Robots and data - their role in sustainability

15th of January 2020
Robots and data - their role in sustainability
Robots and data - their role in sustainability

Sustainability in business has become an increasingly popular topic as companies recognise the need to have a firm grip on their triple bottom line. Economic, environmental, and social risks and opportunities abound in business, but creating an operations model that speaks directly to aspects of profits, people and planet is not always easily attainable. Sandy Agnos at Brain Corp looks at how robotics, IoT, and cloud connectivity can play a part.

The evolution of this industry has seen a significant shift over the past few years, in large part due to innovations in the areas of robotics, IoT and cloud connectivity. These new technologies can be viewed and leveraged as a pathway to achieving greater sustainability in commercial cleaning. Whether it’s time efficiency, resource conservation, or an improved worker experience, sustainable outcomes can all be greatly supported by adoption and proper utilisation of the aforementioned technologies.

One prime example of the industry’s new paradigm shift is seen in the rollout of autonomous mobile robots for commercial cleaning. Floor scrubbers and mid-size vacuum cleaners can work alongside cleaning operatives rather than being dependent on them for the entire operation. Cleaners can use these robots as effective tools, while still being needed on the front and back end of the robotic process.

Specifically, when using a robotic floor scrubber, an individual is required to set up the machine, drive it to the area it needs to work, and determine what the cleaning needs are for that area. On the back end, teams perform basic maintenance after machines have completed their work for the shift. This collaborative framework automates the heavy lifting, freeing up team members for other more important or more profitable tasks.

These smart machines provide greater consistency in everyday operations (ie, will do the same thing every day), ensuring improved power consumption, a longer run time, and decreased wear and tear on both the machine and the facility. In turn, the robots also utilise less water and chemicals...further contributing to an overall improvement in cost and capital efficiencies.

Perhaps even more impactful to the industry’s move towards sustainability is the potential power of the data generated by these robots. Reporting allows cleaning managers to optimise workflow and validate cleaning performance, ensuring that they are completing their work in the most efficient way possible. Machine diagnostics let users know when and if something needs to be fixed - resulting in less time and money being spent on maintenance.

What’s more, these cleaning machines can be viewed through a broader lens - specifically that of ‘mobile IoT’ hubs, collecting data and generating insights across a variety of use cases. These robots could conceivably measure room temperature, check for dangerous spills, scan shelves for inventory management - the possibilities are vast and still largely unknown to us. Additional capabilities
could provide managers with valuable reporting used to further encourage sustainable practices.

It’s inevitable that IoT applications, while currently somewhat disparate, will become increasingly integrated and relied upon over time. Whether generated by a robot, building sensor, or smart device, the resulting data streams can and will be utilised across these nodes of connectivity to ensure optimal workflows and energy efficiencies throughout facilities. For example, a specialised building sensor may measure people flow and provide reporting around space utilization.

This data could be used to ‘tell’ a robotic floor scrubber to clean more often in certain areas, or alert workers as to when bathroom consumables might need to be replaced. All of these data streams might be integrated through a digital dashboard, allowing users to manage their staff, robot fleets, consumption, and cost all in one place in the most optimal way.

The commercial cleaning industry has and will continue to innovate in order to achieve increasingly sustainable practices. Leaders have already developed ways to provide enhanced cleaning performance with value-add products like electrolysed water, specialised air filters, and tank debris catching systems.

These innovations will be further complemented and made all the more impactful by the next wave of robotics and data. Smart machines and devices, coupled with reporting and insights, will serve to support sustainable practices at every level of the commercial cleaning industry, ensuring an effective approach to the triple bottom line.


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