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Rolling in More Ways Than One

Posted 11 Oct 2019 by Vicky Shum

The Continuous Innovation Process of
Robotic Floor Scrubbers

robotic banner 4 robots.jpg

One of the most exciting and disruptive technologies for the facilities services industry is automation and robotics. Robotic floor scrubbers have been in development for decades, and they’re now reaching maturity in terms of being a viable cleaning device. 

As well as freeing up team members for higher value work, robotic floor scrubbers can reduce detergent and water usage, clean more effectively and consistently, and save energy. The human and environmental benefits are substantial.

At Assetlink, we’re continually and carefully trialling new and innovative technologies to find how we can increase value to our clients and customers through our continuous improvement and innovation process (CIIP). The aim is to ensure that new systems and devices actually add value and deliver a positive ROI, whether that’s time and cost saving, or higher productivity and service levels.

Over the past four years, we’ve seen improvements in the technology and with the latest entrant to the market, autonomous cleaning is close to being able to access safe, reliable and efficient technology when it comes to robotic floor scrubbers. The most advanced models are designed to work safely and efficiently alongside our team members so they can focus on high-touch point areas and customer focused interactions.   

The big game changer is the combination of a traditional cleaning machine and AI. Robotic devices that are able to learn and adapt to their environments, will enable the success of robotic floor scrubbers in our industry. With AI, robotic scrubbers can safely operate and avoid obstacles in complex, real-world environments. 

According to figures from Safe Work Australia, the work of a cleaner can be more hazardous than construction work.  The average rate of workplace injury in NSW since 2010 is 11.4 workers compensation claims per million hours worked in cleaning and related industries, compared to 9.5 for construction and 7.5 for mining. Slip and fall injuries are the most common type of accidental injury, after vehicle accidents, that personal injury lawyers litigate. With single compensation claims frequently running into hundreds of thousands of dollars, these injuries cost Australian businesses millions of dollars per year.

This is where robotic floor scrubbers, powered with AI, can play a critical role. Automatic braking and parking brake actuation reduces the risk of accidents, protecting both customers and team members. Advanced devices can get optimal water recovery, even in tight turns, to further minimise the risk of slip-and-fall injuries.

In the US, Walmart introduced autonomous robotic floor scrubbers, armed with computer vision and AI capabilities, into 300 of its stores earlier this year. The self-driving machines can be programmed to travel throughout the open parts of the store, with routes easily reprogrammed as store layouts are changed. The devices have been so successful that Walmart has expanded the cleaners to 1,500 stores.

Another recent trial installation in the US is at DHL, where floor-scrubbing robots have been deployed in warehouses. The robots feature a vertically-integrated technology stack and cloud-connected software, and employ dynamic mapping to adapt their route on the fly – avoiding obstacles, responding to unexpected messes, and adapting to new floor layouts.

At Assetlink, we’ve been testing robotic floor cleaners since 2015. Our approach has always been to conduct various trials at multiple sites to really test the efficiency for our teams and our customers. We find this approach gives us plenty of understanding of performance in different environments and enough data to make decisions on future investments into robotics.  We look at operational efficiencies as well as safety and performance.

Robotic floor scrubbers hold great potential for the industry. They empower frontline team members to focus on higher priority focus areas which impact customer experience, while providing a consistent, high quality cleaning service. With AI, robotic floor scrubbers can maximise productivity and improve cleaning consistency, safety and coverage.

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