While everything from the front desk to food and beverage has been impacted by new technology developments, the housekeeping department, relatively speaking, remains stuck in the dark ages.

“Nobody’s really paid attention to the housekeeping department in a long time,” admits Vince Barrett, vice-president of Food and Beverage/Rooms with Shelton, Conn.-based New Castle Hotels & Resorts. “We still expect room attendants to perform at the same level as 25 to 30 years ago, yet the size [of rooms] and the product has changed dramatically and we haven’t advanced their technology, training or equipment to make them more productive.”

In addition to being one of the hotel industry’s largest payroll departments, housekeeping — particularly poor housekeeping — does not go unnoticed by guests. It can also be your undoing in social media, where something as innocuous as a stained towel can lead to a one-star review.

The good news is that technology is now improving everything from housekeeping assignments to everyday tasks such as vacuuming.

Late last year, New Castle’s Halifax property, the Westin Nova Scotian, began a one-year test of a system that provides housekeeping staff with handheld devices linked with the facility’s PMS.

The devices provide housekeepers with real-time updates on check-ins and check-outs and enable them to provide real-time room-status updates and make note of important details. If a guest is checking in via a mobile app, the system is capable of flagging housekeepers to prepare a specific room for their arrival.

Barrett says the system has enabled the Nova Scotian to automate tasks, such as directing housekeeping staff to specific rooms, leading to a marked increase in room readiness.

Austin, Texas-based Maidbot has developed an autonomous hotel-cleaning solution nicknamed “Rosie.”

Kailah Rockwood, Maidbot’s director of Global Administration, says the push-and-pull motions of vacuuming are a leading contributor to the repetitive-motion injuries suffered by housekeepers.

“It’s taking away from a mundane task that might leave [housekeepers] hurting physically,” explains Rockwood. “Vacuuming is one of the largest [sources] of workers’-comp complaints in the hospitality industry.”

Designed to be transported on a housekeeping cart, each “Rosie” unit weighs 9 lbs. In addition to autonomous operation, each unit collects data, including how long it takes to clean a room, and can detect would-be maintenance issues such as the presence of moisture in the carpet.

The hospitality industry has a turnover rate of approximately 30 per cent for non-management positions. Turnover is both costly and requires constant staff training.

Hospitality-technology companies are not oblivious to the strain this causes their clients and have been working on alleviating this pain point. For example, Novility offers the LIVE training system, which employs a combination of motion-tracking and speech-recognition technology to create training modules for staff that cover everything from standard operating procedures for room attendants, to ergonomic stretches aimed at reducing injuries and language skills that help employees develop vocabulary around key areas, such as room supplies and amenities, basic numbers and time, and conversational skills.

According to Novility, the system’s benefits include injury prevention, decreased shadowing time and reduced training costs, as well as increased cleanliness ratings,
better review scores and higher employee retention.


Written by Chris Powell


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