Casinos, KPIs, Dashboards, and Sustainability Warriors
But how would you know? If things are going downhill, such as gross intake, not only will you not know it but you won’t be able to take steps to turn things around. Conversely, if the money is just flowing in, how will you know and, even more important, how will you know why this happy set of circumstances is happening?
With many casino operators now becoming much more focused on sustainability—if for no other reason than to enjoy the cost savings it can provide—measuring and monitoring have never been more important. To help us in this endeavor, what has evolved in the past 10 years or so are web-based or computer-based “dashboard” systems designed to do the heavy lifting when it comes to calculating such things as energy use, water consumption, fuel consumption, waste, and a number of other “metrics,” as they are sometimes referred to when it comes to sustainability.
We also hear these metrics termed “key performance indicators,” or KPIs. A KPI takes measuring metrics a step further. With a KPI, we are looking not only for measurable values but goals and objectives…to see how effectively a facility, company, or, in this case, a casino is achieving its specific goals and objectives when it comes to sustainablity. For instance, if the goal in a Las Vegas casino is to reduce water consumption in 2016 by 15 percent, but we find in July 2016 that it has reduced water consumption by only 7 percent, then we know that we have a ways to go to meet our goal.
The History of Dashboard Systems
While sustainability dashboard systems are relatively new to casino operators as well as hospitality owners and managers in general, they have actually been around in one form or another for more than 40 years. Originally they were called business intelligence (BI) systems and were known best as data delivery systems. These BI systems were developed to provide top executives, such as those in a bank or at a stock brokerage, with up-to-the-minute computer-generated facts and figures regarding sales, costs, profits, cash flow, and so on.
They were considered very high tech in their day and looked very similar to the old room-sized IBM machines of the 1950s and 1960s. They were even featured in movies, most prominently in the original Thomas Crown Affair, with Steve McQueen.
The word dashboard did not come about until the 1990s. No longer were room-sized computers necessary; a desktop computer could do the job. Further, with advances in the personal computer industry, presenting information in a graphical format—instead of just numbers—was becoming more and more commonplace. Early developers likely coined the term “dashboard” because automobile dashboards were often used as a model for the software programs designed for these systems. The goal was to provide a quick and easy way to present a variety of information all on one screen.
How Dashboards Work
Earlier we referred to dashboards as data delivery systems. This is a fairly accurate description of what dashboards are and what they do. Data is delivered into these systems using a personal computer, tablet, or similar device. The type of data entered or retrieved includes the following:
- Facility fuel and gas consumption (for HVAC systems, etc.)
- Waste removal and recycling
- Water consumption
- Transportation costs (e.g., fuel used by company vehicles)
- Amount of consumables used, such as paper products and ink cartridges
- Number of cleaning items used, such as cleaning supplies and chemicals (most specifically, non-Green cleaning products because they can have the biggest impact on the environment)
When beginning the process, casino owners and managers should enter information not only for a month or two but going back two or more years. Why? Because this information will be used to create a benchmark for future improvements.
Also, it will “smooth out the data.” Often there are spikes or dips in, for instance, energy consumption. Data collected over a longer period of time will provide a more robust and accurate overall picture; data taken over only a short period of time may distort the metrics. Now that data has been inputted into the dashboard system, casino owners and managers can use these systems to compare, say, past and current electricity usage and related costs. And, for KPI purposes, also track their progress toward reducing that consumption and its expense
Additionally, an effective dashboard system allows users to do the following:
- View current data. Using dashboards, owners and managers can access the most recent stats regarding resource consumption and related data. Some web-based systems provide this information graphically, numerically, as well as in detailed printed reports. Having up-to-date information allows owners and managers to see current trends and needs and to react sooner.
- Track and monitor costs. Dashboard systems allow casino and hospitality owners and managers to track many of their operating costs in great detail. If costs in a specific metric—water consumption, for instance—increases dramatically on a month-to-month basis, owners and managers now have this information and can take steps to determine why it is happening and where there might be a problem, and then take steps to address it.
- Provide environmental focus for staff. Using consumption information, casino and hospitality facilities that are trying to reduce their property’s environmental footprint can focus on those areas where problems can be addressed quickly, as well as make plans to address those areas that might take more time. Never underestimate the value of your staff when it comes to sustainability. They can become your “sustainability warriors.” They often have firsthand knowledge of how the property operates and can see quickly ways in which to cut consumption.
- Create a culture of sustainability. Many facilities are now using dashboard information to create what is referred to as a “culture of sustainability.” Such a culture means that all casino staff members—and even vendors servicing the property—are focused on the many ways in which they can personally reduce property consumption and costs.
- Compare data. Let’s say you have two or more comparable casinos. Dashboard systems can be used to compare multiple properties of the same size and use, by means of the data collected from the dashboard data for each property (In some cases, one dashboard system can be used for multiple properties). Why is, for example, property A using so much more water and electricity than property B? With the necessary data in hand, steps can be taken to answer this question and institute corrective measures. (See Sidebar: Tips on Using a Sustainability Dashboard System)
Interestingly, many hospitality facilities are now finding that operating their facilities in a Greener and more sustainable manner not only reduces costs and consumption but also can be used as a marketing tool. This can be true of casinos as well.
Operating in an environmentally responsible way tells patrons that the facility is more efficiently operated and that it is taking steps to ensure the health and comfort of guests and to protect the environment and natural resources, all at the same time. Further, it demonstrates that casino owners and staff are taking proactive steps to protect the health and welfare of future generations as well.
Stephen P. Ashkin is CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report, and improve their sustainability efforts. He is also the coauthor of The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies.
Sidebar: Tips on Using a Sustainability Dashboard System
- Select a dashboard system that is intuitive, easy to use, and cost effective; there are many systems available, and they can vary significantly in ease of use as well as costs.
- Get broad stakeholder agreement on why the dashboard system is needed and the goals of the program: to reduce consumption and cost savings.
- Make sure that staff and vendors are aware of the initiative and encourage their support.
- Collect data going back 24 months or longer, if possible.
- Sustainability goal setting is very important; set specific consumption reduction goals.
- When first starting, collect data that is easily accessible, such as water or electricity use, to get to know the system and the information it can provide.
- Designate an individual or team to input data on a set basis and be responsible for it.
- Set specific deadlines; review data, for instance, every three months; check trends in consumption and whether these trends correspond with project goals.
- Report data and accomplishments; make sure to reward specific departments if they helped the facility meet one or more of its sustainability goals.