Grimco implements Avidbots' solution with Neo
Neo at Grimco
Travel through most cities and towns throughout the U.S. and Canada, and there’s a good chance you’ve seen their work. Present in over 60 locations throughout North America, Grimco is one of the continent’s largest wholesale sign supply manufacturers and distributors.
From traffic signs, vehicle wraps and digital print media, to metal signage, substrates, vinyl signage and more, Grimco’s product offerings cover all your sign supply needs. They’re also active innovators in their industry, introducing numerous product lines over the years, including their MAXMETAL line of aluminum composite panels.
Grimco has high-quality standards, a level cultivated over 148 years of service excellence. This longevity speaks to a company always looking to the future. A culture where the greatest achievement is always the next one, and for whom technology and innovation — when paired with a dedicated team — are key drivers to success.
Enhancing the employee experience
Grimco prides itself on putting its employees first. So, when searching for new ways to boost productivity and efficiency at their warehouses and distribution centers, cleaning automation was a perfect fit.
The employee would no longer need to endure dirty and repetitive cleaning tasks, a key factor in Grimco’s decision-making process. “Grimco is very open-minded to technology,” begins Mike Rosa, Distribution Manager at Grimco’s Philadelphia facility. “We’ll invest in technology that aids and assists our employees.”
“The labor environment in the valley is pretty intense,” explains Rosa on the job market in the Philadelphia area. “There are a lot of warehouses and most offer a higher hourly wage to start. So, the employee experience is really key to retention.”
Life before Neo
At 141,000 square feet, Grimco’s Philadelphia hub is their largest facility. It’s also one of their busiest, a hive of activity that must move product as quickly as it receives it.
In addition, it’s one of two facilities on a daily distro, which means all clients within a 600-mile radius can receive Grimco’s next-day delivery service.
Given the size, scope and speed of their operations, cleanliness is a top priority for Grimco staff. Without careful attention, dust, dirt and debris can pile up quickly, negatively impacting employee workflows, safety and productivity levels.
As a result, Grimco staff spent hours every day cleaning the floors. It was a tough but necessary job, a task that workers didn’t take lightly. Indeed, they were figuratively “on hands and knees” according to Rosa, such was their commitment to floor care.
But commitment is one thing and efficiency is another. Manually mopping and sweeping floors wasn’t practical or productive. In fact, it can be such a dirty job that it’s not uncommon for workers to bring a change of clothes with them to work.
Clearly, Grimco had everything to gain by turning to autonomous floor care, and Neo appealed to them on many levels.
Neo Signs up with Grimco
With employee well-being top of mind, Neo was a natural choice for Grimco’s management. Avidbots’ solution would give them the flexibility to continue to grow and scale their operations. It would also allow them to redeploy their warehouse associates to revenue-generating tasks instead of the floors.
In a win-win situation, Grimco moved decisively to add Neo to their Philadelphia facility. The next step involved training their employees on how to use Neo. For many autonomous cleaning robots, this means costly downtime as staff learn how to use their new tool.
Not with Neo, though, whose software and interface are accessible and easy to use. The Avidbots Customer Success team worked together with Grimco staff to streamline the entire process. “They trained us how to use it. It’s really easy,” begins Rosa on learning how to use Neo. “It’s relatively self-sustaining. You don’t really have to do much. With a little care, this machine will run forever.” Buoyed by their new tool and eager to put it through its paces, Grimco staff deployed Neo across their entire Philadelphia facility.
“It’s relatively self-sustaining. You don’t really have to do much. With a little care, this machine will run forever.”
Warehouses and distribution centers are complex facilities designed for efficiency and productivity. Goods are constantly moving in and out and from one section to the next. As a result, their layouts aren’t uniform, with floor plans often changing from area to area.
For any cleaning robot to operate — never mind thrive — within these facilities, detailed cleaning plans are a necessity. But even that isn’t enough.
Unless these plans are frequently and automatically updated, stoppages are bound to occur while the robot refamiliarizes itself with any changes to the facility.
This isn’t a problem for Neo, whose multiple cleaning plans allow Grimco to select the one most suited to their needs. In addition, Avidbots Autonomy’s dynamic path planning capabilities allow Neo to adapt its cleaning route in real-time, determining the most efficient route to take.
“During the day when we’re running Neo, it’s working alongside the team members, the forklifts, ladders and all kinds of stuff. Neo carefully maneuvers around all of it,” highlights Rosa on Neo’s artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.
Both features have maximized Neo’s uptime at Grimco, and they now run the robot every day. As Rosa explains: “The Avidbots team came in and mapped the facility for us. We have about 12 different cleaning plans in the system right now, one of which runs every single day. We alternate the other ones depending on the day.”
Neo’s flexibility doesn’t come at a cost to the operator or the facility either. Switching between cleaning plans is seamless, and the robot doesn’t require micromanaging. “The best thing about Neo is it’s a push and go system,” explains Rosa on Neo’s simplicity. “It’s never crashed or done anything wrong. You literally just set it and come back to a clean place.”
Telltale signs of success: Neo reinvents floor care at Grimco
Using its cleaning plans and advanced autonomous capabilities, Neo went to work tackling years’ worth of dirt and debris that found its way into the finest of cracks.
“There’s so much stuff in the warehouse that you don’t see that Neo was picking up. In the creases, for example, where the broom can’t reach,” recalls Rosa of Neo’s ability to raise cleanliness standards.
However, getting a facility clean is only half the battle. Keeping it that way is a different story.
“Currently, we use Neo twice per day, including a whole building clean when the facility closes. At that point, it touches every single aisle, including the front and back docks, and then it goes home,” explains Rosa on how Grimco operates Neo.
“In the morning, we deploy it again on a smaller area of the building, alternating those smaller areas every time,” continues Rosa. “So, in essence, when the employee returns to work the next day, his area has been cleaned twice by Neo.”
A night and day difference, these new and improved cleanliness levels also had a surprising effect besides a cleaner facility. Although Grimco’s workers always kept one eye on the floors, their approach was reactive.
Now, having experienced firsthand the benefits of a cleaner environment, Grimco staff are eager to keep it that way.
“Before deploying Neo, we would measure it by eye, visually, seeing what needed to get done and clean as needed,” says Rosa. “Now we clean every day regardless of whether it needs to get done or not.”
“Beyond a cleaner working environment, our customers continue to comment on how clean our products are that they get from our warehouses,” highlights Rosa. “Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and delivering products that are dust-free is very important to us. It goes a long way to ensuring they have a good customer experience.”
Measurable floor care at Grimco
Equipped with a new tool, a new approach and new motivations, Neo has had a transformative effect at Grimco.
Part of that transformation is down to Avidbots Command Center, Neo’s web-based portal that allows managers to monitor, manage and measure their way to a cleaner and more productive facility.
“The command center allows you the ability to see the machine running around your facility,” says Rosa. “But it also provides you with a reporting system on how it’s doing, how its productivity is, how many gallons of water it used, its travel path, if it had any obstacles. The Command Center plays a role. I look at it every day.”
Indeed, an important management tool considering Grimco’s operations never slow down. Without modern digital tools, closely tracking their floor care status in such a lively facility would’ve been extremely difficult.
Grimco enters a new era
Key performance indicators (KPI) are the measure of success for every warehouse and distribution center. In Grimco’s case, though, the boost to their KPIs goes beyond improved productivity and efficiency.
In fact, some success is unquantifiable; an uplift so complete and far-reaching that attaching a number doesn’t do it justice.
“Just look at the place!,” enthuses Rosa. “Success is the happiness of the team, the overall experience of working in a cleaner environment, and visually, it’s very impressive because anyone who walks through here can see how clean everything is.”
“The employees absolutely love the machine,” continues Rosa. “It’s a game changer for any warehouse. By arriving at work to a consistently clean environment, they want to keep it that way.”
And herein rests the real triumph of Neo at Grimco, and a reinforcement of Avidbots’ guiding principle: unlocking humanity’s potential through technology and innovation.
Yes, Grimco now has an easier, smarter and more cost-effective way to clean their facility.
But the boost to employee morale transcends typical cleaning metrics or traditional corporate benchmarks of success.
Grimco’s true victory lays with the worker who arrives every day feeling happier because they no longer have a tedious and dirty chore to complete. The employee who can showcase their skills and abilities to their organization because they’re not wasting their talents on monotonous floor care.
In an era where recruiting labor is a challenge, these are benefits that pay dividends. Indeed, an investment in cleaning automation is an investment in your employees’ — and your organization’s — future.
“Success is the happiness of the team, the overall experience of working in a cleaner environment, and visually, it’s very impressive because anyone who walks through here can see how clean everything is.”
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