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Reviving the hospitality industry through lean management

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Image source: Francesca Saraco | Unsplash

Lean management is a popular practice in manufacturing, but the concept is being adopted by other industries to help them cope with the ever-changing business landscape. One industry that could benefit from applying lean management methods is hospitality, which is estimated to become a $4.5 billion industry by the end of 2022, according to the Hospitality Global Market Report 2022. Ensuring continued growth while facing multiple global crises and new customer demands brought about by the pandemic will not be easy for an industry that is mainly about servicing customers.

A survey conducted by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) found that customer satisfaction among 6,000 travelers fell to 2.7% over the course of 2021-2022. In addition, ACSI score has steadily decreased over the past decade, with 71 in 2022. Adopting lean principles can help hotels stay on top of shifting customer expectations.

What Is lean management?

Lean, according to the paper “Lean management in hospitality: methods, applications and future directions” published in the International. Journal of Services and Operations Management, is “a bundle of principles, methods and actions for the effective and efficient configuration and examination of the whole supply chain.” 

The study pointed out that creating value without generating waste is the goal of lean management and that value is any action or process that customers would be “willing to pay for.” The researchers stressed that lean management tools help identify and eliminate waste of resources, and as waste is eliminated, quality improves while production time and costs are reduced.

Meanwhile, authors of the study “Lean management in hotels: Where we are and where we might go” published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, explained that anything that buyers consider non-value adding to a product or service is a cause of losses. 

The comprehensive framework developed by Malin Malmbrandt and Pär Åhlströmto and published in  the paper “An instrument for assessing lean service adoption” for International Journal of Operations & Production Management shows how to apply and maximize lean benefits. It points out that lean service is enabled by employee training, management commitment and appreciation, infrastructure, and resources.

Customer identification value, customer involvement, waste identification, workplace design flow, alignment of organizational processes, standardization, continuous improvement, result visualization, and multi-functional teams are all important lean practices.

Evaluating lean methods

Not all lean principles are applicable to the hospitality industry. The 2016 paper “Lean Hospitality – Application of Lean Management Methods in the Hotel Sector” from Procedia CIRP examined the relevance of lean management methods to the needs of the hospitality industry. The methods evaluated are based on their performance using the following criteria:

  1. Effort and costs for implementation: Ideally, resources should be used efficiently and at a low cost to ensure a short amortization period.
  2. Time to visibility: Lean often fails due to missed results in the short term, so this criteria stresses the short-term visibility of positive effects.
  3. Impact on performance KPIs: A company’s management makes decisions based on performance KPIs. Performance results from the lean method need to be “measurable and convincing.”
  4. Sustainability of outcome and application: Lean-thinking aims for the long-term benefits of the organization. It takes time for people to change their mindsets. As a result, this criterion has also been incorporated into the validation model.

Using the evaluation process, the researchers came up with the top 20 lean hospitality methods (see Figure 1). 

Successful lean practices

The hospitality industry has undoubtedly discovered the benefits of the lean phenomenon. In the hotel sector, Marriott in the U.K. conducted workshops on lean thinking and captured higher customer satisfaction rates in the post-implementation phase of lean. Sally Toister, the former senior director of operational excellence for Marriot Hotel, said in an interview with the CX Network podcast theatre that one of the ways they implemented lean strategies in their hotels was to refine food menus for guests who stayed five or more days. 

Many guests staying at Marriot for longer periods usually dined outside, and since the hotel provided only standardized similar meals, they realized they were losing out their sales to other restaurants. Sally and other executives mobilized their experienced chefs to tailor different food offerings to cater to their customers’ needs but optimized costs by using the same ingredients for standard food meals. To track the performance of the project, they used a loyalty metric like the composite score (likelihood to recommend). They did not only boost sales in their menu but also drove up customer satisfaction.

Yukai resort in Japan is cited in the 2016 study mentioned above as a model for successful lean application. The establishment aims to eradicate wastes while not compromising quality of services. The resort provides half the standard market price of lodging services with the same industry-standard quality and less staff. Dinner, for instance, is served in a buffet manner to cut staffing costs, while receptionists work in areas that need assistance in their free time. Moreover, all the lodging duties are divided among all the employees. Training on Kaizen (continuous improvement) is conducted weekly and monthly by the managers.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the 22nd edition of Performance Magazine – Print Edition.

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