Sprucing up Changi's toilets with technology

SINGAPORE - Smartphones and other high-tech gadgets seem to have invaded almost every part of our lives, so it is no surprise that they are even revolutionising Changi Airport's toilets.

Housekeeping supervisor Sumathi Sellapah, 45, is right on the frontline, helping to pioneer a new way of dealing with the old-world problem of keeping loos clean.

When she spots a leaking tap or a broken flush, she no longer needs to waste time looking for the contractor, but merely scans a QR code in the toilet and enters the fault into her work smartphone that has special software.

The phone then transmits a message to the contractor in an instant. This is just one small step to help raise productivity in a tight labour market.

Previously, inspections and faults were recorded in writing or through telephone calls.

The real-time inspection technology as well as an instant feedback system for passengers to rate airport staff and facilities were introduced three years ago to improve service standards.

There have been "quantifiable results" - cost savings, manpower reduction and better service, said Mr Foo Sek Min, Changi Airport Group's executive vice-president (corporate).

The airport has saved more than $2 million in costs annually and reduced the housekeeping and maintenance headcount by 69, or about 5 per cent so far, added Mr Foo.

Response time to faults has also improved, with almost all problems resolved within half an hour.

Airport users can also give "instant feedback" on counter staff, immigration officers, retailers and cleaners.

The system, which averages about 1.5 million feedback submissions a month, also provides data for analysis and further action, noted Mr Foo.

"This way, we can know which cleaners are not performing. If the same cleaner gets negative feedback wherever we deploy him, we will re-train him," he said.

Such data also helps housekeeping supervisor Xia Min, who oversees six toilets, to keep track of the ones that need cleaning.

"It helps me to know more about what's going on in each toilet," said the 28-year-old.

The number crunching has allowed the airport to select 110 cleaners from its 1,250-strong crew for re-training last year.

Changi wants to build on the success of its e-inspection system to cover features like escalators, lifts and even passenger loading bridges.

"We want to know things like whether the air-con is switched on and if the equipment is working (in advance)", said Mr Foo.

The move to automate feedback gathering and inspections is one of the measures Changi is taking to lift productivity in a tough labour market.

The airport plans to roll out an automated trolley collection and deployment system within the next year.


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