With an eye on the future, the cleaning industry is in the midst of profound transformation, embracing innovation and incorporating new technologies at rapid pace. And no wonder. The many businesses and sectors the cleaning industry serves, most notably retail, are already using artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous mobile robots (AMR) to bring greater efficiency, productivity, and safety to their day-to-day operations. As a result, they are seeing measurable improvements to their bottom lines and enhanced customer experiences. Industrial cleaning–particularly floor care–has taken note.
Last Wednesday, in partnership with the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), two members of Brain Corp’s leadership team hosted a webinar covering what businesses should know about autonomous mobile robots and the value that AI and robotics can bring to a retail floor care cleaning program.
Leading the webinar were Brain Corp Senior Director of Global Business Development Sandy Agnos and Michel Spruijt, VP and General Manager for Brain Corp Europe. Together, these industry veterans gave attendees a historical overview of robotics and detailed how today’s innovations are being used to advance cleaning automation. They also introduced three primary commercial robot market segments, and discussed the top verticals currently employing this transformative–many say, disruptive–technology.
Here are five key takeaways from the live webinar:
- This is happening
Both established and emerging markets are catching on to autonomous technology for an expanding range of applications. And while North America is more advanced in the deployment of autonomous mobile robots, especially in retail, other markets around the world are catching up. In fact, tech analyst firm ABI Research forecasts that global shipments of mobile robots across all verticals will grow from roughly 200,000 shipments this year to more than 6,000,000 shipments by 2030.
According to Agnos, businesses that are most successful at deploying robotics, are those that view it as a paradigm shift. “Robots are a tool to help employees do their jobs better. (Retailers) need to look at all of their activities and clearly identify where they can save time and money with the use of automation,” she said.
- Floor care robotics takes off
Commercial floor care has been a natural landing spot for AMRs because robots are particularly good at handling daily tasks that are considered too dull, dirty, or dangerous for humans. Moreover, people can easily train and deploy their robotic workforce to handle these essential tasks. The benefits are myriad: there is an improvement in cleaning consistency and coverage, and team members are moved to higher value tasks. This boosts productivity while lowering absenteeism and turnover. Data-capturing capabilities make measuring performance and proving compliance easier than ever. It’s no wonder dozens of major retailers, including grocery chains, have made significant investments in floor care robotics in the last couple of years.
- Finding the right floor care vendor
For those actively looking for an autonomous floor care partner, the key to success is understanding the following end-to-end considerations and best practices:
- To minimize liability, look for fleet-wide safety certification for operation in public spaces, and unified data security and encryption across all robots
- Reduce management complexity with the ability to manage large fleets of robots from multiple vendors
- Power decision-making with data analytics reports made available through centralized reporting
- Ensure cross-functional operation and standardized user experience for reduced training time
- Key deployment best practices
Once you’ve found a suitable floor car manufacturer that offers autonomous options (a list of vendors is available within the webcast), you will want to make sure your team is following these best practices:
- Train staff on the ins and outs of working alongside mobile robots and how to use touchscreens
- Maximize coverage by programming robots with as few people around as possible
- Segment the space to be cleaned in order to optimize tank and run time
- Clear objects in the cleaning space while pre-sweeping
- Embrace flexibility by programming multiple routes that vary based on season, time of day, or cleaning needs.
- Keeping pace with new innovations
The value of AI and robotics is clearly not lost on retailers, who are facing labor shortages, high turnover rates and surging digital competition. While many retailers are focused on floor care initially, other robotic applications are gaining traction, including automated delivery, shelf-scanning analytics, and more. These applications can enhance customer experiences, maximize team productivity, and reduce wear and tear on employees. According to ABI Research, the number of autonomous mobile robots in retail specifically for cleaning, delivery, and inventory management is expected to grow to 150,000 units within five years.