Pilots and trials are in the past; cleaning robots have finally entered the mainstream of facility management in India. Apprehensions have been assuaged, benefits calculated and the ROI understood and appreciated. So which industries have become early adopters? How have robots been adapted to Indian conditions? What changes may present and future facilities need to make to their layouts to integrate robotic cleaning? Runal Dahiwade, CEO, Peppermint Robotics and Alex Cherian, CEO, Cleanfix- Schevaran Pvt Ltd. (which markets Cleanfix’s cleaning robot in India) tell all.
Industries where there is a conscious requirement to reduce human intervention – like data centres, for example – have a smoother transition into robotics.
“Most of our customers are from manufacturing, warehousing, healthcare and corporate office spaces,” shared Cherian. “Most customers are excited about what robotics can do for cleaning. Industries where there is a conscious requirement to reduce human intervention – like data centres, for example – have a smoother transition into robotics.”
Segments that are human-dependent for multiple functions are evaluating how saving man-hours through robotics can be leveraged to achieve operational efficiency. Accountability is another factor that works in favour of robots.
Dahiwade offered reasons for why each individual segment sees an incentive in incorporating robotic cleaning:
In manufacturing, the integration of cleaning robots streamlines cleaning processes in production facilities, reducing downtime and improving overall operational efficiency. The pharmaceutical industry has stringent cleanliness and hygiene requirements, making robotic cleaning a reliable and consistent solution to meet regulatory standards. Automotive facilities benefit by ensuring high cleanliness standards in vehicle assembly lines and painting areas. Public spaces such as airports, malls and hotels, have high footfall and require frequent cleaning, making robotic solutions a cost-effective and efficient choice.
India is unique
Cleaning in India is different from cleaning elsewhere in the world. According to Cherian, “Most locations in India have large footfalls and a variety of dirt/dust. Robotics allows for consistent cleaning in accordance with a predefined schedule that ensures a clean surface.”
Other challenges include a diverse range of floor surfaces, such as rough or uneven floors, spaces with obstacles, and the presence of particulate dust in the atmosphere. “Our robots feature advanced dynamic cleaning technologies which can control scrubbing RPM, solution discharge and brush pressure to adapt with different floor surfaces, ensuring thorough cleaning even on rough floors,” shared Dahiwade.
Robots are equipped with efficient suction and scrubbing mechanisms to effectively remove dirt. To cater to diverse floor types, Peppermints’s robots come with interchangeable brushes and pads.
Automotive-grade ultrasonic sensors can detect glass surfaces and sudden obstacles, enabling robots to navigate crowded areas and avoid collisions.
Hi-tech for high-traffic
One of the persistent misconceptions about cleaning robots is that they are difficult to deploy in areas which are criss-crossed by people throughout the day, when in fact, robots are specifically designed keeping this circumstance in mind. These design features include:
- Long range 2D & 3D Lidars: Allows robots to accurately perceive their surroundings in real-time, detect and avoid obstacles, and ensure safe and efficient navigation in high-traffic areas.
- Depth sensors: Enables comprehensive environmental mapping. These sensors can detect objects and obstacles even in low-light conditions, ensuring reliable performance in areas with varying lighting levels.
- Automotive-grade ultrasonic sensors: “These sensors can detect glass surfaces and sudden obstacles, enabling the robots to navigate crowded areas and avoid collisions”, revealed Dahiwade.
- Emergency stop button: Each robot can be equipped with an easily accessible emergency stop button, allowing immediate cessation of its cleaning operations if and when necessary.
- Audio beacon & visual buzzer: Visual and audio alerts are integrated into Peppermint’s robots, which inform and alert individuals in high-traffic areas about the presence and activities of the cleaning robot.
- Customisable detection range: This allows the robots to adapt to the specific characteristics and demands of different high-traffic areas, optimising their cleaning efficiency while ensuring they operate within designated boundaries.
A Cleanfix robot can differentiate between permanent and temporary obstacles. In case a high-traffic area becomes temporarily unreachable, it can store the mapped but ‘uncleaned’ areas and return to clean it before the run is completed. This ensures the systematic cleaning that it has been mapped to achieve.
The retrofits or changes required in facilities to make robotic cleaning possible may vary, depending on the specific needs and infrastructure of each location. “Cleanfix robots are agnostic to surface changes and have a sensitive height detection,” stated Cherian. “This enables almost any facility to easily adopt our solutions with little to no changes.”
As new facilities are built, what design or architectural features should they incorporate to be more conducive to robotic cleaning?
Designing wide and unobstructed pathways throughout the facility will allow for easy navigation of cleaning robots. Incorporating open spaces and minimising unnecessary obstacles will facilitate efficient movement. Incorporating designated charging areas and power outlets strategically positioned throughout the facility will ensure convenient access cleaning robots. There is a lot of work happening in the field of building communications that will enable robots to communicate with various facets of a facility, like elevators and escalators.