May 29, 2024

Robots in retail: Unmasking three automation myths

Autonomous mobile robots (AMR) help commercial and industrial facilities run more efficiently while helping businesses reach their goals.

Among the many types of AMRs, one continues to surge in popularity: floor cleaning robots.

Environments as diverse as airports, warehouses, hospitals, and many others continue to add these human-helpers to their teams. And retail is no exception. Robots are helping grocery stores, malls, big-box stores, and more overcome one of their most persistent and troublesome issues: worker shortages.

Cleaning labor falls into this category. It’s an endangered species in today’s job market. A role with historically high turnover is now even more difficult to hire and keep. And for the retail industry — who replace more than half of their store staff every year — this presents a problem. 

A by-the-numbers breakdown leaves little room for hope. The retail industry quit rate is almost 30% higher than the average across all industries. It’s a similar story for the retail unemployment rate too, which also surpasses the industry average. Higher pay over the past year hasn’t helped turn the tide either. 

To add insult to injury, labor troubles are happening alongside record inflation and mindful budgets, hammering home the need for a sustainable, more productive approach to keep stores looking their best.

Clearly, robots in retail are no longer a luxury. However, despite the need, practicality, and growth of autonomous cleaning robots, some retailers are toughing it out with manual floor cleaning machines. But why?

Because the robotic revolution will displace human workers, the learning curve is too steep, and the costs are prohibitive. Or so we’re told.

Let’s separate fact from fiction and see whether these sweeping statements can withstand closer scrutiny. Here are three myths about fully autonomous cleaning robots.

Myth #1: The robots are
taking over!

Since the moment robots entered the workforce decades ago, the idea they would replace humans has never gone away. This narrative continues today — despite the facts on the ground painting a different picture.

Rather than replace humans, robotics and automation empower them. Organizations that add robots to their team help businesses and workers succeed.

At the company level, decades-long studies demonstrate that companies who introduce robotics and automation into their operations hire more workers than those that don’t. 

Increased productivity, improved efficiency, greater service quality and consistency — supplementing workers with technology is a net positive job creator.

And at the worker level, robotics and automation simplify their day-to-way workflows, aiding understaffed and overworked teams. But cleaning robots do more than just make staff more effective.

In a profession vulnerable to fatigue and burnout, floor cleaning robots like Kas and Neo improve working conditions.

Indeed, custodial labor was thin pickings long before cleaning robots arrived on the scene because of the demands placed on workers. 

So, rather than replace custodial labor, cleaning robots make their jobs easier, safer, and less dirty — three reasons why the position was and still is unattractive to begin with.

In fact, aiding employees with automation lowers stress and allows a healthier work/life balance. And when the robot performs more of the cleaning chores, employees can focus their attention and talents elsewhere.

Myth #2: Advanced cleaning equipment takes longer to learn and deploy

AMRs like Kas and Neo are sophisticated pieces of technology. This may give people unfamiliar with fully autonomous cleaning robots the impression that they’re difficult to use and integrate within their operations.

But appearances can be misleading. Advances in robotics and automation also mean advances in user-friendliness and accessibility. 

Operating Kas or Neo’s touchscreen interface would be familiar to anyone who’s used a smartphone or tablet. And unlike manual cleaning machines, there’s no need to train staff how to push or ride a robot — a time-draining task that happens more than managers would like because of high turnover.

A friendly learning curve also extends to the deployment process. Additional quality-of-life features ensure smooth, stress-free operation well into the future, and it all starts with the cleaning plans.

One important part of the deployment process is mapping. This is when someone teaches the robot how to navigate your facility. The teach-and-repeat method is popular, but its cleaning plans are less flexible. Ultimately, what may be convenient to begin with costs you a lot more time down the road.

For example, what happens when your floor plan changes, or if objects aren’t in the same spot as before? This is a common occurrence in retail, where promotional events, kiosks, holiday-themed sales, and more all cause human traffic and things to move.

For cleaning robots using the teach-and-repeat method, someone would need to ride or push the machine along its new path every time the store decides to make major alterations. 

Remember, retail environments aren’t static, unchanging spaces, so any solution for floor cleaning needs to solve this challenge. 

Accordingly, technology that improves the long-term success of your cleaning plan is a real time-saver — and a more accurate reflection of how long it takes to deploy a cleaning robot at your location. This is where Kas and Neo excel.

“The facility mapping and training went smoothly, taking around a day to complete. Avidbots were invested in our success from the get-go, familiarizing everyone with the robot. The machine is easy to use, and the deployment was a simple process.”

Ryland Joyce, Operations Manager, Sleep Corp

Kas and Neo don't use the teach-and-repeat method, lowering the likelihood of remapping any time the environment changes. As a result, our robots’ cleaning plans are adaptable, with
Avidbots Autonomy’s artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities allowing them to learn on the fly.

And with firsthand experience deploying robots at hundreds of locations, Avidbots specialists are experts at preparing your team and your facility promptly.

Myth #3: ‘Cleaning robots are expensive compared to manual floor scrubbers’

There’s a misconception that all cleaning robots are expensive. Others worry there’s a catch, a hidden cost down the road.

The reality, though, is that manual cleaning equipment is the hidden cost. In truth, it’s holding you back in ways you might not be aware of, preventing you from improving efficiency and productivity in numerous ways.

But instead of blocking you from a cleaner and more prosperous future, Kas and Neo open the door. After all, Avidbots’ solution does more than just scrub the floors.

For example, floor scrubbing robots lower your dependency on cleaning labor, whose availability and affordability are causing headaches for everyone now. 

To remain competitive in a labor market where demand far outweighs supply, rising wages and benefits packages are commonplace. Unsurprisingly, these loaded labor costs (salary + benefits) are unsustainable for many organizations.

But with Kas and Neo on your team, you untangle your finances from legacy cleaning machines and the untenable costs and bloated processes needed to keep them in operation. 

Avidbots’ solutions also open new possibilities elsewhere. Robots multiply your workforce by freeing up existing staff. The ability to redirect your team to serving shoppers instead of the floors has a measurable, tangible uplift on store revenue.

Timely and helpful service separates a good retail experience from a bad one. So, that robots let retailers double down on helping customers is a difference-maker, allowing you to focus on revenue-generating, customer-focused activities. 

These benefits and more show how automating your cleaning process rids you of a raft of financial frustrations, helping your organization in ways a manual machine is incapable of matching. In more ways than one, this is an ROI and business case you can build a brighter future around.

Floor care that works for you: Improve your operations with robots

If you’re a retail operation looking for an easy, affordable, and labor-proof way to keep your facilities clean, Kas and Neo can help you build a more sustainable future.

Don’t let myths and misconceptions around other AMRs stand in the way of new cost savings, improved employee retention, and extra levels of productivity. 

Kas and Neo can automate your brand’s cleaning process from store aisle to warehouse floor, with unified service, support, and software satisfying you every step of the way.

It’s time to put automation to work. Contact us today to learn how Kas and Neo could be the perfect fit for your needs.

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