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Rise Of The Robots How Increased Automation In Facilities Management Is Benefitting Businesses

22 June 2016

Think robots in the workplace is the stuff of science fiction? Think again.

Robots have, in fact, been labouring alongside humans since 1961, when automation technology was first introduced at a General Motors foundry. Until relatively recently, however, robots in the workplace have mainly been limited to highly structured environments, such as manufacturing. 

As automation technologies advance, though, robots are increasingly being used for a far wider variety of workplace applications. As a result, their role within facilities management technology is changing rapidly.

Here, we highlight some of the ways in which advances in automation technology are impacting the facilities management sector and take a look at the benefits these bring to businesses.

Automation Technology & Portering

One service area where robots are already being successfully utilised is portering – especially in the healthcare sector

For example, this article outlines the important contributions robots are making at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Scotland where, 12 automated guided vehicles (AGVs) travel through subterranean service tunnels, following pre-programmed routes and using inbuilt sensors to react to their surroundings. These AGVs are responsible for transporting all manner of items, from patient food and sterile supplies to dirty laundry and clinical waste. 

Using robots to transport payloads in this manner within a hospital setting brings about a wealth of benefits for patients, visitors and staff. Notably, it:

  • Creates a calmer, less crowded environment
  • Improves staff efficiency and productivity, as they have more time to focus on patients
  • Reduces the risk of spreading infections 
  • Promotes patient privacy and dignity

Automation Technology & Facilities Maintenance

Thanks to advances in sensor technologies, robots are now better equipped than ever before to adapt to changing environments. As such, facilities managers are increasingly automating routine maintenance tasks, such as cleaning and grounds maintenance.

Already, automation technology exists that can scrub floors, vacuum, and even cut grass – all of which are tasks that are ordinarily fulfilled outside of office hours, so as to minimise any disruption. By using robots, businesses can save money by reducing manpower and through energy efficiencies where for example, automated cleaning would not require lighting or heating to be turned on.

Robots can prove more effective, and present less of a risk, than their human counterparts. For example, automation technology can be used to:

  • Clean windows in high-rise buildings
  • Slip under obstacles and access small spaces

Automation Technology & Waste Management 

According to Government statistics, commercial and industrial activities were responsible for generating 24% of the UK’s total waste in 2012 – that’s approximately 48 million tonnes. Anything that can be done to make waste management more sustainable should be encouraged. This is where automation technology steps in. 

The world’s first robotic waste sorting system is already on the market. It operates using a combination of machine learning technology, an array of sensors, and automated arms that can ‘feel’ pain. The result? A waste management system that:

  • Can run autonomously 24 hours a day
  • Sorts waste for recycling with a high level of efficiency
  • Is more cost-effective than relying solely on human labour 

Automation Technology & Security

Robots are supporting facilities managers in the provision of security and safety services.

In terms of security, AGVs and drones enable unprecedented opportunities for remote monitoring. Often, facilities managers’ responsibilities are spread out across multiple facilities. Anything that enables them to carry out checks or tasks without being on-site is likely to bring about significant benefits in terms of efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Automation technology can also be utilised to promote the safety of a facility. For example, robots in the workplace can be programmed to remotely:

  • Carry out scheduled environmental sampling protocols 
  • Conduct regular safety checks
  • Inspect and report hazard risks 
  • Respond to an emergency
Robots in the workplace are already a reality. As technologies continue to develop, we can expect to see automation technology playing an increasingly important role in the way facilities are managed over the years to come.

Interested in learning about the facilities management technology used by OCS? Visit our facilities management page to find out more, or call us on 0844 846 7608 today.

Image from Pixabay.