Building services contractors are strengthening their cleaning capabilities in the retail sector, among others, with ever-improving robotics technology.
At a time when hygiene, efficiency and the smart use of labour have never been more important in the building services space, the case for robotic cleaning machines is clear.
Robotic floor scrubbers, in particular, are increasingly in demand. Widely used in American retail chains such as Walmart, there is growing interest in Australia for the autonomous solutions in shopping centres, commercial offices and industrial sites.
“We’re experiencing a lot of interest from the retail space, especially,” says Dave Miller, national head of strategic accounts at Tennant. “Robotics had a foray into the Australian market about four years ago, but the machines weren’t where they needed to be. Now Tennant has come into the market a little later but with machines that can do the job.”
Miller says, in effect, the company is experiencing a Goldilocks moment – it has products that are just right at the right time and at the right price. Tennant has deployed more than 5000 autonomous units globally across three platforms: the T380AMR (a compact robotic floor-cleaning machine for narrow aisles and spaces), the T7AMR (for mid-size spaces) and the new T16AMR (a world first for larger industrial sites).
While they are branded as autonomous machines, Tennant views them as “co-bot” machines because they are used in tandem with cleaning staff, rather than putting people out of a job. “They just give you an extra set of hands and ensure the people you do have can more efficiently do the detailed work,” Miller says.
Leading the way
Respected integrated property services provider Glad Group is deploying Tennant-branded robotics in the Australian retail market. It recently introduced two new T7AMRs at high-profile Sydney shopping centres Westpoint and Castle Towers as part of its commitment to exceed customers’ expectations in delivering cleaning services.
Neranje Dunuwille, general manager operations at Glad Group, says the T7AMRs are reliable, flexible and have been well-received by operators. “I’ve had really good feedback from our team members,” he says. “They’re happy with the robotic machines and what they do. The also like the fact that they can be used as a manual machine. If there’s an emergency, our team members can jump on the machine and operate it themselves.”
Glad Group has a 30-year relationship with Tennant, with the robotic floor scrubbers being part of an investment of more than $1 million in new Tennant equipment in the past 12 months. Dunuwille says being able to draw on that strong relationship is comforting – he knows that Tennant can deliver on its promises.
Tennant works closely with the users of its robotic solutions to offer dedicated robotics technical support via its Technical Assistance Centre. It has direct service and sales capability in Australia and New Zealand, as well as provision for operator training as required. “So if there is ever an issue, the after-sales and service support is second to none,” Dunuwille says.
A machine for all tasks
With the T380AMR, the T7AMR and the T16AMR covering the gamut from smaller commercial to larger industrial sized sites, they provide solutions for a range of enterprise clients. The T380AMR is known for its maneuverability in narrower aisles and perfect for smaller spaces; the T7AMR works well in sites such as retail shopping centres, grocery stores and airports, while the new T16AMR is the industry’s first industrial robotic floor scrubber made for large Spaces.
Tennant can arrange trials and advise on the appropriate machine for any location.
The robotic floor scrubbers are designed to work safely alongside employees and customers while navigating around obstacles. Proof of coverage is visible and validated by heat-map displays and data reporting for each cleaning route run.
Roger Agyar, National Account Manager – Glad Group, says the T7AMRs’ ability to digitally record its cleaning activities is crucial because it provides irrefutable data about the cleaning that has been done and the areas that have been cleaned. “At the end of the day it’s not about what you or I say. When we talk to our clients about their performance, we can collect all the data and provide it to them,” he says.
In the past, Agyar says machinery breakdowns with non-Tennant products and an inability to access quick servicing caused inefficiencies for the group. That problem has now been addressed through the alliance with Tennant.
In addition to using proven technology, Dunuwille says it is important for Glad Group to partner with an industry leader that has scale and a commitment to sustainability issues such as safeguarding the environment, minimising water use and addressing any supply-chain risks related to the Modern Slavery Act.
“We look at this holistically, so that’s why we align with a brand like Tennant because it gives us the assurance that it’s funded by a larger organisation that makes sure its supply-chain management is properly done.”
Faster, safer, cleaner
Tennant sees robotic machinery as a way of tackling the three Ds – dull, dirty and dangerous work. Such hi-tech equipment can do the dull, repetitive work and free up workers for other key tasks; it can contribute to better hygiene standards during COVID-19 when dirty facilities are unacceptable; and the water-efficient machines that quickly clean and dry floors can mitigate potentially dangerous slip-trip-and-fall accidents that are commonplace with traditional mop-and-bucket cleans.
Miller says the robotic floor scrubbers have proven to be productive, consistent, measurable, reliable, precise and safe. He believes the key to the success of the Tennant machines is that great technology complements outstanding cleaning results.
“Robotics are one piece of the equation, but the machines still have to provide a very efficient clean. Some Robots on offer have a lot of fancy features that sound great, but they really just complicate the operator’s job and at the end of the day, these are co-bots and as such they need to work well with humans and make the task at hand easier”
Although the robotic scrubbers are not cheap, Agyar says Glad Group factors in a range of financial and intangible benefits that mean, overall, they represent a good return on investment (ROI). By using the latest technology, the business is demonstrating leadership in its field, while also empowering its employees as they use industry-leading machinery that
allows service delivery to be optimised and for labour to be reutilised in other crucial areas of cleaning.
Glad Group factors in significant labour savings that can be achieved over a five-year period while using such efficient technology. “They are certainly worth it overall and deliver good ROI,” Agyar says.