Unlike tech companies’ tentative foray into facility services, Diversey in Charlotte, North Carolina, recognized the arrival of robots as an immediate opportunity to transform the industry — and address its customers’ common grievances.

“We continuously hear from leaders of floor care that our customers need to do more with less,” says Ryan Greenwald, TASKI sector marketing director. “We’re an industry that has a high-level of turnover. Any consistency that you can put into place is valuable to customers.”

In 2015, Diversey  acquired Oregon-based Intellibot and integrated robots into its floor equipment line.

Though all of the aforementioned brands may use automation technology differently, each machine relies on a series of sensors and navigation systems that help create and store predestined paths and drive the floor cleaners onward. It’s an incredible feat of engineering; just getting the machine to avoid obstacles requires math beyond most people’s level of comprehension.

In some cases, the equipment can even collect valuable data — such as cleaning times and coverage — to help facility managers further increase efficiencies.

“There is a whole element of the telematics giving you a kind of reporting at fleet level,” says Beers. “These are truly connected devices. There is an incredible amount of data that can be mined.” 

As far as cleaning ability, most manufacturers say the process is not much different than existing automatic floor care machines.

Regardless of how these machines may differ, floor cleaning robots provide three main benefits: labor reduction, improved cleaning and reliable consistency — and with labor adding up to 56 percent of facility cleaning managers’ total budgets, there is little debate over the business advantages.

“Labor is the largest expense for our customers,” says Fussy. “But most of our customers are not looking to reduce labor. They are looking for solutions to enhance their cleaning programs. Autonomous technology will allow them to better utilize the labor they currently have. They can get more work done in the same amount of time.”

Van Bidell, Diversey regional sales manager, agrees and adds that robotic equipment, “does exactly as told. If you need to clean at a higher frequency, you don’t require the extra labor to do it.”

With the time saved from autonomous cleaning, manufacturers say janitors can be delegated to more pressing tasks, such as cleaning restrooms and other high-touch areas. 

“It’s smart enough to know where it is,” says McElhattan. “We can sit it on a basketball court and it will understand which direction it is facing and where it should go next. We can take a map, or the robot can draw its own map, of an airport or conference center. Our job is to make it simple.” 

STEPHANIE BEECHER is a freelancer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Additional reporting by Corinne Zudonyi, Editor-in-Chief.

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