Although I personally love automation (particularly online tools that make engagement on social media so much easier) but innovation and automation at workplaces used to make me really nervous. The introduction of new technology and innovation often translate to enhanced productivity and the laying off of workers who have been made redundant. The recent learning journey at Sheraton Towers Singapore surprised me with a brand new perspective where innovations at work not only enhanced productivity but also retain workers and make their tasks Easier, Smarter & Safer.
While having a quick dinner at ‘The Dining Room’, the folks at Sheraton Towers Hotel shared with us how they were one of the first hotels in Singapore to embrace NTUC’s job enhancement initiatives for the hospitality sector. The hotel injected S$1.3 million in April 2013 for their housekeeping department to upgrade their equipment which reduces employees’ risks to potentially harmful chemicals and scalding by hot iron. These new equipments also helped to increase the productivity by letting staff iron shirts in less than 5 minutes each.
Without much ado, our hosts brought us behind the scene to the less glam part of the hospitality industry – The Housekeeping Division Laundry Room.
Other than washing the bedsheets, pillow cases, hotel guest and staff laundry, Sheraton Towers Singapore is also one of the few hotels that also provide laundry drop off service for the general public. I bet you didn’t know about that! That’s their innovative ‘Laundry Chute’ where all soiled laundry from all over gets pumped into the laundry room.
The huge volume of washing explained the urgent need to upgrade the hotel’s laundry equipments to get the washing done cheaper, better and faster.
Once all the laundry are washed and reasonably dry,
the bedsheets and pillow cases will all go to this amazing machine which folds them neatly into convenient take and go bundles.
The clothes however will come to this Automated Ironing System manned by our talented auntie!
She just need to put the different parts of the shirt in their correct places.
And the magic begins. I personally like to call it the ‘Iron Man’ Machine – it looks like the mechanical parts that helps Iron Man put on his armour.
Check out the video below to understand what I mean:
The hotel also invested $110,000 to purchase a bed-lifting device (Ezi-Maid), resulting in their housekeepers’ jobs becoming easier. Their room attendants now do not have to risk injury to their back because the bed floats on demand!
This is the hydraulic pump that lifts the bed up to the desired height.
It’s so cool, you must check out the video!
Sheraton Towers Singapore innovation spirit did not just stop at these 2 initiatives. In June this year, the hotel tapped on the Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP) and implemented the FCS E-housekeeping Project – a streamlined process of room check-in involving reduced paperwork for room attendants. This is the central control desktop for the supervisors.
Each room attendant is armed with Samsung Smartphone that contains an app which helps track their speed and progress (Yes, it does sound stressful but I guess they are used to it). Once they enter the room, they will click on the ‘Play’ icon.
The information will be transmitted real time to the supervisors’ mobile app to let them know the progress and status of each room. This same information will also be made accessible to the Front Desk staff so that they can advise guest on room availability.
The mobile app also allow Room Attendants to report sales from room beverage and snack bar to facilitate faster check outs. Procurement can also use the information to accurately determine the amount of stock to purchase hence reducing unnecessary wastage.
As a result, 52% of Room Attendants received 7% increase in their gross salaries with a monthly productivity bonus of $100. In addition, the basic salary for Room Attendants was raised from $1,125.50 to $1,200. This is no mere feat considering that many of Sheraton Towers Singapore Room Attendants are matured workers and not technology savvy.
Sheraton Towers Singapore Proved Me Wrong
During the visit, Sheraton Towers’ showcased its projects and initiatives that have raised productivity and benefitted their workers. The hotel has been able to maintain a Singaporean Core and provide better jobs for all through progressive work practices such as raising productivity, job redesign, and implementing a Progressive Wage Model (PWM).
The Sheraton Towers Singapore is amongst the companies that recognize the need to be more agile in order to keep up with the changing economy. Since the downturn in 2009, the landscape of Singapore is no longer the same. Further, with the recent tightened control over the hiring of foreign workers, it is even more pressing for businesses to adapt quickly to these changes.
This is also what the Labour Movement has been mooting all this while. In the past, our GDP growth was around 4%, and this was achieved by 3% manpower growth and 1% productivity growth. The old formula that used to work for Singapore’s economy was:
3% (manpower growth) + 1% (productivity growth) = 4% GDP growth
This can no longer be the case because it is hard for foreign manpower to continue to grow at the same rate as before without causing problems here. So, if our manpower growth falls from 3% to 1%, we need productivity growth to go up from 1% to 2% so that Singapore’s economy can grow at 3%, which is a good result for a maturing economy like ours.
Labour Chief Lim Swee Say at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has shared the NEW FORMULA for Singapore to achieve a slightly adjusted, but still respectable 3% growth.
1% (manpower growth) + 2% (productivity growth) = 3% (GDP growth)
It is easy to see that we will definitely see a drop in our GDP if we do not improve our productivity. So effectively, what the nation needs to do is to up our productivity to counter the effects of the slowdown in manpower growth. So, what are the possible solutions?
1. Companies need to be Cheaper, Better and Faster (CBF) to be more productive and competitive;
2. Jobs need to be Easier, Smarter and Safer (ESS) for workers;
3. We need to Value Every Worker (VEW)
The Sheraton Towers Singapore has embarked on this journey early and has seen some early success as evidenced by their stronger-than-industry-average Singaporean Core, and also by their retention of mature and more experienced workers.
Instead of making workers redundant, the new technology and machinery adopted by the hotel has retained matured workers who would otherwise be unable to take on the strenuous work of lifting bed frames and mattress to effectively clean the room. Cost savings from higher productivity was shared with workers through raised minimum salary and increase in gross salaries with monthly productivity bonuses.
And you know what, the enhanced productivity also allowed more time for staff to provide personalised service and wow their guests. This return patronage by guests offers a stable base revenue and indirectly translates to greater revenue for the hotel and better job security for everyone.
Yes, I was wrong in my initial perspective. I am glad that Sheraton Towers Singapore has become a living example to show us how innovation and technology if used in the right way can enhance productivity and at the same time make task easier, smarter and safer for its employees.
Is your company ready to be the next Sheraton Towers Singapore?