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Raising the bar

Marina Bay Sands has added structure to its pursuit for superior performance by adopting the Business Excellence Framework.

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After preparing intensively for the assessment, MBS won the SQA for its Hotel, F&B and MICE operations on its first try this year.

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One of MBS' key strengths is a culture that is "laser-focused" on the customer, but which is also able to adapt to a changing environment by leveraging innovation and technology.

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Robotic process automation, combined with radio-frequency identification, is the technology that drives faster turnover of rooms once guest keys are dropped into the hotel's Express Check-Out boxes.

WHETHER it's using data to ensure that rooms are ready when guests arrive or serving seafood from sustainable sources, Marina Bay Sands (MBS) has built a culture around continuous improvement and innovation. To help guide its efforts to achieve better results across all aspects of its operations, the integrated resort (IR) sought to add a structure to its processes by aligning them to the Business Excellence (BE) Framework.

"We realised that we already had many of the pieces, but the BE Framework really did add structure to what we were doing, and a methodical way to look at things. Going through the assessment process also allowed us to reflect on our organisation to uncover potential areas for improvement," said Ian Wilson, senior vice president of Non-Gaming Operations at MBS.

The company embarked on its BE journey just last December. After preparing intensively for the assessment, MBS won the Singapore Quality Award (SQA) for its Hotel, F&B (food and beverage) and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) operations on its first try this year.

Beyond learning more about how it can improve as an organisation, going through the certification process also helped staff to bond in their effort to pass the stringent assessment.

"It's actually a great team-building exercise that helped to build cohesion across the organisation," revealed Mr Wilson.

INVESTING IN INNOVATION

One of MBS' key strengths is a culture that is "laser-focused" on the customer, but which is also able to adapt to a changing environment by leveraging innovation and technology. To this end, the company is very focused on data analytics tools that provide management with the insights to constantly raise the bar in terms of customer service.

One example of this is the hotel's operations centre, which uses analytics to forecast guest demand to ensure that it has the right amount of resources in the right place at the right time. Through the use of data, it is able to determine how long guests have to wait for their bags, for instance, before they become dissatisfied. The hotel can even forecast demand by room type so that, on any given day, it knows which room the housekeeping staff should be cleaning first to ensure that they are ready when guests arrive.

"As we look at continuous improvement, the data makes it easier for us to be able to see cause and effect. And what we try to do is democratise that information across the organisation so that we can have many people looking at how they can improve," explained Mr Wilson. "Data has helped us zoom in on the 20 per cent that drives the 80 per cent of customer satisfaction, and it's helped us to allocate resources more effectively."

MBS has also gone big on automation to help ramp up productivity in the face of a tight labour market. It uses robotic process automation (RPA) - a type of software with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that can handle high-volume, repeatable tasks - to automate tasks across multiple systems.

For instance, RPA, combined with RFID (radio-frequency identification), is the technology that drives faster turnover of rooms once guest keys are dropped into the hotel's Express Check-Out boxes.

The IR also uses physical robots, such as robotic vacuum cleaners, that can help lessen the workload of its staff. "If we can remove low-value work for our employees and allow them to focus in on providing outstanding service to our customers, that's definitely the way to go," added Mr Wilson.

GETTING EVERYONE ONBOARD

Getting an organisation as big as MBS - which employs over 10,000 employees - to be on the same page when it comes to continuous improvement and business excellence is no mean feat.

Achieving such an alignment requires building a culture where people are comfortable with innovation and new ways of doing things, and are given the resources and tools to constantly improve. Finally, it also needs leaders who are willing to foster such an approach.

"It's fine to have all sorts of data and analytics, but if people aren't really utilising these tools, then it really doesn't make a difference. It's easy to talk about it but it's hard to build an entire organisation that really embraces that and is willing to experiment with it," said Mr Wilson.

GUIDED BY VALUES

Beyond having a customer-focused culture, MBS has also adopted a set of core values that guides the organisation in seeking business excellence. These values of integrity, passion, respect, creativity and teamwork form the backbone of OneMBS, a service culture that incorporates "doing the right thing", which manifests itself through activities that give back to the community and promote sustainability.

One example is the organisation's efforts to promote "green" meetings held at its property. Among other things, this involves not having pens and paper at every location.

On the F&B front, the company is contributing to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to support its efforts to build sustainable fish farming. By doing so, MBS is helping to create a supply chain of sustainable seafood. It has set itself a 2020 target of sourcing half of the seafood it serves from sustainable sources and through WWF, is now supporting the transition of seven aquaculture projects to sustainable practices.

Going forward, Mr Wilson believes that while achieving SQA is a mark of pride for MBS, it is only the beginning of a journey towards business excellence that never ends. "The SQA will certainly help strengthen our brand, but I think it is also a reminder to all of us that we can't stop in our journey. We want to continue to raise the bar as we go forward."

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