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Cobotics to drive innovation and performance in the wake of Covid-19

FM leaders are turning to cobotics to drive innovation and performance in the wake of Covid-19 according to new research by SoftBank Robotics EMEA.

The research, which highlights the urgent need for new approaches within FM and commercial cleaning, revealed that 81 per cent of FM leaders in EMEA see cobotics as a potential solution to cleaning challenges over the next five years and 73 per cent believe that cobotics has the potential to transform the cleaning industry.

Cobots are collaborative robots which work alongside cleaning teams and undertake repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as vacuuming, freeing up staff to focus on other tasks such as the deep cleaning and sanitisation of hard surfaces which is critical in the fight against Covid-19.

The research exposes the urgent need for innovation within commercial cleaning. Ninety per cent of FM leaders cite innovation as a top business priority and 70 per cent of those in supply-side organisations say they are facing increasing pressure from clients to demonstrate innovation.

However, 81 per cent report that their innovation projects have failed to deliver on expected outcomes over the past two years and 83 per cent fear that they are now falling behind their competitors. On average, FM leaders estimate they are 4.5 years behind the most innovative companies in their market.

FM leaders believe that the introduction of cobots into their operations can deliver the technological and operational transformation they need. Ninety-three per cent report that cobots will increase the quality and consistency of service delivery within commercial cleaning, 77 per cent state that cobots can drive productivity, and 76 per cent predict that cobotics will lead to healthier workspaces for all employees.

Importantly, given the disruptive impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on commercial cleaning operations, 82 per cent of FM leaders state that cobotics can support more agile working in the sector.

Stefano Bensi, GM at SoftBank Robotics EMEA, said: “The disruption that we’ve seen in the market over recent months will only heighten efforts to drive innovation within the FM industry, not just in terms of new technologies, but also in regard to new business and commercial models. This is where cobotics can play a major role in driving overall performance within cleaning operations and delivering commercial efficiencies. 

“By taking a cobotic approach, FM organsiations can re-invent their resourcing and commercial models going forward, to take advantage of the relative strengths of both people and machines. And importantly, given the current situation, they can embed agility and resilience into their operations, by ensuring they have access to scalable cobotic resource should cleaning staff be unable to work due to sickness or the need to self-isolate.”

The research also highlights the difficulties that FM leaders face in driving through successful innovation programmes. They put this down to a range of factors, including a technical complexity and a lack of required skills and leadership in the business.

Thirty-four per cent of FM leaders say that their innovation efforts to date have not been sufficiently focused on outcomes, and 30 per cent point to high capex costs as a barrier to innovation within their organisation.

Cobotics is seen to address many of these challenges and to support major strategic objectives within FM organisations. On the demand side, 81% per cent of FM leaders believe that cobotics can play a significant role in aligning their commercial cleaning operations with their smart building vision. And on the supply side, 77 per cent predict that the introduction of cobotics into their cleaning operations will enable them to win new clients through proof of performance and innovation.

Bensi concluded: “It is really encouraging to see the appetite to adopt new thinking and embrace new approaches to innovation. Cobotics is already delivering game-changing benefits to facility management organisations on both the supply and demand sides. Innovation-led brands that are already deploying cobots in their cleaning operations are seeing marked improvements in performance and productivity and minimising their exposure to risk from staff attrition and churn. Interestingly, they are also seeing a positive shift in levels of staff engagement, as cleaning teams are freed up from undertaking repetitive and strenuous tasks and able to focus on more varied and fulfilling work.”

The research is presented in a new white paper, The Cobotic Evolution in Cleaning.

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