Preventive maintenance

Last week I visited a hotel of a major brand to do a technical due diligence. The condition of the FF&E was outstanding although the last renovation took place in 2009. The reason for this: preventive maintenance.

Preventive maintenance programs show incredible effects on the condition of the FF&E and the hotel over all. I know this is not breaking news or the result of years of investigations. But why do we always find hotels or every one of us knows hotels, which look after a few years as if the last renovation was a decade ago?

Almost all brands have in the their standards procedures for preventive maintenance. Based on the procedures, all hotels should look great and be in good shape. We can also assume that the overall the mixture and behavior of guests is more or less the same and we will hardly find hotels, which get regularly devastated by their clients.

The difference is the team on site and the hotel management. This is true of course for all aspects of the hotel operation. The implementation of a preventive maintenance program is of course a cost factor. It will take approximately one staff more of the engineering team for a hotel of 150 to 200 keys. It also requires a good line of communication between house keeping and engineering. Housekeeping sees and checks all rooms and public areas on a daily basis. Room maids or their supervisors have to record the defects and have to forward them to the engineering team. A quality control of a cleaned room has not only to include the proper making of the bed and cleaning of the bathrooms. It has also to include a survey and identification of new scratches, little defects –also the check of all lights (I can tell you that this is not standard for many hotels!). At the end someone has to control the repair or the making good. A procedure has to be implemented, which includes the recording, the information and the control of repair or making good. To take each room every year out of order for deep cleaning and repair has also to be part of the program. The works will last a day or two and this can easily be carried out in time of low occupancy. It just has to be planned.

I know that these procedures exist. There are also digital solutions around which are part of property management systems or communicate with them. However, from my experience it’s always the human factor, which is the reason for success or failure of these programs. If house keeping and engineering departments do not communicate well or do not communicate at all as I have experienced in many properties, the results will soon be visible.

And this costs of course time and money. But I think it is well invested money! Well executed programs can save a lot of money by extending the life time of the interior fit out substantially. Therefore, owners of managed and also leased properties should have an eye on the implementation and execution of preventive maintenance programs. The review and control has to be part of the asset management. Asset management often focuses only the business figures, but leaves out maintenance. This is only discussed once the operator or lessee requires new investments.

The idea of preventive maintenance is to identify and repair small damages or defects on a regular basis. By doing this it is avoided that damages get bigger and start to influence the impression of the FF&E and the design. Of course preventive maintenance is not limited to furniture. Scratches on painted walls, damaged wallpaper, silicon joints, damaged or dirty carpets etc. have to be dealt with as well – in my opinion these items are the most important ones as they are really visible.

There is one more experience I want to share with you: if you have to look at the condition of a hotel, ask about the fluctuation of the chief engineers. If chief engineers are ten or more years on board, you usually do not have to worry, but if there is a new one every few years, chances are quite high that the hotel is in bad shape.