Robotics and Automation
In our view, robotics and automation will absolutely play a major role in the future of cleaning, and for some environments they are already a ‘go to’ solution. It’s no secret that the cleaning industry has been slow to accept automated cleaning equipment, however it is now seriously gathering pace. You only need to look at the difference between Interclean 2016 and 2018 to see that the industry is now getting behind robotic equipment, with companies now realising the benefits that automated cleaning can bring.
Currently, automated scrubber dryers are being used successfully in a wide range of environments, including hospitals and healthcare facilities, schools, colleges and universities, food and high street retail stores, airports, over-ground and underground stations, and warehouse and manufacturing facilities.
As labour becomes more expensive, there is ever-increasing pressure on cleaning contractors to reduce costs, and companies need to find new ways to meet customer expectations. Robotics and automation offers a real solution to this challenge, and this is likely to be a driver behind the recent increased interest. Clearly pay-back on this sort of technology is a major discussion point, but with rental options now available that remove the need to up-front investment, the benefit to customers of incorporating robotics and automation can be felt immediately.
Automating cleaning tasks is about offering flexibility, along with cost savings and improved standards, and many of our major customers are already enjoying these benefits. The feedback that we continue to receive is that using a robotic machine gives the operative time to do detailed cleaning, which often gets missed if they are spending time pushing a floor cleaning machine around.
There is also the element of interaction and user interface to consider. Now that we can clean complex floor areas quickly and efficiently, the next step is to utilize computers to provide a huge amount of management information as part of the Internet of Things. Remote management of automated machines is already possible, and an invaluable feature of automated cleaning, but inevitably this will evolve to provide an even deeper level of information
It’s important to remember that automation is an ever-changing journey, and we can’t afford to become complacent. Robotic machines that were introduced to the market just under two years ago are now being upgraded to newer models with even more features and benefits. For example, with our own robotic scrubber dryer, we are now seeing mapping of cleaning zones that previously took 1 hour, now being completed in just 1 minute. Plus, it is now even able to drive itself to the cleaning start point, and clean multiple areas during one cleaning cycle. Operatives can also set the cleaning start time – meaning cleaning can be done at a time to suit.
Undoubtedly, over the next few years the industry will see a greater choice of automated cleaning machines and increased competition. Currently there are several robotic machines in development from major manufacturers that will prove an interesting addition to the market. Some of these can be programmed to return to a docking station to refill and charge themselves, so it will be fascinating to see the impact that these will have on the industry over the coming years.
Robotics still plays an integral part in our strategy and will continue to do so going forward. We also see it as a real positive that more autonomous machines are coming to market this year as we really believe that this is the future. We do not believe that there is a beginning and an end to automation in cleaning – it is very much a journey, and one that we are extremely excited and proud to be a part of.