Utilizing Robotics at Rochester Institute of Technology
Diversey's Intellibot solutions stood out during the research process as more advanced than competitive solutions.
Founded in 1829, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is a prestigious university with approximately 15,400 undergraduate and 3,200 graduate students. RIT has secured a number of impressive rankings and accolades and is widely recognized as a leader in technology and experiential learning.
Like many universities, RIT must maintain a large amount of square footage throughout its academic buildings. Using everything from ride-on and walk-behind machines to mops and buckets, RIT staff must maintain 4 million square feet of space on a daily basis without hindering the ability of faculty to teach and students to learn.
In addition to adjusting cleaning traffic patterns as class schedules change from semester to semester, floor care is further complicated by the environmental elements present in Rochester, NY. The winter brings heavy snow and rain is frequent in the spring, allowing salt, ice and water to enter buildings.
Lastly, as an institute of technology, it is important for RIT to implement cutting-edge technology into all aspects of the university’s operations, and the cleaning program is no exception.
“Advancing the cleaning program through robotics would further promote our commitment to being a technology leader,” said Chuck VanMaldeghem, Building Services Supervisor, Facility Management Services, RIT. “We needed to find a safe and efficient floor care machine that promoted the Internet of Things by incorporating mobile technology and reporting features.”
As a member of the university’s robotics committee, VanMaldeghem began researching robotic cleaning equipment in 2014. Cleaning staff were also included in the process so that the university could understand their concerns and challenges and best overcome them. RIT did not want to use robotic machines to reduce or eliminate staff, but rather reassign cleaners to other key cleaning tasks.
Diversey's Intellibot solutions stood out during the research process as more advanced than competitive solutions. For example, the IntelliTrack mapping aspects were a deciding factor in the decision process. This feature allows RIT to individualize areas or have the robot run through a pre-set course without interference or redeployment from one spot to another.
VanMaldeghem was initially concerned about the security of a robotic unit as he didn’t want it vandalized or stolen. However, each employee has an individual login when operating the machine to enhance security. The facility manager can also be alerted when the machine crosses outside of a predetermined perimeter.
To alleviate concerns about the machine running into people, walls and equipment, Diversey arranged a demonstration with a machine being used by one of its customers in Canada. VanMaldeghem was able to observe the unit and witness how the machine’s sensors allow it to quickly detect and avoid people and objects in its cleaning path. The machine also has a secondary “touchshield” safety system that stops the unit if anything grazes the touchshield in the unlikely event that the sonar sensors fail to detect an obstacle.
Since implementing Intellibot’s HydroBot® Hands-Free Robotic Scrubber in October of 2015, RIT has had great success. The machine runs five days per week for about six hours per day, covering about 50,000 square feet throughout the Frank E. Gannett Hall and the James E. Booth Hall during each shift.
Recapturing time for additional tasks
With 4 million square feet of space to maintain each day, only so much can be done in an 8 hour shift. Deploying the HydroBot frees up time for new cleaning tasks or increased cleaning in areas of concern such as restrooms.
Strengthening relationships between cleaners and students and staff
Prior to the HydroBot’s introduction, communication between cleaners and students and faculty was minimal because cleaners were more rushed in completing all of their tasks during a shift. Cleaners can now interact more with faculty and students to better understand their needs because the HydroBot is effectively and efficiently cleaning the floors.
Elevating RIT’s profile as a technology leader among students, staff and visitors
RIT is currently the only institute of higher learning in New York that has implemented a robotic cleaning machine. As a result, students, faculty and visitors have all been impressed by the university’s commitment to technology. The use of the HydroBot has also made students more inquisitive about the use of robotic technology, further igniting their passion for learning.
“We were extremely impressed with the level of attention Diversey provided to make sure the unit would fit within our operations. It’s not always typical to have that assurance before making a purchase,” said VanMaldeghem. “After just a few months, we’re already noticing the many benefits of the HydroBot, and we’re excited to see what additional opportunities robotic cleaning technology can open in the future.”