About three months ago, I wrote an article about the reasons that maintenance is one of the first things you notice at a hotel or resort. After researching a few more articles and receiving numerous emails and comments, it is clear that hotel maintenance related problems are the leading cause of lost revenue for hotels of all sizes.
The Maintenance Battleground
From the finest luxury hotels to the bargain extended stay facilities, the complaints remain the same. Guests want rooms that do not have:
- Noise problems: Noise can be generated internally and/or externally. External noise comes from the parking lot, the room next door, the hallway, the emergency exit staircase or even a vending machine. Internal noise comes from squeaking ceiling fans, plumbing and room HVAC units.
- Dirty Rooms/Hotel Maintenance Problems: This includes dirty or grimy carpeting, dirty bedding, missing or non-working room amenities such as light bulbs, Internet access, electric sockets, ceiling fans, plumbing fixtures, remote controls, windows and doors.
- HVAC Issues: Ranging from noisy to temperature control as well as blowing across bedding.
- Room Smells: Room smell issues have a variety of causes. Smells come from smoking, musty air, stale air, previous smoking rooms, animals and mildew.
- Insects and other pests: Insects like moist places with an available food source. Moisture can come from showers, high humidity, spills etc. Food sources normally originate with the guest in the form of food scraps (ants, mice) or improperly maintained bedding (bedbugs) but can also result from the moisture itself getting a toehold (carpenter ants, termites).
- Check-in Issues: This is the only major issue that is not preventable with a hotel CMMS maintenance program.
The Maintenance Call to Arms
The easiest way to do this is to look at the list above and tell which items can be prevented or minimized with preventive maintenance.
- Noise problems: External noise can be mitigated with good weather stripping around windows, better windows and minimizing door spaces. Sadly there is a limit to which preventive maintenance can help external noise. The true is answer is better built buildings. On the other hand, internal noise generators such as HVAC units, squeaking ceiling fans and doors or plumbing issues can be addressed with regular inspection and/or lubrication.
- Dirty Rooms/Room Maintenance Problems: Room maintenance is more than just having the cleaning crew come in and make the beds and do a quick inspection. Rooms should be inspected regularly for a list of common complaints. Some items can be fixed on the spot (missing light bulbs, non-working remote controls) and some may need to be accumulated (electrical sockets not working, mold buildup, carpet stains) before maintenance is scheduled. All safety issues should be scheduled for maintenance as soon as possible to avoid hotel maintenance liability issues.
- HVAC Issues: HVAC noise issues and temperature control problems can be addressed through inspection and preventive maintenance. Better maintained HVAC units/controllers will save energy for the hotel. Central air vents should be kept clean to avoid mildew and dust issues.
- Room Smells: Once an odor has permeated a room, bedding must be changed and upholstery cleaned. Inspections note when a room has a distinguishable odor and that needs to be cleaned thoroughly. The availability of fresh air is a hotel or resort decision. Do windows open, are HVAC filters clean? If central air is used, what percentage of the air is re-circulated. How well are the rooftop units being maintained?
- Insects and other pests: Insects attract predators, without constant inspection and pest control, insects can not only scare away guests but also cause physical damage to the hotel.
- Check-in Issues: External power issues or centralized reservation system glitches are beyond the scope of regular hotel maintenance. However, computer equipment can be checked in any establishment for dust build up on fan motors or connectivity issues. Local equipment can be made to last longer with proper care.
The Maintenance Scheduling/Manpower Battle
Realistically, there are only so many light bulbs, guest caused or wear and tear issues that hotel maintenance staff can address in any given time period. As assets age, it becomes harder and harder for hotels to balance the needs for unplanned maintenance with the goals of a proactive maintenance program that includes inspections and preventive maintenance to maintain or extend the useful lifecycle of equipment.
The question for hotel and resort owners and management is what is the cost differential between attracting new customers and getting customers to make return visits by reducing guest maintenance complaints. The answer can only come from knowing how much it costs to maintain your assets in a way to maximize their useful lifecycle in the most cost effective manner.
CMMS Technology Will Win the War
The key to knowing your costs is understanding the hotel work order lifecycle, eliminating manual procedures, automating paper functions, and finding the correct balance between reactive and proactive maintenance. The tool of choice for this task is a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). Using a hotel CMMS, helps hotel maintenance managers organize their work flow (inspections, preventive maintenance and unplanned maintenance) in the most time efficient manner.
Once the work is organized, the work order system records all maintenance activity including time spent, cause, parts used, costs, results and notes. This information can then be summarized in management reports enabling management to make better repair or replace decisions as well as identify trends or common causes that require changes in operating procedures.
Lastly, a CMMS software solution, takes the maintenance history and creates a database that can be used for budget analysis, capital expenditure forecasting and a calculation of true asset maintenance costs. Most hotels will find that a CMMS for maintenance is much cheaper than the marketing budget required to attract new customers.