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How Robotic Floor Scrubbers Help Solve Labor Shortages & Drive Labor Efficiency

November 04, 2021 9:30 AM by Tennant Company

Posted in Staffing & Personnel Robotic Cleaning Machines Cleaning Challenges

T7AMR cleaning near a customer

Labor pressures are always top-of-mind for facility managers, but right now, it seems like a perfect storm: People are leaving jobs more frequently than ever amid the so-called “Great Resignation” of 2021, and labor shortages in every industry are driving up costs. Moreover, the labor challenges are coming when facilities are striving to meet higher standards for cleanliness and disinfection.

A new breed of sophisticated robot cleaning machines, like robotic floor scrubbers, are proving one of the most powerful solutions to help directly address the imbalance of rising cleaning demands and limited labor resources. As more and more facilities consider putting a robotic floor scrubber on their cleaning team, it’s important to understand how these new robotic floor scrubbers are different from the previous generation of robotic technologies — and how they can best be used to support human staff and address a wide range of labor challenges.

AMR Floor Scrubbers: A New Kind of Robot

This new breed of technologies are called autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). Compared to autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) commonly used in manufacturing and other industrial applications, AMRs are not limited by physical tracks or magnetic beacons. Instead, they use sophisticated onboard artificial intelligence (AI) systems to safely navigate dynamic indoor spaces and even follow complex processes. Leading robotic floor scrubbers are remarkably similar to the cleaning machines employees are already familiar with — just enhanced with an array of sensors and an onboard AI “brain” interface — so they’re easy to learn for end-users.

The “Co-Bot” Approach to Using Robotic Floor Scrubbers

The most important thing to understand is that robotic floor scrubbers aren’t replacing cleaning staff. They’re working alongside human employees to make cleaning teams more efficient. These “co-bots” are freeing human employees to focus on more complex, strategic cleaning initiatives — and can help to improve employee job satisfaction. This is part of a more significant trend in robotics technologies: A recent report showed collaborative robots are among the fastest-growing types and will account for 1 in 3 of all industrial/commercial robots sold by 2025. 

How Robotic Floor Scrubbers Solve Key Labor Challenges

So, if robotic floor scrubbers aren’t replacing the hard-to-find human employees on your team, how can they help you solve your biggest labor challenges? Here are three important ways:

1. Enabling Labor Redeployment to Drive Cleaning Efficiency

Robotic floor scrubbers can consistently and methodically handle essential floor cleaning while your staff simultaneously does other core cleaning tasks. This allows you to redeploy labor to other tasks — and, in particular, focus human employees on more complex, higher-value work that only a human can do.

Key Strategy: Focus Staff on High-Touch Cleaning

Most facilities are maintaining a higher frequency of facility cleaning and surface sanitization and disinfection to protect staff and customers. You can leverage a robotic floor scrubber to handle higher-frequency floor cleaning while redeploying staff to focus on wiping down and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and other key infection-control measures in the facility.

2. Reducing Staff Burdens to Increase Job Satisfaction and Fight Turnover

By shifting the repetitive, relatively unengaging floor cleaning work to robotic floor scrubbers, you can relieve your employees of one of the more monotonous responsibilities. This also frees up time for staff to focus on more engaging tasks — whether that’s more complex cleaning tasks or responsibilities like inventory control or customer service — that can help boost job satisfaction and help reduce the high costs of turnover rates.

Key Strategy: Highlight Co-Bots to Attract and Retain Labor

With unprecedented labor shortages and even higher turnover rates, highlighting a robotic floor scrubber as a unique and notable benefit to employees can help you stand out to potential and current employees. You can showcase how your investment in this innovative technology helps reduce the time an employee spends on mundane, repetitive tasks, gives them more time to focus on higher-value tasks, prevents staff from getting overburdened, and can even support professional development by giving employees a valuable technical skill set of managing a robotic machine.

3. Protecting Employee & Guest/Customer Health

Ongoing COVID-19 and flu concerns mean that protecting the health of all those in your facility remains top-of-mind — and continues to pose unique challenges. The great news is that robotic floor scrubbers cannot get sick. Many facilities deploy robotic floor scrubbers to handle floor cleaning in higher-traffic spaces and other areas where person-to-person transmission risk might be higher. This helps to protect staff, as well as guests and customers, by reducing interpersonal exposure risks. And once again, robotic floor scrubbers enable labor redeployment, so staff can focus on surface disinfection and other infection-prevention protocols. This benefit is not unique to COVID-19; it’s a strategy that will remain valuable from a public health perspective long after the pandemic is over, helping to reduce the transmission risk of everything from the common cold to the flu norovirus and more.

Robotic Floor Scrubbers in the Real World: Read the Case Study

Facilities of all types are already using robotic floor scrubbers to support their staff, address labor challenges and drive cleaning performance. Check out this short case study to see how a Tennant AMR floor scrubber quickly became a valuable team member for a hospital in Maryland. The robotic floor scrubber helped them do more with less — redeploying labor to ensure they’re efficiently meeting and exceeding cleaning and safety standards to protect patients and staff, as well as their brand reputation — and giving them a clear return on their investment in a matter of months.

T380AMR Robotic Floor Scrubber cleaning in a store


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