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Advancing autonomous cleaning

27 March 2019

The Nilfisk Group have been at the forefront of autonomous cleaning machine development recognising that self-driving cleaning equipment is the answer to a myriad of challenges that cleaning professionals face.

These include employee turnover, poor productivity, inconsistent cleaning results, and high labour costs. Indeed, with labour now accounting for over 70 per cent of cleaning costs and with Brexit on the horizon this is not likely to decrease.

Early self-driving cleaning solutions were very expensive and failed to deliver on their promise of autonomy. They were robotic, yes, and they cleaned to some extent without a driver, but they lacked intuition and an ability to adapt to their environment. A key stumbling block was their inability to move around an unexpected obstacle. 

These early solutions disappointed on many fronts but just like within other industries these early prototypes opened the door to greater innovation. The kind of innovation that can effectively reduce labour costs by streamlining cleaning processes, improve employee turnover by creating a more exciting work environment, drive productivity by handling repetitive tasks, and satisfy customers by delivering a consistently clean facility. 

This heightened drive for innovation within the industry comes as the availability and adoption of automation and autonomy continue to grow in workplaces, homes, and communities across the globe. From robots that stack shelves in retail stores to self-driving cars and artificially intelligent home electronics. 

Nilfisk’s research estimates that 20 to 30 per cent of a contract cleaner’s equipment fleet will be autonomous within the next five years. They also believe that the addressable market for autonomous cleaning equipment is more than $3.5 billion, which is roughly 40 per cent of the global professional cleaning equipment market. It is anticipated that autonomous cleaning solutions will constitute up to 10 per cent of the Nilfisk Group's revenue by 2025.

Additionally, the market is starting to see solutions that not only independently clean floors but that extend autonomy to machine maintenance such as adding their own cleaning chemicals, filling and emptying their own water tanks, and recharging their own batteries. 

The commercial cleaning industry has made significant strides in the last decade, innovating at an unprecedented pace to bring to market compliant autonomous solutions customers want, need, and are now demanding. It is clear the coming years will bring continued advancements in autonomous solutions that will disrupt, elevate, and revolutionise the cleaning industry and its entire eco system.