Staffing Shortages Drive Interest in Robotic Cleaners Among Hoteliers
You may have seen the news last fall that Sam’s Club completed a nationwide rollout of Inventory Scan Towers attached to robotic floor scrubbers via a partnership with artificial intelligence company Brain Corp. But why would hoteliers care about what Sam’s Club is doing with autonomous robots? Well, Brain Corp. is looking to provide the hospitality industry with access to similar technologies that will, in the words of its founder Dr. Eugene Izhikevich, make the lives of employees “safer, easier and more productive.”
To be clear, Brain Corp. is a software company that makes “the brains of the robots,” says Michel Spruijt, Chief Revenue Officer. Since the company’s inception, it has been working hard to bring innovation to the cleaning industry. But prior to COVID-19, robots were often seen as a novelty item.
“After COVID-19, cleaning has become very important to retail customers and hotel guests,” Spruijt says. “Many businesses now use cleaning as a way to demonstrate that they care about their customers.”
And as the hospitality industry continues to deal with a labor shortage, robotic cleaners are becoming a very appealing solution to hotel owners.
“Rooms are no longer cleaned daily by housekeeping because there aren’t enough staff members to do it. Instead, housekeepers are tasked with only cleaning rooms where guests have checked out,” Spruijt notes.
However, robotic cleaners can help hoteliers in a variety of ways. To begin with, data from the robot means that owners can prove their hotel is clean and when/where specific areas were last cleaned (which is very useful when you need to show proof of performance ). And managers can then use this data to better maximize other cleaning efforts that need to be undertaken by staff. Additionally, it ensures that public spaces are cleaned on a daily basis instead of only spot-cleaned a few times a week.
While Spruijt is very optimistic about the potential robots have within the hospitality industry, he doesn’t believe that robots will ever “take over” the industry.
“In hospitality, you always need some form of human connection and interaction, and I don’t think on-property staff members will ever completely disappear,” he notes. “But the labor shortage is very real, and data indicates it’s only going to get worse over the next few decades. It’s inevitable that we’ll need to outsource certain tasks to robots, because there just won’t be enough employees.”
The most likely scenario, according to Spruijt, is that robots will be used to do tasks that don’t need human interaction: cleaning, stocking shelves, delivering toiletries to guest rooms, etc. Of course, not every hotel may embrace robotics in the same way or even at all. For example, guests at a five-star luxury resort may not want to be served drinks poolside by a robot or be asked to use kiosks or a mobile app to check-in. On the other hand, guests at an economy hotel may be willing to sacrifice common forms of human interaction for a lower room price.