Floor care robot
The coronavirus outbreak has forced retailers to focus more on sanitation while they are struggling to restock shelves and hire more employees. Some grocery stores are turning to floor cleaning robots for additional help. Phil Duffy, vice president of product management and marketing at Brain Corp, shared how autonomous floor care robots are helping retailers.
Brain Corp’s proprietary software, BrainOS, is a cloud-connected operating system for commercial autonomous robots. Brain Corp has partnerships with major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as Tennant, Minuteman, ICE, Kärcher, Nilfisk and SoftBank Robotics, to add autonomy to their existing floor care machines. With BrainOS, these machines are able to navigate dynamic public spaces autonomously, avoid obstacles and the general public, manage data, generate reports and seamlessly interact with human users.
“Working with our OEM partners, Brain Corp has deployed or enabled more than 10,000 robots across various industries, including grocery, retail, malls, airports, commercial buildings and more. This represents the largest fleet of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) operating in indoor public spaces in the world. BrainOS-powered machines are being used at thousands of sites, including several Fortune 500 companies such as Walmart,” Duffy said.
Instead of trying to build robots in each market, Brain Corp took a different approach by providing AI software to existing manufacturers. Its “teach and repeat” process has made the robots highly adaptable to the changing operating conditions in grocery stores and other essential businesses. Workers have been able to retrain robots quickly without special training or custom coding.
“BrainOS-powered robots are fully autonomous. Brain Corp works with original equipment manufacturers to turn their existing machines, with the same seats, into self-driving units. This is important because a human operator still needs to conduct an initial training when first using the machine or changing a route. This means they have to drive the route manually once, so that the robots can learn it and then repeat that route autonomously moving forward,” Duffy said.
Floor care robots
Brain Corp has seen a significant uptick in autonomous usage across its Brain-powered fleet as grocers and retailers look to enhance cleaning efficiency, and support workers during the health crisis. Comparing March 2020 to the same month last year, Brain Corp saw a 13.6% increase in average daily usage of BrainOS-powered robots in retail locations. In addition, average usage grew 13% in quarter one of 2020. The company expects this increase to continue as the value of automation comes sharply into focus.
Consumers are wondering: If the robots are cleaning the floors, who is cleaning the robots? The robot operators are responsible for sanitizing the robots after each use to ensure the safety of all employees and customers in stores. Brain Corp recommends that operators of robotic floor care machines wipe them down after each use using a hospital-grade disinfectant spray or disinfecting wipes, per the manufacturer’s label instructions for disinfecting hard surfaces.
They should also pay special attention to mutual contact points on the machine such as the steering wheel, seat, touchscreen, control buttons, start pause button and all areas that are touched in order to dump and fill the machine.
As stores try to find a balance between cleaning and restocking, some will continue to turn to autonomous floor care robots. Brain Corp expects the machines will log more than 8,000 hours of daily work or more than 250,000 hours over the next 30 days that otherwise would have to be done by an essential worker.