padlock security concept

Even with all the labor advantages, clients may still be leery of letting autonomous cleaning equipment into their facility. One of the biggest concerns is security.  

“Some of my clients have highly secure environments. They run background checks and put cleaners through full body scans,” says Barrios. “Now I’m going to bring in equipment that takes pictures, or creates a detailed floorplan of their office, or ties into their Wi-Fi?” 

While most equipment runs off its own network separate from facility Wi-Fi, there are still some data safety concerns that distributors should keep in mind when promoting the equipment. In particular, Schneringer notes machines that use cameras are a primary source of apprehension. End users will want to know where those photos are being sent to and if removal is possible.  

Sawchuk agrees, noting that manufacturers should provide servers for customers, and ensure that local data security laws are applied to the machinery. Any data, video or audio signals from the equipment stored in the cloud should also be protected.  

“Be sure robots have special data security software and each unit is tested and certified by the manufacturer. Ask manufacturers to provide a data security and privacy security statement,” Sawchuk adds. “Where additional security is required, it should be simple to disable the Wi-Fi and or SIM card so no signal is generated, however that would include the technical data. This, of course, will make it more difficult to remotely support the robot.” 

Offering technical support and training should be top-of-mind for distributors offering robotic floor equipment. It is certainly the first concern of customers. Barrios emphasizes that end users won’t care as much about square footage cleaning capabilities, but will focus more on what training and troubleshooting/maintenance options are available.  

This is where distributors, who build their reputations on customer relationships, can shine. As equipment experts, distributors should expect to do some hand-holding in the beginning and help with initial programing.    

“The sales rep or service technician needs to be thoroughly trained by the equipment manufacturer so they can effectively set up the initial delivery and offer on-site training for the customer,” says Sawchuk. “More importantly, there needs to be a service technician capable of providing trouble shooting, minor repairs, adjustments, and any required service over the life of the unit.” 

Conversations about return on investment (ROI) will be inevitable between distributors and end users, Schneringer adds. Factors such as expected lifespan of the equipment and how many years it will take to achieve ROI can vary.  

“People need to take the lifespan of the equipment into account,” advises Schneringer. “I’ve had customers expect a seven-year ROI on equipment, but this calculation might be different. There will be a lot of advancements in this kind of technology in those years.” 

Some, though, predict a shorter ROI if the conditions are right. Depending on square footage requirements, cleaning frequencies, the cost of the machine/maintenance and total labor costs, some instances see ROI being achieved between six months to a year, Sawchuk notes. New designs for units with dust mop, dry vacuum, wet scrub or sweeping capabilities make this a distinct possibility.  

Sawchuk stresses that initial price should not be an issue and instead of selling on price, distributors should sell in a consultative way. Focus on the specific needs of customers and how autonomous equipment can provide sound financial and cleaning results.  

“If cleaning and service robots are sold correctly, there are no ‘losers’,” Sawchuk continues. “Dull and repetitive floor cleaning tasks become a thing of the past and cleaning workers become operators. Meanwhile, labor shortages are addressed, improved cleaning is delivered, and better customer experience results can be provided.”  

To successfully keep pace with the seemingly inevitable rise in robotic cleaning machines, distributors must be ready not only with the equipment itself, but the resources to provide training, consulting and overall assistance with the transition for end users.  

Amy Milshtein is a freelancer based in Portland, Oregon. 

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Robotic Floor Equipment Delivers ROI, Labor Solutions