April 14, 2021

A Day in the Life of a Robot Operator

Floor care
Gavin Donley
Gavin Donley

Recently, the Brain Corp team was given the opportunity to head down to the San Diego International Airport to watch FlagShip Facility Services employees in action as they used BrainOS®-powered commercial robotic scrubbers to clean the floors.

FlagShip, a national cleaning and maintenance contractor, deployed their first robotic solutions three years ago, and have slowly expanded their investment to multiple US airports.

We spoke with Gus Solis, Director of Operations; Ana Hernandez, Facility Technician; and Ramon Gaxiola, Manager of Night Operations; about the experience of using new technology, and the benefits of automated robotic floor scrubbers in general.

Ana, who works nights, has been FlagShip’s main robot operator for a year and a half, and has been a member of the FlagShip crew for about two years. Ana said she is proud of her responsibilities in managing the robotic scrubbers, including training other technicians to use them. They come to her when they have questions about how to operate the robot, or if something needs to be fixed.

Hernandez speaks of her self-driving scrubbers fondly, calling them her “partners,” and revealing that she even has names for them: one is called “La Pinta” and the other “La Niña,” both named after the ships Christopher Columbus set sail with in 1492. We asked Ana what her first thoughts were when she found out she would be using the robotic scrubbers: “First of all, it’s impressive to use the robots, because they make my job easier,” she said. “It’s like an employee for me. I am able to do other things in another area, and she does the floors.”

She went on to explain that the robots provide relief to employees in terms of manually cleaning the airport’s large floor space. Overall, Hernandez believes that operating FlagShip’s BrainOS-powered floor scrubbers have been huge positive — both for improving cleaning performance at the airport, and for her personally. She said feels proud knowing how to operate the advanced cleaning technology.

Her supervisor, Ramon, who has worked with FlagShip for three decades, agrees that employees are happier using commercial robotic scrubbers because it enables them to focus on different tasks as needed. However, he said it took a little bit of time to warm up to the robotic scrubbers. “At first, it was a fear of the unknown,” he said. “Now the employees are able to see there’s been no cuts or reduction in staff, and we can complete more work. They see that the robots are partners, not replacements.”

He also acknowledges Ana’s important role with managing the autonomous cleaners. “We got them a few years ago, and basically we trained 3-4 employees. But Ana is the master — she handles it and trains other employees.”

Ramon believes that with the COVID-19, cleaning is more important than ever, and will continue to be extremely important even after the health crisis subsides. He explains that while the automated robots clean the floors, employees can use electrostatic cleaning methods to get deeper sanitation on high-touch surfaces.

On a regional level, the impact of these automated robots is visible to Solis, FlagShip’s Director of Operations for Southern California. Solis said he uses the digital cleaning performance metrics offered through the cloud-connected BrainOS technology to help him see exactly how much commercial robotic scrubbers are being used at different airports, which he can then report to the clients. He estimated the robotic scrubbers at the San Diego airport generate an additional 8-12 hours per day in productivity that facility technicians can use for higher value tasks.

Solis said airports in general are leaning into technology, especially as the vaccines are rolled out and travel starts to increase.

“All the airports are putting in their bids to access technology,” Solis said. “FlagShip has just purchased two Whiz vacuums (powered by BrainOS), which is great because the robots all use the same technology, which makes it easier. We’ve got to keep up with the times, and the times are going in that direction.”

Advanced cleaning tech is moving forward rapidly across a variety of verticals, and airports are not going to be left behind. FlagShip is a pioneer in robotic cleaning methods, and its dedication to technological advancements is helping its clients enhance cleaning performance and improve traveler experiences.

To learn more about FlagShip and the robots they use, check out our case study, or read these blog posts from FlagShip: Putting the AI in Airports, and When High-Tech Yields High-Level Employees. Also, click here to see BrainOS-powered robots operating in airport facilities.

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