Facility Management Headache

Hotel Facility Management: 3 Headaches...and Some Relief

It goes by many names: Facilities Manager, Real Estate Strategic Manager, Facilities System Specialist, Properties Coordinator, Director of Construction. I could go on. Despite the different titles, the essence of the job is the same—to oversee and maintain existing assets, assuring the hotel building(s) and its systems work together perfectly for both guests and employees. It’s a huge job whose complexities could have anyone reaching for the Excedrin. 

Here, we discuss three common problems FM’s are facing today and offer some remedies that draw not upon the power of acetaminophen, but technology. 

Headache #1:  “You have to BE there”

As the Director of Architecture and Construction at Hilton, Sue Burke is one of five people in charge of all capital expenditure projects for Hilton’s 61 owned assets. When she started, she was responsible for 7 properties; today that number has tripled to twenty-one.

Innovations in technology have dramatically changed the way most jobs are performed, allowing for more telecommuting and replacing many in-person meetings with video conferences. But some things just can’t be done over the internet. To really understand a property, Burke has to visit. “I wish I had a teleporter to zap me from property to property more often—without the time constraints of air travel,” she said.

Her wish is far from unique among those with jobs where physical presence is crucial, especially when the sites span the continent—or even the globe. And, aside from the invention of a teleportation device—which, unfortunately, was not announced as a feature of the iPhone 8— the constraints associated with physically BEING in a place aren’t going anywhere.

Remedy: Advances in Collaboration and Apps

“Collaboration is critical to success,” said Burke. While she still travels extensively, she also works closely with third party project managers, counting on them to serve as her extension. “They are my eyes and ears to ensure things are built and constructed according to specs,” she said. Using Cloud computing, project managers can now simply upload files and data, allowing FM’s like Burke to access it instantly—no matter where they are.

Not only has technology affected the way we can communicate with direct reports in the field, it has actually affected how decisions are made at some properties. Brian Gilchrist, Executive Vice President of Good Hospitality Services said GHS now uses an analytics package that makes decisions based on data about what is going on at each property.

Our proprietary AssetCALC™ software provides facilities managers even greater ability to manage from a distance. Stored in a secure, cloud-based environment, collected data is accessible anywhere with an internet connection. Facilities Managers can assess the details and condition of all major building components and mechanical equipment by logging into the software and viewing posted photos. But its functionality doesn’t end at allowing FM’s to see what’s happening at their properties, it also produces reports, charts, and graphs that forecast capital needs for individual buildings and portfolios. Best of all, it does it all at anytime from anywhere.

Will technology ever make travel for FM’s completely unnecessary? That’s doubtful (still barring the teleporter), but it is easy to see how these and many other advances have allowed tasks that required physical presence 20 years ago to be done remotely today. There is no telling what all tasks FM’s will be able to do from the home office in 2036!

Headache #2: Rising Construction Costs

With the uptick in construction that started in 2015 and is expected to continue at least through 2016, Burke is concerned about completing all of the projects approved for the 21 properties under her supervision. As the economy recovers, projects that have been put off for the past few years are being started, escalating costs and making it difficult to find contractors for smaller projects, she said.

Remedy: Expert Project Managers

While it may seem counterproductive, making the investment to bring an expert project manager on board is one way to help control construction costs. With an insider’s knowledge of the construction industry and processes, the right project manager can keep your project on time and within budget. We give clients access to the specialized expertise of their nationwide network of architects, attorneys, general contractors, and engineering firms. Partnering with an established, dependable firm allows you, through your PM, to reap the benefits of their comprehensive experience and knowledge as well as rely on the firm’s scalable processes and integrated technologies.

Headache #3: High-Speed Internet. Will we ever catch up?

According to a 2015 study by Hotels.com, free Wi-Fi is the most important factor to most travelers in choosing a hotel. “With 500 people staying at any given time using 3+ devices, it can be a challenge,” said Brian Gilchrist. A challenge because “free” isn’t the only requirement most customers need to be satisfied. It also has to work for their purposes at the time they want to use it. It often seems like at 7:30, all 500 guests want to stream their favorite show on their laptops while Skyping their family on their tablets and surfing Faceook on their smart phones. Each of these activities requires significant bandwidth, which is a limited resource in short supply at peak use hours.

It’s easy to feel discouraged. If we can’t provide fast enough speeds now, what’s going to happen next year? How long will we have to keep pouring money into our Wi-Fi network in order to keep up with new, more data-hungry technologies?

Remedy: Fiber Optics…and Time

Offering much faster speeds than traditional copper cable, the increasing availability of fiber-optic cable networks is making it possible for hotels to meet guests’ current needs and be prepared for the future. According to BroadBandNow.com, even if broadband speeds become 1000 times faster in 20 years, a single existing fiber-optic connection would still be able to support it. And, while the upfront cost is more than that of copper cable, a fiber-optic network will likely save money in the long term since it typically costs less to maintain, has less downtime, and requires less networking hardware.

In an interview with fiberinstrumentsales.com, James Roberts, CEO of Emprise Innovations and Technologies, LLC  noted that fiber-optic cable is much thinner than copper cables, which allows it to be installed more easily in existing buildings—getting rid of the need to bore large holes through the concrete floors and ceilings found in most hotels. It’s even thin enough to hide under decorative molding. Also, since fiber doesn't carry electricity, it can be run alongside power cables and is not subject to the many code restrictions that dictate how copper cables can be installed.

While Wi-Fi connectivity is the most important factor in choosing a hotel, the same study also found that its importance has actually fallen—the top factor for 30 percent of leisure guests and 50 percent of business guests in 2015 as opposed to 34 percent and 56 percent, respectively, in 2013. The study’s authors say that increased availability of free public Wi-Fi hotspots and enhanced mobile data plans have lessened travelers’ reliance on hotel Wi-Fi.

So, take heart! Not only is there a solution (albeit not an inexpensive one) that will fill your broadband needs for the foreseeable future, but—if the trend continues—more travelers will begin relying on data plans, public Wi-Fi, and personal hotspots instead of solely upon your network.