What does Whiz mean for a cleaner?

The challenges facing cleaners today

By Nils J.van der Zijl, VP Sales & Marketing, Softbank Robotics EMEA 

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Commercial cleaners are the unsung heroes of the business world, ensuring that workspaces and buildings of all kinds are clean, hygienic and safe for the people who use them. Without effective and timely cleaning of their property estates, organisations across all sectors would suffer – whether that’s hospitals, schools, shops, airports or offices.

The work of a cleaner often involves long and unsociable hours, physically strenuous activities and, increasingly, a need to juggle a large workload in a limited amount of time. Over recent years, cleaners have found themselves trying to juggle a wider range of tasks and under pressure to perform to ever-higher standards to meet required levels of servicing.

With ever more competition in the market, commercial cleaning contractors are having to offer clients more for less in order to win and retain contracts – that means cleaning a greater area of building, to an even higher standard, but often at a reduced cost. Added to this, contractors are coming under more scrutiny to demonstrate improvements in cleaning performance, with clients demanding continual measurement and evaluation of all cleaning services, with heavy financial penalties where agreed service levels are not met.

The result of this is that cleaning teams are being asked to increase their performance and productivity in order to satisfy client expectations. It’s a challenging situation and one which can have an impact on health and wellbeing of cleaning staff, leading to sickness and absence, which in turn means other team members have to take on even more work.

Indeed, one of the most attractive aspects to being a cleaner is the fact that the role involves working within a team alongside other people and supporting one another. However, being a part of such a team means that cleaners rely heavily on one another to achieve success, and this becomes more challenging when colleagues are off work or where there is a high level of staff churn within the team. 

How cobots like Whiz can ease the pressure on cleaners

Evidently, the pressure on cleaning teams has become greater over recent years. Fortunately, however, innovative new technology is set to give cleaners the support that they need and deserve.

Cobots are collaborative robots which carry out repetitive and strenuous tasks which would otherwise be performed by cleaners, but they work alongside individuals and within a team, not in their place. Cobots are instructed and managed by cleaners on the ground and are there to help cleaning teams get work done to the required standards consistently and ease their workload.

The first true cleaning cobot on the market is Whiz, an autonomous vacuum sweeper which is a reliable and easy to use self-driving machine designed for soft-surface vacuuming. Cleaning teams can ‘teach’ Whiz hundreds of routes within a building and then set it off to carry out the heavy duty vacuuming which has always been such a drain on time for cleaners and a seriously strenuous task. Whiz delivers a deep clean on carpets, covering a large amount of carpet on a single charge. When it comes to the end of a route or needs re-charging, or if there is any kind of problem, it sends a notification to the cleaner who can take the appropriate action. 

It means that cleaners, once they have set Whiz off, can focus on other tasks. Whiz can’t vacuum edges, so cleaners still need to do that manually, but they can also spend a lot more time on other activities, which are more varied and fulfilling, and definitely less repetitive and strenuous! This could be cleaning surfaces, bathrooms or windows; the activities that often get rushed, or even overlooked, because of the amount of time it takes to vacuum floors. It means cleaning teams are able to complete all of the work they need to on time and without the level of pressure they’ve been under.

Cobots such as Whiz are extremely easy to set up and use, and it’s easy to change parts on them when needed. Cleaning teams receive simple training on how to use Whiz; how to teach it vacuuming routes around a building, how to re-charge it and what to do if a part needs changing or the machine needs servicing. And the great thing is that if there is a problem with Whiz (although that’s quite unlikely), then the supplier simply delivers a new one as soon as possible, rather than having to send it off for repair and being without it for days or weeks.

As well as easing workload and freeing up cleaners from hours of vacuuming, the other exciting part about having a Whiz is that cleaning teams get to develop new skills and knowledge in cutting-edge technology. Whiz uses innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) technology so cleaners can learn really useful new skills, managing and controlling Whiz within their day-to-day work. These skills are likely to be hugely advantageous in their future careers.

Brilliant feedback from cleaning staff

The feedback from cleaning teams that are already working alongside Whiz is overwhelmingly positive – they love the fact that they now don’t have to spend huge amounts of time vacuuming and can take on more varied work. They’re also not facing the same level of pressure when other team members are off sick or people leave the company – they know that Whiz is there to take care of the vacuuming. Cleaning teams are also enjoying having the chance to manage their own cobot. It’s leading to more job satisfaction, enjoyment and wellbeing. 

It’s important that cleaners recognise that cobots such as Whiz are being introduced to help cleaners within their jobs, rather than being anything to be fearful or nervous about.

The commercial cleaning industry is set for some big changes in the coming years and with cobots like Whiz being introduced, cleaners should feel excited about the future.

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