How Commercial Service Robots Will Transform Facilities Management

Service robots streamline daily building processes so facility managers can focus on dealing with more complex challenges.

Photo: Pudu Robotics

By Robin Zheng

As hybrid work continues for various industries, employers are thinking twice about leasing new physical office spaces for their workers. This, combined with increased layoffs and higher interest rates, means that commercial space might not have the value it once did.

As stewards of these spaces, facilities managers have a responsibility to enhance the tenant experience in hopes of extending and retaining lease agreements. Just as they are expected to deliver more services in a tenant-friendly market, today’s management teams are hampered by labor shortages and budget restrictions, hampering their ability to achieve higher levels of cleanliness, service, and technological capabilities.

Facility management teams need tools that will help them retain and recruit new tenants who have a lot of options in this market. Service robots will help bridge the gap.

Service robots are autonomous devices that streamline daily building processes so facility managers can focus on dealing with more complex challenges like engaging with tenants to boost satisfaction. Future facility management teams will use service robots to create more interconnected, automated, and clean buildings that will keep tenants around without incurring more costs.

The Era Of Automation

Tenants are satisfied when their workforce is happy and their workforce is most pleased when everything is working seamlessly without distraction. By managing deliveries, service robots turn workspaces into places employees actually want to be.

A connected network of bots can automate physical delivery processes in any facility—from office buildings to warehouses—securely and promptly couriering important items without disrupting workflow.

In the new automated process, a staff member will load a parcel into a secure compartment in a delivery robot and set it to travel directly to its recipient. This compartment will be equipped with sanitizing UV lights to prevent the spread of infection, while being able to carry a heavier load than a human could, alleviating the manual strain of carrying packages on employees and delivery personnel.

Next, the service robot will autonomously find its way to the correct office, area of a factory, apartment, etc., using a pre-programmed map of the entire building to navigate and AI-vision to detect and avoid obstacles. The connected service robot will even call elevators to travel between floors, helping it reach any location without manual intervention. When the robot arrives, it will text or auto-call the recipient, ensuring that they never miss a delivery. By operating autonomously, service robots will help important packages reach tenants more promptly.

In office buildings with hybrid work schedules, this network of robots can also be governed by complex and adaptable rules so they only deliver to tenants when they are available and in the office, meaning sensitive packages are never left unattended. This entire delivery process will vastly improve turnaround time for quick maintenance tasks, such as delivering more towels for bathrooms or a wrench to repair an office chair. Any tool that helps a facility manager fulfill requests more efficiently will boost tenant satisfaction.

To make the office building more welcoming, robots can also greet visitors and use the same navigation technology to show them to the right place.

Integrating service robots is the necessary next step in automating building tasks. It will free up facility management staff to focus less on routine duties and more on creating better relationships with their tenants and solving more complex problems for them.

Cleanliness Is Essential

More than half of Americans (56%) have thought more about how clean a business/public space is in the past two years than ever before. As public concern for health stays top-of-mind, cleanliness is as important to tenant safety as locks and key cards. Cleaning and sanitizing robots are already taking on the manual burden of cleaning off of building staff so they can focus on more specialized cleaning and maintenance tasks.

Fully autonomous cleaning robots mop and vacuum floors before, during, and after working hours, collaborating in a network and on a set schedule to make sure all areas of the facility are cleaned but none are repeated. Just like the delivery robots, the cleaning robots will be able to take the elevator, so they can be sent to clean specific spills or messes on any floor when called.

The top cleaning robots will also charge themselves and fill and drain cleaning water at designated work stations, creating a fully hands-off cleaning solution for busy facility managers. For cleaning high-use, shared spaces such as waiting rooms, medical examination areas, and conference rooms, special disinfecting robots will travel autonomously between areas during off hours. These disinfection robots will be programmed to spray a mist disinfectant and shine powerful UV lights only when the room is deemed empty, preserving the safety of building inhabitants while ensuring all spaces get cleaned.

Finally, with a network of cleaning robots, facility managers will also be able to take a macro view of the cleanliness of their buildings, viewing a map of cleaned zones in real time and identifying areas that need the most cleaning based on daily robot activity.

For a cleaning staff that might be spread thin, these autonomous robots will help them maintain the higher level of cleanliness customers and tenants now expect.

An Overarching Management Solution

In the facility of the future, robots will become a common fixture, taking on monotonous or manually straining tasks to help inhabitants better navigate their jobs and assisting staff in attending to their needs more quickly and completely.

As robots assume more daily delivery, cleaning, and service tasks, this will free facility managers up to more quickly address complex problems that require human attention and provide more personalized service to their tenants.

Today, the novelty of a facility with robots assisting staff members may attract tenants looking to experience the latest cutting-edge technology, but soon they will come to expect service robots as an essential element of any well-managed facility.

Zheng is the U.S. Manager of Pudu Robotics, a tech-focused enterprise dedicated to the design, R&D, production and sales of commercial service robots, which aims to use robots to improve the efficiency of human production and living. 

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