The Ichinoyu, a traditional hotel in Hakone that has been in operation since the Edo period, is making efforts to enhance customer service quality and lower prices through digital utilization. In addition, the hotel is reforming work methods for its employees. As part of these initiatives, Ichinoyu has introduced the IoT solution from Gravio. The hotel was able to quickly implement the system with limited personnel and budget, resulting in improved productivity and better customer service.
Mr. Ohno Our company manages nine hot spring hotels in the Hakone region. With a rich history dating back to 1630 during the Edo period, our objective is not to cater to the high-end market, but to provide affordable and comfortable services to a diverse range of customers. To achieve this, we have employed chain store management techniques, which is a unique approach in the hotel industry, to enhance operational efficiency and pass on the savings to our guests through "cost-effective and high-quality services."
Mr. Ohno Yes, by utilizing information technology, we are boosting our business productivity and using the gains to enhance customer service. We are also incorporating digital technologies to drive operational improvements. The hospitality industry, like others, is facing a shortage of staff, but by fostering a more appealing work environment through digital transformation, we anticipate attracting more talented individuals and dedicating more time to customer service. President Ogawa is currently leading these initiatives and advocating for business reform with the management philosophy of "redefining conventional ideas about lodging and promoting a more fulfilling daily life experience through lodging."
Mr. Imaizumi For instance, we are advancing the digitization of our operational manuals, implementing an optical character recognition (OCR) camera to automatically record water and gas meter readings, and introducing LINE WORKS company-wide to improve employee communication and collaboration. Additionally, we are reducing the reliance on paper documentation and utilizing the Zoom web conferencing tool for internal meetings. As new initiatives, we are evaluating the adoption of serving robots and cleaning robots, among others.
Mr. Imaizumi Yes, that is correct. We are investigating the potential of business reform through IoT and AI, such as monitoring hot spring facility operations with IoT sensors or using cameras to automatically detect unauthorized entry during night-time hours. As part of these initiatives, we have conducted research on various IoT products and services and discovered Gravio in the process.
Mr. Imaizumi We were impressed by Gravio's no-code tool, which allows us to construct an IoT system without programming, and the availability of various sensors tailored to our needs. Furthermore, the low entry barrier offered by the affordable starter plan was a significant factor in our decision to adopt Gravio.
Mr. Ohno Our company's president encourages embracing new challenges and has established a culture of "try first, learn from failure." Given this, we made the decision to swiftly implement Gravio in line with this approach.
Mr. Ohno Gravio was applied to several tasks with the goal of improving efficiency and ease of work through IoT. One such task was the automated tracking of hot spring facility operations. Improper management of hot spring control equipment, such as valve opening and closing, can lead to malfunctions and negatively impact guest service or result in increased utility costs. In the past, human errors were a common occurrence due to the absence of a monitoring system, but Gravio was introduced to address this issue.
Mr. Imaizumi By installing a Gravio wireless double switch near the equipment and establishing a protocol to activate the switch after each daily operation, the information is automatically recorded in a Google Spreadsheet. A program checks the spreadsheet at a designated time each day, and if a record is missing, the responsible person is notified via LINE WORKS.
Mr. Imaizumi Basically, I carried out the implementation in my free time from my primary HR role. Gravio, being a no-code platform, allowed me to work efficiently with limited time. The Asteria blog provided ample configuration information, enabling me to complete most of the work by following the instructions provided. There were some initial challenges, but Asteria provided exceptional support through their support desk, responding promptly and thoroughly to my inquiries via email and arranging direct web conferences with a representative. Thanks to their attentive support, I was able to implement the system in a relatively short time, despite working alone.
Mr. Imaizumi Additionally, we installed Gravio's human sensor at the entrance of the inn. Upon detection of a customer, an instant notification is sent to staff via LINE WORKS. During peak check-in and check-out times, a staff member is always present at the front desk, but during other times, many staff members are working in the background. With the automatic detection of customer arrival, the front desk staff can be prepared to welcome them, enhancing the quality of customer service, even in these situations, without the need for customers to ring the bell.
Mr. Ohno By installing Gravio's door opening sensor on the bathroom stall doors, we introduced a system that automatically records the frequency of bathroom use. This enables optimization of bathroom cleaning personnel allocation based on the previous day's usage. Our field department schedules all work with precision, down to 15-minute increments, however, with the implementation of this Gravio system in the cleaning department, the appropriate number of personnel can now be assigned to clean the bathrooms without any over or under allocation.
Mr. Imaizumi Yes, we self-installed all Gravio sensor devices. The installation process was uncomplicated and clear, with only a few instances requiring some trial and error, such as when the distance between the sensor and gateway was too great for effective communication or when the angle of the human sensor needed adjusting. Nonetheless, the installation process was generally straightforward.
Achieving a Comfortable Environment for Both Customers and Employees with Gravio Utilization
Mr. Imaizumi When introducing new systems in the workplace, our objective is to minimize any temporary disruptions and create systems that are easily used and deemed convenient by all. If a system is introduced in an incomplete state and causes inconvenience, it may not be adopted in the future. Therefore, we continually refine the systems with ease of use for the workplace in mind.
Mr. Ohno We are currently investigating the feasibility of automating temperature control in our restaurant using Gravio. Temperature management in restaurants is delicate and customers may feel chilly even if they were comfortable with the temperature at the start of their meal. Cooking with gas stoves also affects the temperature in the restaurant, causing fluctuations before and after meals. Perceptions of temperature can vary between individuals, even if the actual temperature remains constant, and can also differ between customers and employees.
Therefore, by installing Gravio temperature and humidity sensors in the restaurant, we can visualize the accurate current temperature and proactively understand temperature changes caused by air conditioning operation, resulting in a more comfortable temperature management.
Mr. Ohno As previously stated, our aim is to improve productivity by effectively utilizing Gravio's IoT solution and, in turn, provide better and more affordable services by increasing the time and personnel devoted to serving customers. For instance, in the case of temperature control in the restaurant, it is essential to not only create a comfortable environment for customers but also a comfortable working environment for employees. Our goal is to create a comfortable environment for both customers and employees, rather than focusing on one group exclusively.
Mr. Imaizumi Honestly, we received very few complaints or requests as Gravio was introduced at a reasonable price and with prompt support, and we also received comprehensive support from Asteria. If I had to suggest something, I feel that the potential for use in a broader range of applications would increase if the sensors could be used outdoors and the range between the gateway and the sensors could be extended.