As if cleaning for perception isn’t reason enough to push for strong flooring programs, BSCs should also be mindful of the potential for cross-contamination via floors. People set purses and briefcases on the floor, then move them to their desks and vice versa. This has the potential to transfer dirt, bacteria and viruses to countless surfaces throughout a facility.

Hill comments that it’s not just building occupants moving pathogens around. The different tools and accessories used by BSCs could be adding to the problem. Janitors should be trained to use specific tools and equipment when cleaning restroom floors, and allocating others for use on office and hallway floors. Without programs like this, contamination is likely.

“Another consideration is the potential for floors to pick up a sticky residue from repeated disinfection or incorrectly diluted chemicals,” says Hill. “These sticky floors have the ability to attract and hold soil and pathogenic microorganisms.”

Excess chemicals cause floors to look very soiled and gray. Hill says the best method to remove sticky, tacky residue is to rinse floors with clean water. The floor then remains clean and fresh in appearance.

One sure way to keep floors contaminant-free is to incorporate autonomous floor machines into service offerings. This equipment keeps a steady pace and regulates chemical usage.

Robotic Value

Experts agree that intelligent floor machines standardize an operation, improve quality and enhance outcomes. Clients want a healthy environment, and robotic floor machines give them that.

“A robot eliminates the nasty, grimy mop and the dirty water you dealt with before,” says Dave Thompson, director of education at the Academy of Cleaning Excellence in Orlando, Florida. “Not only are autonomous floor machines more sanitary than a mop and bucket, but they also save time.”

Hill agrees and adds additional benefits of robotic floor machines:

They clean both hard and soft surfaces.

The scrubber can be programmed to work at any time, while people are in the building or when the building is empty.

Interchangeable gel battery packs offer continuous run times.

Units can clean all corridors and common areas during one shift.

The machines provide consistent floor care.

Robotics takes the sting out of decreased staffing — turnover in the labor force is high and expensive.

Managing the equipment can boost development of the custodial staff. They are involved in the entirety of the process — they prep the unit, start it, monitor it and clean after daily use.

The machines use continuous clean water and conserve it. Fifteen gallons usually cleans a large facility where other options can require up to 60 gallons.

Robots never call in sick.

One benefit that experts agree on is that BSCs who incorporate autonomous equipment can streamline their service offerings. Employees who previously spent time cleaning floors are now freed up to do detailed work. This includes regular disinfection of high-touch points like handrails, doorknobs and elevator buttons.

“The use of these technologies let technicians use their time to handle critical surface processing in the war against invisible, infectious pathogens,” says Thompson.

Reallocating staff is just one way BSCs can benefit from incorporating robotic equipment. In fact, experts agree that autonomous floor machine purchases can provide a rapid return on investment (ROI), depending on several factors:

The amount of square footage that will be cleaned every day.

The loaded labor rate of the employee that will be assigned alternative tasks.

The initial cost of the machine (Thompson says some can be leased, and range from $30,000 up to $60,000 to purchase).

“From the numbers I’ve seen in the past, the ROI is usually around 18 to 24 months,” says Carrizales.

Thompson says BSCs must convince themselves that investing in robots to clean floors has value before bidding on jobs where they would be used.

“It doesn’t matter what you paid for anything — it’s what you’re going to make with it that counts,” says Thompson. “Your clients don’t need to know, in your bid, that you’ll be using robotic floor machines.”

He adds that clients don’t care how the company they hire cleans, as long as it’s up to par every day. The BSC performing the cleaning is selling them a program and the robots are part of that program. The advantage is that BSCs using robotics might be able to get more completed in a shift when compared to a competing bid that doesn’t include robotics.

In-house operations, like airports, use more robots because they look at the long-term benefits, says Thompson. Yet most BSCs don’t.

“We have to increase the frequencies of cleaning, considering the pandemic. People use the environment over and over again, which increases the risk of COVID-19,” he adds. “You need to change your mindset and go beyond your present boundaries. Use these machines to their full potential.”

Ultimately, a good floor care program is a great investment for building owners and management. When prospective clients tour a building, they want to know the building is well cared for and a place they want their staff and potential clients to see.

“I’ll say it again — you only get one chance to make a good first impression,” says Carrizales.

Heather Larson is a freelancer based in Tacoma, Washington.

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Keys To A Successful Floor Care Program