A recent Learning Journey for SMEs in the cleaning sector, organised by the IDA and the WDA, showcased a robotic brain for cleaning machines.Meet the clean-up Transformer developed by local ICT company, V3 Teletech.
It senses, analyses and learns — thus transforming human-operated scrubber machines into autonomous cleaning bots.
And in the process, it could also help to morph small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the manpower-intensive cleaning sector into leaner enterprises.
The Transformer is a Robot-as-a-Service (RaaS) showcased at a Learning Journey for SMEs in the cleaning sector, organised by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and hosted by Marina Bay Sands.
Speaking at the event, Minister for Manpower Mr Lim Swee Say emphasised the need for businesses to become more manpower-lean as an aging workforce leads to a sharp drop in the increase in manpower in the coming years.
“We need to move towards the formula of 1+2=3,” he said, where 1 per cent growth in manpower combined with 2 per cent growth in productivity will lead to a 3 per cent growth in the economy.
Technology plays an important role in helping SMEs to achieve this equation.
The RaaS, for example, features an autonomous controller or “robotic brain” which can be retrofitted to existing cleaning scrubber machines, allowing for workflow re-design and empowering SMEs to be more manpower-lean.
“The idea is not to reinvent the wheel,” said Mr Arian Long, general manager of ICT solutions provider V3 Teletech.
“The service providers already have cleaning machines and if they buy new ones, it will be very costly. So we created a robotic brain that can be fixed onto their existing machines.”
The robotic brain, together with light and laser sensors and a camera mounted onto an existing cleaning machine, will enable the latter to sense objects and learn routes in order to operate autonomously.
Data captured by the sensors is also transmitted to a patent-pending cloud robotics system which is able to monitor and analyse the inputs to help improve processes and ensure consistency in cleaning performance.
The VS solution is supported by IDA's Enhanced iSPRINT programme to help SMEs in the cleaning industry to use smart tech to boost productivity and growth. The introduction of technology also provides cleaners with an opportunity to be retrained to manage multiple cleaning robots.
“This helps enhance skillsets and improve the image of the cleaning industry,” said Mr Long.
The RaaS is currently being piloted by Ramky Cleantech Services, one of the leading environment management providers in a collaboration between IDA, WDA and the Environmental Management Association of Singapore (EMAS).
And it is already primed to be give productivity a boost.
Mr Dahari Bin Mohamad, a housekeeping officer with Ramky, said with the autonomous robot cleaning the floor, manpower is freed up to clean other areas such as glass partitions and pillars, allowing these tasks to be carried out concurrently.
Another autonomous cleaning solution showcased at the Learning Journey was the Hydrobot by King’s Build International, which is able to clean up to 10,000 sq feet per hour, or up to 40,000 sq ft per battery charge.
The scrubber can be rostered for 24 hour shifts because unlike conventional scrubbers which require water to be changed regularly, the Hydrobot incorporates filters which enable the water to be recycled. Sonar sensors on the Hydrobot and its autonomous vacuum cleaner sibling ,the Aerobot, also enable the machines to navigate their way around glass surfaces, which may not be detected by traditional infrared sensors.
A different type of technology that was showcased at the learning journey was the Pandora Cleaning Operations System from PBA Solutions, which is a workforce management system designed for the cleaning industry.
One of the capabilities of Pandora is that it allows cleaning supervisors to take the attendance of staff using their mobile devices or tablets and send it directly to a centralised human resource management system.
In the event that rostered cleaning staff do not turn up for work, the supervisor can re-assign personnel on-the-go and thus better manage the company’s resources, said Mr Elson Lau, sales executive, PBA Solutions.
IDA’s Enhanced iSPRINT programme incorporates the S$500 million ICT for Productivity and Growth programme which was announced in Budget 2014. SMEs involved in piloting new sector solutions are eligible for up to 80 per cent funding capped at $1 million per SME.
For proven solutions that have been pre-qualified by IDA, SMEs adopters are eligible for up to 70 per cent funding support (or up to two years’ support for subscription-based solutions). No claim submission is needed by SMEs.
“The government assistance allows us to invest in new technology to improve performance standards,” said Mr Milton Ng, Managing Director of Ramky. “It also enables us to improve productivity and re-engineer work processes to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of our staff.”
To-date, more than 8,000 SMEs have benefited from Enhanced iSPRINT programme, deploying tech solutions at basic, intermediate or customized levels or solutions which are mapped to their sector work flow and designed to benefit groups of SMEs in the same sector.