Automation and digitisation is here to stay and those that fail to adapt will be left behind, according to Kärcher Australia sales and marketing director Lucas Paris.
Presenting at the ISSA Cleaning & Hygiene Expo Paris said that despite the slower uptake of new technologies in the Australian cleaning industry, compared to other international markets, Australia has more robotic units operating per capita than anywhere else in the world.
“Robotics aren’t a new invention,” Paris said. “In 1984, Kärcher Germany had a robotic scrubber operating in Amsterdam airport, but it only lasted four weeks due to it being a little too scary for people. Today we are more accustomed to having robotics in our fleets, with talk of autonomous cars and trains now happening,” he said.
Paris stressed autonomous and robotic equipment is to be embraced and not feared.
“The one perception I want to quash in the market is that robotics will result in job losses. We need to change that perception of robotics removing people to upskilling people,” he said.
“The cleaning industry is a people industry and it always will be. Robotics can be and should be used to create opportunities for our people and drive more people to our industry.
“The cleaning isn’t a sexy industry by any means, and this shift to digital tracking and robotics can encourage people to join this industry and can upskill staff so our cleaners become technically savvy people.”
Paris spoke of the value and benefits the robotic shift can provide facility managers, cleaners and suppliers.
“From an efficiency point of view, you can minimise work. Robots won’t clean the same area three or four times. You can map them to ensure they are cleaning in efficient paths and streamlined procedures.
“Robots can make adjustments without any human interaction and can provide real time machine tracking. We can track battery and water levels, how many hours or days the machine has been used and more, which avoids wasting time.
Paris also spoke of how cleaners can engage in more value-added tasks and increase their quality of work in high frequency areas if they don’t have to sit on a scrubber for eight hours a day. Contract managers can also track a robot’s performance and use this data to prove that sites are cleaned to the standard quoted in the contract.
“We need to start training our people to make our industry appealing for young people,” said Paris. “If cleaners are no longer engaging in mundane tasks, they can spend more time being up-skilled so they become technical experts.
“Our world is getting to a point where everything is going to be connected. Rooms, machines and people will be connected. And this doesn’t mean the end of human cleaners. These people will be the ones driving this technology forward, they will be the ones working on these machines.
“You need to get on board or be left behind. This technology will get cheaper, faster and better. We can be leaders in the world with this technology. With more robotic machines operating per capita than anywhere else, Australians are early adapters and should be leading the world in technology and innovation.”