Part two of this three-part article demonstrates how robotics can help BSCs better service their customers.

Robotic machines include series of sonar sensors, which can “see” about 30 feet out and 360 degrees around. This allows the machine to navigate a space and detect and stop for obstacles and people.

The robots are preprogrammed with cleaning patterns for open spaces, or the manufacturer can work closely with the BSC to create customized maps for complex layouts. As an early adopter, Kapi’olani’s custom set-up process took nearly eight months, but that’s been shortened to two weeks for newer buyers, says Crawford.

Like many building service contractors considering automation, Crawford was interested in the promised productivity gains of an autoscrubber that operates independently. He hasn’t been disappointed.

“Prior to the robots, it took one guy on a walk-behind (autoscrubber) eight hours to cover about 75 percent of the 30,000 square feet of flooring,” says Crawford. “Now we cover all the flooring, and repeat in high-traffic areas, in five hours.”

Even better, the robots eliminate human error to deliver better, consistent results.

“The floors look 100 percent better,” says Crawford. “You’re not relying on an operator who’s performing by a clock. The robot doesn’t think about lunch. It goes at the speed it’s supposed to, to do the job it needs to.”

That also means far less burnishing is required, which represents another cost savings.


Greener And Safer

Crawford’s traditional walk-behind scrubbers used 125 to 150 gallons of water a day and $160 of cleaning chemicals a month. Reducing those numbers was important to his hospital client.

“The hospital is curing diseases and they feel they owe it to the community to reduce their chemical dependency and indoor air pollution,” he says.

The machines feature onboard recycling, which reuses the water and reduces the amount of water and chemical needed to clean by 85 percent. The financial gains from water and chemical savings aren’t monumental, but they are enough to repay the robotic investment in less than 10 years. More importantly, they allow Sodexo’s cleaning program to better meet its client’s environmental goals.

Also important to the client is the safety of building occupants. Initially, Crawford was concerned that unmanned machines could pose a safety risk. What if they went rogue and ran over things or people? He discovered there are many safety features built into the robots. His three machines have had no accidents, despite running 10 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week for more than a year.

“All it would take is for a robot to run into one patient and the program would be sunk,” says Crawford. “But the robot is constantly scanning ahead, and its reaction is like 1/100th of a second. In fact, we had more near misses or accidents when our staff were manually running floor machines.”

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Robotic Cleaners Give BSCs A Leg Up
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Managing Fears, Expectations, Costs Of Cleaning Robots