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Lean and Clean: Fully autonomous floor scrubbing robot

clean facility is essential for safe production and warehouse fulfillment operations, but the cleaning itself is not a directly value-added activity to expend precious labor resources on at a time when labor is hard to find. That makes facility cleaning a task that can benefit from automation, especially when it comes to large sites where staff have more complex tasks to carry out.

This is the situation that prompted DSV, global transport and logistics service provider, to explore and implement a mobile robotics solution that automates cleaning (Avidbots). In the summer of 2020, DSV explored the use of the supplier’s Neo fully autonomous floor-scrubbing robots at DSV’s 1.2-million-square-foot head office and warehouse facility in Milton, Ontario.

DSV’s goal was to increase safety and sanitation, especially in the wake of Covid-19, while improving productivity and efficiency.

The facility serves more than 20 different clients for its warehousing and logistics services, making for a complex and dynamic environment with little or no slow periods. DSV’s focus on innovative sustainability initiatives was also a reason to pursue efficient cleaning of the busy operation. The DSV Milton project is newly LEED Silver certified.

“Ensuring a clean, healthy and safe work environment for our team through the utilization of the latest innovative automation is a leading principle at DSV,” says Mert Selcuk, engineering manager with DSV Solutions. “Through using Avidbots’ easy-to-operate and sustainable solution, the time commitment for an otherwise cumbersome task is vastly reduced. This allows us to allocate resources to essential warehousing duties and focus on our operational success.”

The robots are fully autonomous, which allows them to operate safely and effectively in DSV’s large logistics complex and dynamic warehouse environment. Besides the physical cleaning functionality, the solution also offers cleaning performance insight with Avidbots Command Center software, which provides data on every cleaning run; measuring and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) such as total area cleaned, cleaning productivity and even water consumption. With this information, DSV can optimize their floor care operation over a period of time. This insight also helps support DSV’s environmental and sustainability commitments.

The solution improved the quality, consistency and efficiency of warehouse cleaning for DSV, boosting productivity while reducing operating costs. By automating cleaning functions, DSV minimized labor demands and provided a safer working environment. Since deployment in summer 2020 to April 2021, the robots cleaned a total area of just more than 3.5 million square feet and saved more than 300 hours of labor hours versus conventional cleaning methods.

A custodial employee sets up the robot at the start of the cleaning plan and presses “go,” typically during overnight hours. When the robot is done with its cleaning plan, it is picked up and prepped for its next assignment. One robot can clean a large DC, or other facility, with minimal human assistance to get the robot going for its shift, and to pick it up and ready it for its next assignment.

“By working collaboratively with the Avidbots’ team, 10 unique cleaning plans were developed for our 1.2-million-square-foot logistics facility,” explains Burak Balki, director of operations for DSV Solutions. “Neo is deployed overnight based on our internal schedule. The custodian drops the robot at the starting point of a cleaning plan and leaves for the day. The next morning Neo is awaiting the supervisor at a predetermined pick up point. Our custodian then conducts the daily cleaning procedures, preparing the robot for another deployment the next day. This method allows DSV to clean our entire warehouse facility end-to-end in two weeks with a single Neo.”

Following deployment at its Canadian head office, DSV expanded its partnership with Avidbots to include Neos at two other facilities in Canada. DSV also has plans to further expand its deployment of Neo in Canada and implement the technology in some of its U.S. warehouse locations.

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