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Technology has seen significant progress over the last half a century, with artificial intelligence playing an important role. Robots are now no longer a thing of fantasy but instead are being integrated into businesses across multiple industries. They are making inroads across facilities as the need for greater efficiency in operations becomes a priority.
At one time, robots were stationary and confined to tightly controlled environments, largely hidden from public view and carrying out repetitive tasks. However, thanks to advancements in AI technology, primarily machine learning, robots can now navigate autonomously in dynamic, public environments that are constantly changing. They can also function safely alongside humans, including in working environments where humans and robots operate in support of each other to perform workplace tasks.
They (collaborative robots) support humans by taking on more time-consuming and higher-risk tasks, which can be hazardous for employees.
These so called cobots, or collaborative robots, are not meant to replace the human workforce, but instead act as co-workers. They support humans by taking on more time-consuming and higher-risk tasks, which can be hazardous for employees.
Out of the Shadows
The ongoing deployment of autonomous robots into commercial work spaces and industrial facilities has shed light on the many benefits they provide. Between improving operational efficiency, and increasing employee and public safety, these intelligent assistive machines have changed how many businesses operate, especially in a world emerging from the Covid pandemic.
One of the key advantages that autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) provide business owners is improved operational reliability, as the systems fill the many gaps caused by absenteeism and labor shortages. Additionally, AMRs help businesses reclaim valuable ‘man-hours,’ which can then be refocused on more critical tasks. For example, in a recent study conducted by Brain Corporation, it was found that in 2020 mobile robots accounted for 3.3 million additional hours of productivity for various types of work. Additionally, when it comes to the more risk-prone tasks such as heavy lifting, autonomous mobile robots allow businesses to redirect their workers other, safer, tasks which better utilize the human skill set.
Business owners now place much more focus on cleaning and cleanliness, and track hygiene performance and metrics closely.
Covid and New Standards of Cleanliness
After the Covid pandemic hit, many businesses had to quickly shift their standard of cleanliness to a new level that could be tracked and verified. With the world’s population focusing on health and safety, it became more important than ever to ensure spaces were safe for any amount of public use.
One of the most notable ways robots have changed businesses in the face of Covid concerns how hygiene is managed and measured. Business owners now place much more focus on cleaning and cleanliness, and track hygiene performance and metrics closely.
Robots, especially autonomous mobile robots, are especially suited to industrial cleaning tasks. For example, autonomous floor cleaning robots, not only tackle the more tedious tasks of cleaning floors, but can do so while automatically providing detailed ‘proof of work’ data – in the form of heatmaps. It would be nearly impossible to obtain the same results using manual floor cleaning methods.
Towards a Harmonious Future
Advances in autonomous robots, along with their technological enablers such as machine learning and sensing systems, continues apace, and shows no signs of abatement. The business drivers and social benefits accelerating their deployment and use are too compelling to be ignored, and the rate of robotics innovation is only accelerating.
The most advanced autonomous robots, such as autonomous robotic floor cleaners, have been designed for ease of use, but they cannot work without the support of their human counterparts. These machines need humans to train and maintain them, as well as map out where the systems should be deployed. They also need to be monitored, and the unique operational data they produce should be captured and leveraged to inform decision making.
Humans in the Loop
Robotic systems have changed how businesses are able to operate, an in the case of autonomous floor cleaners, how hygiene is managed and verified. With their ability to interact with humans safely and effectively, even in the most unpredictable environments, we can expect to see accelerated adoption of autonomous robots in the years to come. To do so, however, requires humans in the loop, both as workplace partners, but also as overseers, managers and directors.
About the Author
Michel Spruijt joined Brain Corp as the Vice President and General Manager of Brain Corporation Europe in 2019. Michel is responsible for partner support, team expansion, and the oversight of general operations throughout the region. Prior to joining Brain Corp, he held the position of General Manager EMEA at Ergotron. During his twenty year tenure, Spruijt successfully built cross-functional teams and managed Ergotron’s growth trajectory in EMEA. He held several roles at Ergotron, including management positions in Business Development, Sales, Operations, Customer Care, Technical Support, and Business Operations. Spruijt speaks four languages including Dutch, English, German, and Hungarian, and received a degree from Grafisch Lyceum Utrecht.
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