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David McMane, Director of Facilities, Hotel Arts Calgary

Technology makes his job easier, but purchasing often comes down to a good supplier relationship.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010
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With its abundant modern art, rich interior design and luxury touches, it's difficult to imagine that the high-concept Hotel Arts Calgary was once a Holiday Inn.

A team of local investors re-branded the downtown property as the Hotel Arts, a design-centric independent hotel, in July 2005. It's now a 175-room property with two full-service restaurants and event space.

Keeping the hotel beautiful -- and functional -- is the responsibility of David McMane. As director of facilities, McMane is responsible for purchasing decisions for housekeeping and maintenance. He came to the hotel in July 2007 after working at corporate hotel chains Canadian Pacific Hotels then Delta Hotels and Resorts since 1994.

"The opportunity to work for an independent, I don't know if it struck something with me," he said. "It was the opportunity to build the product. We have owners and managers, but we don't have that corporate office driving us in a certain direction. It really gives us that flexibility and the ability to be creative."

McMane spoke with Buyer Interactive about supplier relationships, sustainability, and the search for the perfect toilet paper cover.

What do you look for when you are deciding on new products to purchase?
Durability. For a lot of the things we use in the housekeeping and maintenance department, they have got to last. I've seen a lot of products that are nice aesthetically, but in terms of keeping them around and being able to reuse them, they don't stand up to the constant use and abuse you see in a hotel setting. You have to balance both: It has to be aesthetically pleasing but it has to last for awhile.

Describe the testing process for a product before you decide whether to purchase it.
We do a fair amount of research first. We have our ideas as to what direction we want to go and what products would help point us in that direction. If we're deciding on a new media unit for the guestroom -- we recently purchased TVs for the guestrooms -- part of the process was finding out what would be the best for our infrastructure. We did research based on that. We talked to our in-house movie provider, we talked to various suppliers, and we tried one out and used it in the guest room. We monitored reports of guest concern with operating it and with clarity of picture. Then we moved forward. It took about a month. Smaller products that we buy will take less time to verify that's what we want to use.

What’s the best way for a supplier to get your attention?
I'm not an in-your-face, be on my doorstep every five minutes kind of guy. When I'm searching for a product, the easiest way for me to find it is a Web site. Once I've done my research and I want to contact someone, that information needs to be there and that person has to be available to speak to me right away. I like to pick and choose rather than people coming in and saying, "Can I have five minutes of your time?" I don't have five minutes to give them.

Hotel Arts has a sophisticated design with many surfaces, textures and materials. Was figuring out the maintenance tricky?
Yes. I surround myself with some pretty talented individuals. The creative side of things goes a long way. When we look at a product, we want to know how easy is it to fix or get new parts or replacements. That investigation goes into the research aspect of it before we make any decisions. When I run into a problem and I need to get something fixed, they come up with a solution nine times out of ten.

Do you use any eco-friendly cleaning products? What influenced that decision?
All of our in-room chemicals and the chemicals we use in our laundry are eco-friendly. This one is a tricky one. In my previous experience, I found, yes it's eco-friendly, but it's not doing the cleaning job you need it to do. You have guests coming in and out of rooms, so you want to make sure they are cleaned and sanitized. As far as killing viruses and germs, the [old products] weren't able to do it. For our current company, that was one of their mandates for themselves. They saw that as a fantastic opportunity for their own company. It made our transition that much easier. They did the testing and the quality control on the product before they brought it to our attention.

Does environmental sustainability play a role in other purchasing decisions?
With our TVs, we wanted to make sure how they were created had that in mind. The company we dealt with, that was a focus of theirs. Replacing something 100 times when you can replace it twice is one of the things we look at as far as durability. I would rather reuse something. Again, it comes down to aesthetics and durability.

What's the toughest item you can recall sourcing?
A cover for toilet paper. In our guest rooms, you have the toilet paper in the holder and a spare toilet paper roll for the guest. I want a way to cover it because it's an eyesore. It's not a pleasant thing to look at. One company had a minimum purchase of 10,000 units. I have 175 rooms. I'm never in my lifetime going through that. If I were a corporate hotel with 20 or 30 properties, it might be doable. So I'm still searching and still looking. And hopefully I will find it.

What trends and innovation are you seeing among new products?
We're dealing with fairly old infrastructure within the hotel. A lot of things are becoming wireless. The machinery, like air conditioning units, are able to talk to us and what they need to do to get the efficiency up. I find that to be increasing. The units we have within our hotel, they're of an old nature. You can fix them by turning a wrench. Now we have the ability to turn on computer, dial directly into the unit ourselves and we don't even have to go in and touch it. We're going to be using that a lot more. For in-room stuff, it's the wireless entertainment in the room. People spend an exorbitant time away from their homes. When they get to the hotel, you want them to feel at home. Providing entertainment options is really import -- things that tie into computers and iPods, things that connect wirelessly to their computer and display on the TV. Things like that are becoming more important to us as we look at what our guest room will look like in the next five, 10, 15 years.

How has the economy affected your purchasing or your relationships with suppliers?
Being fiscally responsible has been a mandate for wherever I've been. If you need a product and you can prove you need a product, you have to purchase it. As far as the economy goes, I've got one supplier who I do a lot of business with, and they've made it easier on me. There used to be a spending floor. If you didn't reach it they would charge you shipping. Now, through my relationship, they've waived [the floor]. They've recognized that the opportunity to keep business and grow business is more important.

What would you change about your current suppliers?
The one supplier I do have a relationship with, the Web site interaction is fantastic, the customer service is fantastic. That's why I do a lot of business with them. I push products to them first, and if I can I'll choose to do business with them. I don't have to have a storeroom full of products. I know if I order something today I'll have it tomorrow.

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