Winona Health, like many healthcare organizations, has been affected by workforce shortages in filling environmental services positions, so their team was running into time constraints while cleaning.
With Cobi 18, a robotic scrubber by ICE Cobotics, Winona Health has effectively addressed labor shortages and increased cleaning productivity by a remarkable 50% across their campus, ultimately enhancing their team’s satisfaction and their ability to provide an exceptional patient experience.
Winona Health, located in Winona, Minnesota, has a unique story and focus. The healthcare facility has been in operation for over 125 years, changing and transforming from humble beginnings as an 18-bed hospital, started in a renovated home in 1894, to what it is now, an “independent, community-owned and community-focused integrated healthcare system designed to care for people through all stages of life.”
The Winona Health system is governed by a board of community members dedicated to guiding Winona Health using the principles laid out in the mission, vision and values. The vision, to create the most inclusive, compassionate, and self-generating community health movement in the nation, guides the board to find the best possible resources to support and empower staff to deliver exceptional care to all.
Those guiding principles extend across every department throughout the organization, including the facility operations team.
Jerry Kouba, the Environmental Services Manager, and Brett Kimber a Floor Technician, are two members of the Winona Health team responsible for keeping the campus clean and healthy for all patients, staff, and guests.
Together they work with a team of professionals to make sure the Winona Health campus meets cleanliness and safety standards to ensure the wellbeing of all who visit. This task is no small feat and Winona Health has empowered staff to improve processes with innovative technology solutions that position the healthcare organization as a leader in the field.
Winona Health is comprised of over 400,000 square feet of cleanable space. On top of that, flooring types vary from linoleum to terrazzo to ceramic. Due to the nature of healthcare facilities, cleanliness standards are strict and important to maintain.
Challenges come in all sizes but a major one the cleaning team faces is time constraints. Kouba and Kimber work to clean all floors at least once each day but due to the size of the facility, floor techs with other job requirements, and a hectic environment, it can be tough to get all flooring cleaned each day.
“Time constraints are the biggest challenge, as far as getting all of the floors done each day and getting to other tasks that have to be handled,” says Kimber.
While cleaning floors is the main responsibility for floor techs, they have other jobs that require extreme care and take time.
Kouba notes “The floor techs are also responsible for laundry and infectious waste pickups.” Between thousands of square feet to clean and other job responsibilities, keeping up with the floor cleaning can be tough.
Additionally, a limited labor pool has made it difficult for Kouba to staff floor tech positions.
“We had a position open for 6-8 months and we couldn’t fill it; on average, over the last 4-5 years, we’ve been down a full-time floor tech," says Kouba.
This has made it challenging for Kouba and his team to give the care and attention to the flooring that they strive to achieve.
"Time constraints are the biggest challenge, as far as getting all of the floors done each day and getting to other tasks that have to be handled."
The team at Winona Health partnered with ICE Cobotics and brought on two Cobi 18 units. Kouba and Kimber are in charge of overseeing the use and implementation of the Cobi units, with Kimber being trained as the automation expert or Cobi Site Champion.
“It is important to have the right person in place to work with the unit. Not everyone is naturally aware of how to efficiently use the units and Brett [Kimber] has taken it on and knows what we’re looking for,” says Kouba.
Kouba is part of the team that worked to get the Cobi units approved and implemented. He went through the initial training with ICE Cobotics and has been overseeing the implementation of automation at Winona Health.
Since onboarding the Cobi units, Kouba trained Kimber on how to use the units including mapping routes and saving them. Once Kimber learned those steps, he was off and running.
Kimber has been working with the machines ever since and has been busy mapping routes, creating zones, and figuring out the most efficient use of the machines for the Winona Health facility.
One area that requires special attention is the O.R. area, a “clean room,” meaning there is a lot of PPE required to enter the room. Kimber says, “I can sterilize Cobi, wipe it down, hit start, and send it in and I don’t have to mop the room anymore.” This not only saves Kimber time, but it is a more effective way to clean the O.R. floor.
Other teams in the facility are excited to have the Cobi units on staff too. Kouba receives requests regularly from other housekeeping staff members excited to try out the units and he has been training two housekeeping staff members in the Long-Term Care unit.
“One of them came down this morning and said I want to use that machine today. So, I showed her how to fill the tank, got her the code, and she got started and cleaned two areas in a matter of a half hour,” says Kouba. “They love that Cobi scans the code, they tap two buttons, and off they go,” he says.
The staff is having so much fun with the Cobi units that they held a contest where everyone voted on what to name to give the units. The winning names: Scrub Davilla and Mr. Clean Jr.
So far, adding Cobi has helped the Winona team augment staff and improve cleaning efficiency and productivity.
Kouba adds “It is easy to use, and it really does a good job. It’s fun too. It brings out conversations with the staff, residents, and patients. It makes work a lot more fun.”
Kouba and Kimber are seeing significant improvements since adding autonomous solutions to the team. Kouba has been able to support staff members with the workload and even adjust schedules and staffing to help other departments he oversees.
“Since we’ve had the autonomous program in place, we’ve been able to do other things and fluctuate hours, so more departments are getting the help they need,” says Kouba.
Kimber and Kouba run the Cobi units for 8-10 hours a day, freeing up their time so they can focus on other tasks while the floors are being cleaned.
For Kouba, a prime example of this is in the clinic hallway, a ceramic tile hallway around 8000 square feet long that he is responsible for cleaning during the first shift. The zone is broken into three routes. Kouba starts Cobi on the first route and goes back to his office to work on other tasks. Then he returns about 45 minutes later to set Cobi on the second route and then the third route after another 45 minutes.
“I cleaned the hallway that way all morning. I was able to complete all the other tasks I would have to do and clean the floors,” he says.
He goes on to point out “Increased productivity is the main benefit that I see. It saves time, productivity goes up, we see more square footage cleaned, and we get more things done. The national average for floor cleaning for housekeeping is 1500 sq. ft. per hour and we’re essentially doubling that from what I’m seeing, which is a big plus.”
Kimber agrees with Kouba. He is also able to set Cobi on its cleaning routes and move on to other tasks while Cobi cleans.
“I set one machine up and start it on its route; while it’s cleaning, I go to set the second machine on another route. So, I’m able to clean multiple routes at the same time. I’m getting more floors cleaned,” says Kimber.
Kimber goes on to point out that Cobi does more than help increase productivity; it also makes the work of floor cleaning easier.
“We can make workers’ lives easier, that’s what Cobi does; it makes my life at work a whole lot easier,” he says.
Other Winona Health staff members are noticing the benefits of Cobi too.
“I got an email from the cashier's area in the hospital after we cleaned the clinic. They were amazed at what a good job Cobi did. They thought it wouldn’t be able to do some of the things we do. A lot of the flooring is grout and even the grout is getting cleaner as we use Cobi,” says Kouba.
Kimber has received feedback too. “Other cleaning staff want to use them too! I’ve had people stop me and say how excited they are that Cobi is coming.”
Overall, Kouba and Kimber are excited about continuing to work with the units, improving cleaning routes and processes, and increasing productivity throughout the Winona Health organization.
When asked why he would recommend Cobi, Kouba says, “Why wouldn’t I? The productivity that I see, the commitment, and the overall integration of staff and patients have been a plus. I don’t see any reason why anyone wouldn’t want one.”