network connectivity, these sensors can communicate to the cloud via a variety of wireless and wired protocols, which include:
Lastly, you’ll want an IoT software platform to ingest, transform, and visualize the data. This may also include the ability to link/unlink sensors to various assets and appliances, set alerts, and build customized reports.