A discussion about budget is a good way to lead into possible investments in new floor equipment, which may include robotic and other technically advanced options. Although many of these floor cleaning machines have high upfront costs, they can create efficiencies by freeing up janitorial staff to do other tasks.

“People see robotics as equipment, but when I look at a robot, it’s an FTE. Yes, they need a little more hand holding when you start them and when you finish them. But at the end of the day, they can do as much, if not more, than one person,” says Ellison. “We are not looking to remove any employees from spaces, but if we can use them in more high-profile ways, doing more detailed tasks, it’s a win-win.”

McGarvey notes that high-end robotic floor cleaners must be set up, cleaned, maintained and stored correctly, aspects that need to be taken into consideration when determining if it is worth the cost. Even if the client has doubts about robotic machines, they should at least understand what is on the market and the benefits and drawbacks that the technology may bring to their operation.

“It allows for a reallocation of some of those hours, to do what I consider to be more important work — cleaning for health and making sure we're addressing touchpoints,” says McGarvey.

One of the concerns that tends to play a role with high-end robotic vacuums and autoscrubbers is whether they will replace custodial staff. Josephs suggests distributors reiterate to clients that with the way robotic floor care equipment operates now, they are not a replacement for custodial staff, but designed to be used in-tandem with workers to create a more productive cleaning environment.

“They are meant to work side-by-side with the employee. The machine may cover the large surface areas of the hallway, but you still need that employee to follow behind that machine to do the baseboards and clean spaces that the machine couldn’t reach,” says Josephs, noting that robotic floor equipment is ideal for facilities with large open areas such as warehouses, malls and airports.

Perceptions of the end user should play a part in the decision-making process when examining a long-term investment such as robotics.

“We are seeing people investing in more technology so they can do the work at night, but run the machines during the day from a perceptive standpoint,” says Ellison. “Robotics running in some cases 12 to 14 hours a day in big facilities make people feel that much better about the space they are in.”

Time trials can be a useful way for distributors to show clients the difference in time it takes to complete a task using their current equipment such as mops and buckets compared to robotics, ride-on scrubbers and machines with larger capacity recovery and solution tanks. The comparison should be used to discuss return on investment (ROI) on an equipment upgrade.

Josephs, who suggests distributors offer clients loaner or rental machines to test, says a basic ROI calculation is the amount of time the machine saves a cleaning crew in FTE hourly wages, compared to the upfront costs of the machine.

“The other part of it is maintenance. You have to keep these machines maintained and up to date,” he adds. “Battery upkeep is a pain for all of us. It’s the No. 1 thing we replace on these machines. But if the equipment is maintained, we have seen them last for 15, 16 or 17 years.”

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