December 15, 2020

7 Myths & Facts About Robotic Floor Care

Gavin Donley
Gavin Donley

Robotic floor care is gaining acceptance as an efficient cleaning solution across a variety of key industries. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there are heightened cleanliness expectations for organizations of all kinds, from grocery stores to airports, so there has never been a better time to consider implementing this advanced technology. Although robotics has already proven its worth in some of the largest retailers in the world,  it’s still an emerging technology, so some facilities and operations executives may have misconceptions about the value and benefits that autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) can provide for cleaning. In this blog post, we’ll debunk seven myths regarding robotic floor care.

Myth #1: Autonomous robots can’t operate outside of tightly controlled environments.

Fact: When people think of robots, they often think of machines like swing-arm welding robots behind big safety cages used in traditional manufacturing settings, but the reality is that modern AMRs, such as floor scrubbers, can now operate safely in public commercial locations such as retail and grocery, malls, airports, schools and more. That’s because today’s robots are equipped with advanced artificial intelligence (AI), 3D cameras, and an array of sensors to help them navigate in busy environments, seamlessly avoiding people and obstacles. Robotic floor scrubbers can be found in major chains such as Walmart, Kroger, and Sam’s Club, as well as regional chains like Schnucks and Giant Eagle. To date, BrainOS®-powered robotic cleaners have amassed a total of more than 3.1 million autonomous hours of operation in public spaces, collecting operational data and insights that are used by engineers to further enhance their safety-first architecture.

Myth #2: Autonomous cleaners don’t work collaboratively with human workers.

Fact: Humans and autonomous robots work well alongside each other, which is why some people call AMRs “cobots,” short for collaborative robots. Although they operate autonomously, robotic scrubbers still require some human interaction. For example, in the case of BrainOS-enabled units, workers train the robots on their cleaning routes during initial deployment, or when they need to adjust cleaning routes to accommodate new store layouts. The robots also communicate with their human operators on a regular basis—for example, sending a text alert when they finish their routes or require assistance. This means that while their roles may change in some capacity—usually by having more hours to spend on other key duties—human workers still play a key role in overseeing the robot.

Myth #3: Robotic scrubbers don’t clean as effectively.

Fact: Floor-cleaning robots are actually capable of cleaning more thoroughly than ride-on scrubbers and manual mopping for several reasons: 1) they are often more methodical and consistent, moving at the same rate of speed throughout their pre-programmed routes, 2) they follow their exact routes, and 3) they are less prone to errors, which reduces potential damage to property or merchandise. If there is an obstruction in a robot’s path, it may have to re-route, thereby missing a spot that needs to be cleaned. However, with cloud-based visual heat maps (in the case of BrainOS-powered applications) it is easy for managers and operators to review as soon as the routes are completed. Customers of robotic solutions regularly comment on the enhanced level of clean that autonomous solutions provide compared to traditional methods.

Myth #4: Robotic cleaning performance is difficult to verify.

Fact: Most robotic floor scrubbers collect data as they clean, and are able to provide KPI metrics to operators and supervisors in near real-time through graphical, web-based portals, and daily email reports. These metrics can include cleaning coverage, hours of operation, how long a robot is run in autonomous mode vs. manual mode, and how many cleaning routes are executed over a designated period of time. With this information, facilities and operations managers can gain valuable insights that help them keep cleaning results on track, and ensure they meet corporate compliance standards. Compare this metric-based approach to traditional cleaning approaches, where it is impossible or difficult to get detailed proof-of-work metrics.

Myth #5: The ROI for cleaning robots is only about dollars and cents.

Fact: By deploying autonomous floor scrubbers, businesses get much more than significant cost savings. They also get improved cleaning efficiency and additional hours of productivity that can be reallocated to other critical tasks that robots can’t do, like sanitizing high-touch surfaces or taking care of customers. Robots also enhance brand value by providing a very visible sign of an organization’s commitment to both cleanliness and innovation. Additionally, there is reduced damage to equipment and merchandise, thanks to the sensors that prevent robots from colliding with displays. Finally, robots provide valuable cleaning KPIs that can be used to both optimize and verify cleaning performance on a daily basis. The ROI for robotic scrubbers goes far beyond financial terms when looking at these different benefits.

Myth #6: Robotic floor care requires extensive set-up / implementation.

Fact: Most autonomous floor cleaning solutions can be implemented quickly and efficiently because they typically require no custom infrastructure (or retrofitting), or specialized training. The only thing that cleaning robots require, at least in the case of BrainOS-enabled robots, is the installation of at least one small “home marker” (a placard) to designate the starting and finishing point for the robots’ routes. BrainOS-powered robots can operate autonomously without any special connection needs, like WiFi or cellular signal—they only require an LTE signal to upload operational metrics. Autonomous floor scrubbers can typically be deployed within a few hours or days depending on the scope and requirements, and require little-to-no IT assistance.

Myth #7: Cleaning robots require advanced technical skills.

Fact: Much like the implementation process, the operation of autonomous floor scrubbers is surprisingly simple as well, particularly in the case of BrainOS-powered robots, which leverages simple, graphical user interfaces that are designed for a range of non-technical individuals. This means that facilities and operations staff can easily learn to operate and manage a robotic cleaner right from the get-go. Robots equipped with BrainOS technology also leverage a proprietary “teach-and-repeat” methodology in which the operator trains the robots on its cleaning routes. These routes are then saved into the robot and can be activated with the push of a button. The idea of operating robots may sound daunting, but these capabilities are meant to be easy for any worker to use.

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