June 05, 2022

The Top 7 Things to Know About Autonomous Floor Scrubbers

ICE Cobotics Cobi 18 cleaning floors in clothing retail store

The next big shift in floor cleaning is upon us: autonomous floor scrubbers or robotic floor scrubbers

Autonomous floor scrubbers are changing how floors are kept clean across industries while helping to free up staff to focus on other high-priority tasks and customer service. 

Between ongoing labor issues and a new awareness of the importance of clean buildings, cleaning professionals have a lot on their plate. 

For managers, BSCs, and operations leaders well-trained and seasoned staff are key to keeping up with daily tasks and meeting other business needs. 

Therefore, autonomous scrubbers play a significant role in overall building health and cleanliness and in the support of staff. 

So, if you find yourself wondering about “all things autonomous scrubber,” we’ve got the answers for you! 

What is an Autonomous Floor Scrubber? 

An autonomous scrubber is a self-driving commercial floor scrubber. It is designed to scrub floors using advanced navigation technology in combination with a system of lasers and cameras that guide it through complex real-world scenarios. 

The robot is taught cleaning routes and then runs them on its own after being started by a human. Over time, robotic floor scrubbers become more precise and efficient when deployed on their cleaning routes. 

Are Autonomous Floor Scrubbers Worth It? 

The simple answer is yes! Here are a couple of reasons why: 

Autonomous floor scrubbers do a more consistent and efficient job cleaning floors, especially when compared to using a mop and bucket. 

An autonomous floor scrubber is designed to clean floors extremely well, including grease and debris that a mop will typically miss. For this reason, floors are safer and the risk of slip and fall accidents decreases. 

Because of the consistent and efficient cleaning, a facility is left looking cleaner—directly impacting the appearance of the space. 

This alone can have a positive impact on your business as many people pay close attention to how clean a space is, and this awareness is a part of their decision-making process when returning to a facility. This is especially true in the retail industry. 

In an office environment, having a clean office space has been linked to a more productive and happy staff. 

Autonomous floor scrubbers are designed to take on the repetitive task of floor cleaning. They work alongside staff, like a co-worker. While the cobot (collaborative robot) cleans the floors, staff are freed to focus on other important parts of their work. 

This can be paying more attention to customers or spending more time cleaning high-touch surfaces. Both of which are incredibly important to any business. 

According to Buildings.com “...AMRs [robotic scrubbers] could be a positive next step to establishing higher levels of productivity, maximizing labor, and gaining visibility into performance metrics that can inform the business of better cleaning—and create safer and healthier spaces for everyone."

What You Need to Know About Autonomous Floor Scrubbers 

1-Autonomous Scrubbers Come in a Variety of Sizes 

Finding an autonomous scrubber that is the right size for your facility is important. 

For example, Cobi 18 by ICE Cobotics is an 18.8-inch compact autonomous floor scrubber. This cobot is intentionally small and is designed to support cleaning in tighter spaces for example in retail stores, convenience stores, or healthcare facilities.

These industries all have situations where a small scrubber is necessary to maneuver down tight aisles or hallways, around multiple structures, and even under tables. Cobi 18 is compact enough to achieve this. 

In facilities that have more square footage to cover like warehouses, gymnasiums, and convention centers, it might be more beneficial to have a larger cobotic scrubber that can clean more flooring at one time. 

Autonomous scrubbers come in a variety of sizes—taking the time to determine what size machine will work best in your facility is important to the overall efficiency and productivity of the machine. 

You will want to take this into consideration when planning which route to go.

ICE Cobotics Cobi 18 Autonomous Scrubber

2-There Are Different Ways to Map Routes 

Understanding the options available on the machine when it comes to how to map cleaning routes can be a time saver. 

Many of these machines have a variety of options that benefit your team when setting up the routes as well as when ready to deploy the machine to clean. 

  • Custom Route- Teach Cobi 18 a custom route in your space, and run it independently with the click of a button each time thereafter 
  • Auto Fill– Trace the perimeter of an area and Cobi 18 automatically fills in the interior 
  • Multiple Routes- Run multiple pre-programmed routes back-to-back 
  • Schedule Start - Schedule Cobi 18 to commence its route at a pre-set time 

Knowing how these options work and what can be accomplished in less time for your staff can go a long way toward increasing productivity. 

3-The Power Source May Impact Operations 

Another important aspect to consider is how the cobot is powered and charged and what you will need at your facility to accommodate this. 

Many autonomous cleaning machines require a docking station that the robot returns to for charging once a route is complete. 

This can be great; however, it can also mean infrastructure changes and updates are necessary to support hooking up the docking stations. This can be an additional costly expense. 

On the other hand, some autonomous machines like ICE Cobotics’ Cobi 18, can simply be plugged into a regular wall outlet making it simple to implement in any facility. 

Plus, the machine runs on lithium-ion batteries which are known to hold charges longer and have a longer battery life overall—reducing the number of batteries needed over the useful life of the machine. 

4-Navigation Software Can Affect Cleaning Performance 

It is important to consider the sensors a robotic scrubber is equipped with, so you are aware of its navigational capabilities. For example, due to Cobi 18’s advanced sensors, it can navigate around mirrors and bright sunlight, unlike other robotic scrubbers with only Lidar sensors. 

Autonomous navigation technology rapidly advances but a majority of commercial-grade autonomous machines use Lidar sensors and advanced 2D cameras. 

Cobi 18 also uses ultrasonic sensors and 3D TOF (time of flight) cameras—similar technology to what Tesla uses in its self-driving cars. 

Here is a brief explanation of each tool: 

  • Binocular Camera: Captures images to identify different types of objects. 
  • LiDAR and 3D TOF (time of flight): Use lasers to measure the distance between objects. This technology has a large measurement range and can detect smaller and/or fast-moving objects. 
  • Ultrasonic Sensor: Uses sound waves to measure the distance from highly reflective surfaces, such as glass and mirrors, that LiDAR cannot effectively detect. 
  • IMU (inertial measurement unit): Use gyroscopes and/or accelerometers to calculate Cobi 18’s orientation and relative changes in its velocity and position. 

5-Fleet Management Software Can Help Improve Performance 

Fleet management software is starting to become more standard on machines due to the Internet of Things (IoT). Adding more technology means more capabilities. 

There is a wide variety of benefits that come from using fleet management technology; Some of those are: 

  • Tracking machine location 
  • Tracking cleaning routes 
  • Tracking cleaning times and days 
  • Tracking operators 

Having access to this information can help managers and BSCs develop clearer processes for their teams, work more closely with teams, and check in on productivity from remote locations. 

ICE Cobotics i-SYNERGY fleet management software includes a feature called Clean Score. With Clean Score, the end-user simply logs into the app and can view cleaning progress across all the sites they manage. It is a simple color-coded system where the data is synthesized for the user. There are no lengthy reports to read, which makes it fast and easy to use. 

All this information can help with performance metrics, which can lead to better customer relationships through improved performance.

ICE Cobotics Cobi 18 i-SYNERGY Retail

6-Filling and Draining Tank Set-Up Makes a Difference 

A couple of things you will want to think about ahead of time have to do with the overall implementation of the machine. 

For instance, preparing the cobot to work relies on the capabilities of your staff. So, you will want to consider the ease of filling and draining tanks.

Most scrubbers have a port on the machine where a water hose can be inserted so filling up is easy. Draining a tank could mean having to lift the tank out of the scrubber and physically dumping the dirty water in a sink. Some scrubbers come with a hose that the water can be drained through.

Either way, you will want to have a utility sink or tub available for staff to use so that filling and draining tanks does not require a lot of extra steps. 

7-How Much Does an Autonomous Floor Scrubber Cost? 

The cost of autonomous floor scrubbers varies based on the vendor. Some vendors offer purchase options, lease options rental options, and subscription options. 

When considering the cost of the machine it is important to examine the “total cost of machine ownership,” taking into consideration repairs and service. 

While this should be a common part of the procurement process, it is important to remember that autonomous machines bring with them a lot of sophisticated technology. So, while your staff may be used to fixing manually operated machines, that will likely not be the case with autonomous technology. 

Consider subscribing versus buying. ICE Cobotics, for example, offers Cobi 18 through an all-inclusive subscription that includes machine service and repairs. So, if Cobi 18 were to need service, ICE Cobotics would try to troubleshoot remotely and if that did not solve the issue, they would send a technician right to the appropriate location. 

This is all included in the subscription plan payment—there is no additional charge for having the service tech come to your facility and repair the robot. 

Additionally, if the robot needs to be removed from your facility to be fixed, ICE Cobotics offers a swap model, so a new Cobi will be sent to you—helping to reduce downtime. This can be a huge savings alone and provide peace of mind. 

Taking these points into consideration and planning can go a long way when it comes to implementing autonomous floor-cleaning solutions. 

Overall, a cobot can help increase productivity and efficiency as well as support you and your team while dealing with labor issues. Plus, depending on your facility, your staff will be freed up to focus on customers—the number one priority. 

If you are considering automation and wondering if you are a fit for autonomous cleaning solutions, check out our blog: Considering Autonomous Cleaning Solutions? Here’s What You Need to Know 

Ready to bring on an autonomous floor scrubber like Cobi 18? Contact our Automation Experts, they are ready to help!

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