From coast to coast, businesses and organizations have responded to a persistently slow economy by making painful cuts not only in staffing, but also in facilities maintenance.
Instead of cutting corners in routine cleaning and getting by with less-than-satisfactory results, maintenance departments have another option: By augmenting their maintenance arsenals with autonomous, robotic floor cleaners, organizations can improve efficiencies and achieve thorough and consistently high levels of cleanliness.
An Immediate Return On Investment
A robotic floor cleaner is a significant purchase, and one that provides an immediate return on investment (ROI), particularly in terms of labor costs.
As autonomous machines, these floor cleaners can be programmed, pointed and left to operate for up to four hours uninterrupted and unsupervised.
Some can even do two jobs at once, prepping and cleaning in one pass with their combination sweeper and scrubber features.
As a result, these smart machines can reduce the amount of labor required for the same job by more than 80 percent.
For organizations getting by with minimal custodial support, such advanced machines can prove highly valuable in serving as a staff multiplier.
By addressing the mundane, time-consuming task of cleaning floors, an autonomous cleaner frees up the janitorial crew to focus on more challenging, hard-to-reach areas, enhancing the overall productivity of a custodial department.
In addition to labor and timesavings, operator-free machines demonstrate savings in resource use.
For example, traditional industrial scrubbers and riding floor cleaners can use up to 100 gallons of water during a shift.
In comparison, robots use only 15 gallons of water per four-hour shift.
Operator-free systems also use proportionately less detergent, cutting cleaning chemical expenditures by a significant amount.
Better Environmental Implications
Operator-free machines provide some distinct advantages over traditional industrial scrubbers and sweepers beyond immediate financial savings, particularly when it comes to environmental considerations.
Green initiatives have become part of doing business today, and organizations are under continuous pressures to adopt eco-friendly practices and reduce their carbon footprints.
In an effort to reduce energy use and related expenses, many businesses and organizations may be turning down the lights as well as heating and cooling systems when facilities are empty of employees, customers and visitors.
Heavy floor cleaning is often left until these same hours, requiring more energy use to create a comfortable work environment for the cleaning crew.
Organizations can recapture those energy savings, however, with robotic cleaners that can be left to work without light, heat or air conditioning.
As noted, robotic floor cleaners also save a precious natural resource by using significantly less water than traditional scrubbers.
Given the proportionately lowered requirements for chemical cleaning agents, these smart machines ultimately release less noxious wastewater into sewer systems, reducing the potential for harmful elements to leak into the environment.
Additionally, some floor cleaners are designed specifically for use with eco-friendly detergents, further reducing the potential for environmental contamination.
Despite using less cleaning solution, robotic floor cleaners meet high sanitary standards.
On-board purification and recycling systems allow the machines to recycle solution during operations, using ultraviolet (UV) light to kill germs.
This approach results in water that is cleaner than tap water and floors that are cleaned as well at the end of the shift as they are at the beginning.
Some facilities require frequent floor cleaning to maintain extremely strict hygienic expectations, such as hospitals and other health care buildings.
Other facilities may never be quite empty of human traffic, such as major airports or train terminals.
Operator-free machines are tailored to such environments, with the newest generation of machines designed to work quietly and safely.
The latest robotic floor cleaners are equipped with multiple sensors that provide a comprehensive view of the operating environment.
Sensors enable the machines to avoid obstacles, including people, as well as dangers, such as stairways.
If machines encounter problems, operators are notified by e-mail or by text message and machines stop operating until the difficulty is resolved.
Deliver Improved Accountability
In today's slow economy, many organizations are operating lean and accounting for every dime, so it's as important as ever to ensure that work paid for is work done well.
Maintenance departments can rely on operator-free equipment to provide detailed documentation of floor space cleaned, helping to ensure that resources have been allocated and managed properly.
Robotic floor cleaners' built-in documentation systems store details such as work times, operators and areas covered.
Such details are compiled into status reports that can be accessed via e-mail or online.
Operators working in other areas can confirm quickly that a specified area has been cleaned, while managers and administrators have valuable information that shows how regularly floors are maintained and if any issues arise.
Integrating an operator-free floor cleaner within a custodial department is easier than might be expected.
Technological advancements have produced a new generation of machines with tremendous cleaning power locked behind simple, intuitive controls.
Icon-based touchscreens provide operators with simple guidance in mapping the cleaning route, and it takes only minutes to prep the cleaner with solution, move it into position and push "go."
Advanced floor cleaning machines also have the capability to self-diagnose routine maintenance needs and problems.
Rather than lose valuable time between diagnostic and service visits, organizations can get issues resolved remotely in many cases, bringing machines back online quickly.
With the potential to achieve significant savings in labor, water, chemical and energy costs, operator-free floor cleaners are a smart business decision.
In addition to saving time and money and reducing environmental impacts, robotic cleaners offer organizations greater accountability in facilities maintenance and, ultimately, an opportunity to do more with less.
John Sievila is vice president of service with Intellibot Robotics, the world's leading manufacturer of robotic commercial floor cleaners. With more than 20 years of robotics research and development, Intellibot offers a full line of autonomous, technologically advanced robotic floor cleaning solutions. For more information, visit www.IntellibotRobotics.com.