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Robotics in the Cleaning Industry
Robots will have a big impact on the cleaning industry, but it may not be in the way you think. Rather than replacing employees, autonomous cleaning machines can maximize productivity, increase reliability and elevate janitorial employees' skills.
Robotic cleaning machines can assume repetitive, labor-intensive tasks like floor cleaning. Employees will be free to focus on high value jobs that require a human to complete, and those employees may value the opportunity to operate robotic cleaning machines, which can increase job satisfaction and skill sets. Additionally, using robotic machines can help minimize losses from employee absenteeism, high turnover and equipment accidents.
While the advantages of autonomous cleaning machines are many, the machines may not be right for everyone. Here are some questions to ask if you're considering robotics.
1. Do I have the right application and expectations for autonomous machines?
Robots are most efficient and appropriate for wide open spaces that are cleaned for at least three hours a day, five days a week. Automated floor scrubbers can be trained to clean multiple routes per building and navigate around fixed objects. However, they cannot go up or down ramps and narrow hallways or corridors may provide challenges, so consider your facility before moving forward.
2. How well-positioned is the partner to enhance the technology as robotics change?
Robotics in the cleaning industry is very much evolving. Manufacturers are working to produce both machines and software that meet diverse needs. When considering partners, look for a company with a long history in the cleaning industry, plus expertise and resources to update the software, which can improve performance and functionality.
3. Once the machine arrives, how quickly can we use the machine?
Be sure to ask how long it will take to be up and running once your equipment arrives on site. For example, will it take several weeks for mapping of the facility to be completed before an autonomous cleaning machine can be used? Understanding the vendor’s timeline for deploying an autonomous cleaning machine will help you choose the right partner for your use case.
4. Who will train my staff?
Determine if the vendors you’re considering will provide start-up training as well as ongoing and consistent education and support for your team.
5. What impacts will using robotic cleaners have on my cleaning staff?
Rather than replacing employees, robots work in tandem with cleaning teams. Employees will need to prepare areas for robotic cleaning machines by moving floor mats, signage, carts and setting up routes. Plus, robots will need to be taught new routes when furniture or fixtures change. Additionally, cleaning staff can be reallocated and/or better coordinated so they can perform other tasks now that the robot is cleaning the floors.
Robotic cleaning machines will change the cleaning industry, but they're not right for every situation. Be sure to research the capabilities — and limitations — of autonomous cleaning machines to ensure it’s the correct fit for your facility.