Cleaning robots - man and machine in harmony

4th of May 2022 Article by John Griep
Cleaning robots - man and machine in harmony

John Griep in the Netherlands looks at the use of robots in the sector and analyses their impact.

When the first robotic scrubber dryer was launched over 15 years ago, robotisation was seen by many as a threat. Would cleaning robots take over the jobs of professional cleaners in the future? Meanwhile, in 2022 that fear no longer seems relevant. At least not when it comes to a shortage of jobs, because there are plenty of them. Too many in fact. Professionals are in short supply.

That robots offer above all opportunities is now a popular insight in the cleaning industry. A development we are following with interest. During the Hygiene Forum organised at the end of last year by VSR, the Association for Cleaning Research, Gaussian Robotics highlighted what is supported by an ever-growing group of professionals:

Firstly, even with robots, there are still more job vacancies than people. Robots can take over the time-consuming and repetitive work of cleaners. This leaves more time for cleaning tasks where manual input is important, such as cleaning contact surfaces and toilets.

Working for longer

Secondly, it is clear that we all need to work for longer in the Netherlands. Machines that perform the physically demanding tasks of cleaners, such as many meters of mopping in long corridors, help these employees to stay vibrant and fit for longer. Floor maintenance in particular can be transformed thanks to robots. The tough monotonous work is done by an extra colleague: the robot.

Finally, a new task has been added to the role of a professional cleaner, for those who are interested, namely controlling the robots. For some, this makes the job extra versatile and attractive. Others, on the other hand, experience a barrier to taking on such a technical task even though, according to manufacturers, it is even easier than operating a scrubber dryer and, moreover, extensive training is given.

According to Peter Kwestro of Gaussian Robotics Europe, cleaners actually stay on the job because of the use of cleaning robots: “People are less likely to develop RSI and the workload decreases. Cleaning robots allow you to keep the employees you have now, and you can meet your clients’ existing demands and requirements.”

The manufacturer therefore advocates a technical redefinition of the trade. Cleaning with robots, it says, is a new cleaning methodology that should be integrated into training and into cleaning programmes; in the same way that microfibre technology and the application of osmosis water have fared.

In short: cleaning robots seem to have earned their place. The new generation of intelligent robots is in the starting blocks. VSR also focused on the question: ‘Man or machine in the cleaning industry?’ during an event in 2018 and therefore keeps a close eye on these developments. Are robots indeed the progress that will ensure more sustainable employability of workers, and are they part of the solution to the enormous labour shortage? If so, let’s embrace them! Those robots.


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