Commercial cleaning robots: Are they effective?

When it comes to commercial cleaning robots, there’s more to them than meets the eye.

That’s because while the idea of a giant, robot vacuum quietly cleaning the halls of your 100,000 square-foot office building is inspiring, it’s unfortunately not that simple (never is, right?).

For that reason, we’ve broken down what we like and don’t like – and the role we see for cleaning robots at this time.

What we like about commercial cleaning robots

Well, first and foremost we like the idea of commercial cleaning robots. To think that we could program a large floor cleaner to run itself, freeing our teams up to focus on other tasks, is intriguing.

We’ve seen robots thrive in large, single-floor retail spaces with wide aisles.

Where we’ve seen robots thrive is in large retail spaces, where they have long, wide aisles. They’re efficient in this setting because the machine doesn’t have to be moved to different floors and you don’t need to buy more than one.

Also, robots are always on the job. They don’t call in sick for work or get distracted by their cell phones. That’s tremendously valuable when trying to provide an efficient cleaning service.

What we don’t like

One of the biggest issues is cost. These machines range in price, but often can cost as much as $50,000.

To see the return on investment, you really need to be sure a robot is efficient and saving you labor hours. We’re continuing to study this, but often, especially in multi-floor buildings, the robots aren’t as efficient as our professional cleaning crews.

Large commercial cleaning robots also aren’t ideal for smaller spaces. For instance, they can’t work around desks or even in some narrow hallways. With a focus on consistent, quality results, we aren’t yet able to count on robots to do the job.

Lastly, reliability is a concern. So far, the ones we’ve tested seem to be well-engineered, well-built units. But, every machine needs maintenance and that equates to downtime. Also, robots have to be trained, which means we have to teach our cleaning technicians how to operate them.

The verdict

At this point, commercial cleaning robots aren’t our go-to machines for vacuuming and floor cleaning. They’re costly and somewhat cumbersome. Also, our crews are well trained and efficient to a degree robots haven’t yet matched.

With that said, robotic cleaners are here to stay. They already play a viable role in certain types of facilities, including warehouses. And, they’re only going to get better and more cost effective. I’m optimistic their time to shine (the floor) will come.

About the author

Mike Staver is director of operations at KleenMark, where he oversees a team of more than 800 technicians who clean more than 25 million square feet each day.

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