Focus on Labor: Hoteliers Use Business Intelligence
to Spot Unnecessary Expenses
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Operators integrate data from time/attendance systems, PMSes to control
their largest variable expense
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PITTSBURGH, PA - May 27, 2009  – As rising labor expenses take an increasingly bigger bite out of property revenues, hotel companies are controlling the impact with business intelligence (BI) tools that provide new visibility into operating costs and profitability.

At most properties tracking labor costs is handled by automated time and attendance systems, but calculating labor as a percentage of revenue is still primarily a manual operation.  However, automated solutions that integrate data from third-party time and attendance and property management systems (PMS) are adding greater awareness of the role labor costs play across hotel groups.  Labor is the largest controllable expense for hoteliers, so fast response to inappropriate labor costs is enabling operators to make better decisions on staffing that improve profitability. 

ZMC Hotels in Duluth, Minnesota, is one company achieving results with the help of BI labor data analysis.  By using BI to automate the integration of daily labor costs and revenue data, ZMC has achieved significant results that include:

  • A 60% decrease in overtime expenses
  • A $4 reduction in daily costs per rented room
  • Creation of labor expense reports in less than half the time of manual processes.
ZMC uses a Business Intelligence (BI) system designed  for the hospitality industry called Execuvue® from Aptech Computer Systems. “The system takes our PMS statistical and revenue information and combines it with payroll data to produce what we call our ‘monster report’ that shows our overall labor expense as a percentage of revenue and the cost-per-room across our 36 properties,” said Stacey Lange, accounting supervisor for ZMC. “The system performs a three-dimensional data analysis process that enables us to see our expenses and revenue in one place and ranks on performance and correct labor expense variances weekly before they snowball at month end.”

Largest offenders on top

ZMC also uses BI to assess overtime expenses for each property. “Our reports rank our hotels by the percentage of payroll expenses to revenue per property,” said Raija Macheledt, chief financial officer for ZMC. “It is a very powerful measurement because we are constantly striving to schedule work so staff does not have to use overtime. The report tells us how well our managers are actually meeting that goal from department to department.” 

The reports are light years ahead of the old process of manually assembling overtime data in an Excel spreadsheet—the way ZMC used to do things before implementing Execuvue. “It used to take two weeks after a payroll period ended to produce a report,” said Lange. “Now supervisors can react more quickly because they have the reports three to five days after the payroll period ends. As a company, we’re more in tune with what our properties are doing and can manage them better. Plus, the data is more accurate because we have eliminated keying errors.” 

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Combining data sources is the primary strength

With mostly limited service hotels in its portfolio, ZMC has used Execuvue’s reports to achieve the $4 reduction in daily cost per rented room, chiefly by reducing overtime costs in housekeeping and laundry. The solution’s ability to combine data from multiple sources makes such a reduction possible. “Another hotel company that uses Execuvue takes month-to-date occupied room data divided by total labor hours worked to arrive at a percentage that is used to benchmark productivity across all their hotels,” said Cam Troutman, director of sales for Aptech.

“The best time and attendance systems deliver multiple reports by person, by hour, and other measures, but these systems do not have the ability to calculate productivity by occupied room and room revenue because they do not have this information from the PMS,” Troutman said. “Operators want to ‘mash these things together’ to measure productivity and maximize their revenue flow-through. This is one of the primary strengths of a BI system.”
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Cam Troutman
Quickly spot costs outside the norm

For another company using the BI system, Highpointe Hotel Corporation, it took Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina to reveal the importance of carefully monitoring daily labor costs.

“Because of the regional labor shortage after the storms we had to go to a weekly payroll in our New Orleans properties,” said Mark Pate, Highpointe’s assistant controller and IT director. “Our time/attendance system did not accommodate the flexibility we needed for daily, weekly, and YTD labor expense comparisons.  Now Aptech enables us to compare actual vs. forecast measured against prior year as often as we need to. We can quickly spot labor costs that are outside the norms. It might be an executive housekeeper has overstaffed, or maybe the front desk is using an inappropriate schedule. Execuvue highlights the variances in each property’s operating metrics.  Having current information on labor and other expenses as a percentage of revenue is a powerful management tool to control costs.” 

Aptech Computer Systems
Aptech Computer Systems, Inc., based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, leads the hospitality industry in leveraging change by valuing human relationships and applying technology to solve business problems for people. Incorporated in 1970, Aptech is a financial and operations technology solutions and service company whose products include state-of-the-art back office, business intelligence and enterprise planning products: Profitvue?, Execuvue?, Webvue? and Targetvue. Over 2,500 properties, including very large chains, multiple-property management companies and single-site hotels, utilize Aptech solutions to understand their financial and operational data.  By offering the hotel industry a solid resource of hospitality professionals, and through its proven ability to evolve technology offerings as the market dictates, Aptech is proud to have earned 100% customer loyalty.  Execuvue and Profitvue are registered trademarks and MyExecuvue? is registered to Aptech Computer Systems, Inc.  All other trademarks are owned by their respective holders.


 
Contact:

Aptech Computer Systems
Jill Wilder, Vice President
135 Delta Drive 
Pittsburgh, PA 15238 
Phone: 800-245-0720 or (412) 963-7440
Email:  vueinfo@aptech-inc.com
http://www.aptech-inc.com

Media Contact:
Julie Keyser-Squires, APR
Softscribe Inc.
Julie@softscribeinc.com
(404)256-5512
http://www.softscribeinc.com
 


 
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