BSCs and their customers cite quality control as one of the main drivers for using autonomous cleaning equipment. Daily reports detail what areas were cleaned, what areas were missed, how long it took and even how much water was used.

"What's wonderful about a robot is you can see exactly where it has cleaned," says Train. "We don't have that same visibility with ride-on scrubbers." Robots also serve as inadvertent spies, says Train.

"The equipment we use has cameras that record everything around it while it's functioning, so it provides footage that is handy for security," she says. "It's been useful for slip and fall incidents or injuries that allegedly happened because of the robot. Or if a wall is chipped and the robot is blamed, we can look at the video footage and the cleaning path map of where the robot has been and have proof of what really happened."

Such recording capabilities and documentation can provide proof of productivity, not to mention resolve potential liability issues. But there are also intangible benefits to owning and operating autonomous equipment: In addition to being functional — and accountable — robots represent a commitment to innovative practices that advance the cleaning profession.

Oxford Properties operates a cleaning robot in the lobby of one of its properties during business hours to increase the robot's visibility and reinforce the company's commitment to innovation.

"We run it during the day as a promotion — and get additional cleaning of high traffic areas — rather than as a robust cleaner," says Train. "It's a way of saying, 'Oxford Properties and our cleaning partners embrace the latest in technology.' Then we run it at night to get the greatest productivity."

Similarly, LaserClean plans to use its robots during the day when Middlesex County Schools are in session to provide students with a hands-on learning experience and attract a younger workforce.

"Each generation of high school graduates is more and more native to the digital world," says Gretz. "So this seemed like a cool opportunity to leverage learning with emerging technology and teach them skills that are more relevant to the world we're living in."

Gretz foresees a day when schools partner with BSCs and robotics companies so that children who are interested in automation can code a robotic scrubber.

Meanwhile, LaserCean is already moving in that direction: The company has teamed up with the local economic development council to recruit high school students. "In Europe, the janitorial industry is a profession, but here it isn't," says Hill. "We want to change that."

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a frequent contributor to Contracting Profits.

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