Warehouses pose some of the biggest cleaning challenges — literally. The average warehouse has more than doubled in size since the early 2000s, as every business strives to fulfill more orders, more quickly. The big and busy facilities don’t operate on a 9-5 schedule — so work can’t come to a grinding halt to make way for floor cleaning efforts. Not only is time at a premium — so are workers. The ongoing labor shortage is squeezing staff and forcing warehouses to look for creative ways to make the best use of the labor hours that they do have.
Automation has long been a popular solution in the warehousing and logistics segments — and today, innovative autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are giving warehouses a powerful solution to their big cleaning challenges. More and more warehouse operations are leveraging autonomous cleaning machines to work smarter, not harder — driving efficient cleaning while freeing up human employees to focus on other core business functions.
Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGV) Vs. Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR)
Automated equipment is already ubiquitous in warehouse environments — often in the form of autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) like forklifts, pick carts, etc. AGVs don’t require a human driver — but they do require some type of track or navigation system, usually in the form of magnetic tape on the floor or a network of sensors. These “tracks” are the inherent limitation of AGVs: they can only work within this limited range of motion, and cannot navigate around obstacles or people.
AMR technology is different. AMR cleaning machines use artificial intelligence (AI) to quickly “learn” a route, without requiring a set track or sensors. Routes can easily be changed at any time, without requiring the re-structuring of the technical hardware for tracks or sensors. This is a significant advantage for warehouse facilities that might change layouts frequently. Even more impressively, AMR cleaning machines can automatically “see” an obstacle or person — and naturally steer around, continuing cleaning the route. This is a major plus in warehouse facilities where downtime is a foreign concept. An autonomous floor scrubber from Tennant Company, for instance, can work around pick carts and employees. Cleaning and regular operations can co-exist, without one disrupting or delaying the other.
Ensuring Clean, Safe Warehouse Environments
Autonomous floor scrubbers can keep your warehouse facility clean and dry — all without diverting labor or impeding business functions. A cleaner warehouse floor can reduce the risk of slip and fall injuries for workers. And as an added bonus, cleaner warehouse floors can reduce the likelihood of products being damaged — either by moisture or droppage — before they even leave your facility.
Empowering staff to support satisfaction & retention
Like many other autonomous technologies in warehouses, AMR floor scrubbers can handle what is a pretty monotonous, repetitive task for a human employee. Staff can be re-skilled to train and manage the AMR technology, as well as re-deployed to other higher-value responsibilities. This can help employees feel more empowered and supported in their professional development — not to mention freed from monotonous floor cleaning — to help boost job satisfaction and help with the retention issues that just about every business is struggling with right now.
Powering labor efficiency
Piggybacking on the previous benefits, autonomous floor cleaning machines enable warehousing and logistics operations to smartly and strategically re-allocate their (often limited) labor resources to other business-critical functions. Dedicated cleaning teams can spend more time on the more high-touch cleaning requirements (surface wipe-downs, restrooms, etc.). In other cases, labor can be re-deployed to other teams within the warehouse, powering labor efficiency that’s essential to bottom-line success.
Elevating Employee Responsibilities to Increase Retention
Your warehouse may be making due with its current AGV or human-powered solution — but don’t forget to factor future growth into the equation. Moreover, consider the intensifying competition in your industry: The most successful companies are doubling down on innovation to build their competitive edge, leaning into marginal improvements in operational efficiency to fulfill orders faster and operate at a lower cost. Is your business ready to compete in this landscape — adapting to continued labor shortages, expanded e-commerce volume, and other business innovations? An autonomous floor scrubber can be one piece of that solution — now and for years to come.