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How Intelligent Automation and Data are Transforming Facilities Management

How Intelligent Automation and Data are Transforming Facilities Management
29 April 2022
 

In post-pandemic recovery, should facilities managers turn to “data-driven leadership” to lead their teams to success?

Michel Spruijt, Senior Vice President of International Business at Brain Corp, predicts a future where FMs adopt a mindset informed by technology, data, and specifically a grasp of robotics.

Spruijt joined Brain Corp, an AI software solution that powers the world’s largest fleet of autonomous mobile robots operating in public spaces, in 2019 and is responsible for partner support, team expansion, and the oversight of general operations throughout the region. Prior to joining Brain Corp, Spruijt held the position of General Manager EMEA at Ergotron. During his twenty-year tenure, Spruijt successfully built cross-functional teams and managed Ergotron’s growth trajectory in EMEA. He speaks four languages including Dutch, English, German, and Hungarian, and received a degree from Grafisch Lyceum Utrecht. 

 

“With robots as both workers and workplace monitors, it is possible to chart a new style of technological leadership, in which data allows leaders to leverage greater insight and generate more efficient, effective and profitable operations.”

 

Data-Driven Leadership

 

After a deadly worldwide pandemic, and ensuing disruptions across international business, brick-and-mortar facilities are tentatively making a recovery and resuming their operations. With a serious crisis in the rearview mirror, new uncertainties and challenges loom on the horizon for managers looking to lead their teams to success.

One major outcome of this situation has been the shift towards data-driven leadership in facilities management.

In turn, this has opened managers’ eyes to the potential offered by the combination of robots and data. If business leaders five years ago knew that their organisations would experience such major upheaval by an unforeseen health crisis, it’s likely that a new class of technologies and practices would have entered workplaces far sooner than they have. Unfortunately, it’s taken the stark COVID-19 experience to spark action.

With modern robotics in place, managers can embrace a new approach to streamlining their operations and future-proofing their organisations.

 

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Picture: a photograph of Michel Sprujit. Image Credit: Brain Corp

 

The Role of Robots – A “Goldmine of Business Intelligence”

 

Robots have entered the business imagination as mechanical beasts of burden. When we think of robots in facilities, we assume that their main purpose is to take care of menial tasks. It is true that robots are deployed in warehouses and retail spaces to offset the work burden on overtasked teams, especially in the context of COVID.

However, robots have revealed another critical function in the recent automation spurt: they’re a goldmine of business intelligence.

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) come equipped with an array of sensors and scanners enabling considerable data-gathering capabilities. For instance, Inventory Scan towers, which can be integrated onto Tennant’s Brain OS-powered floor scrubbing robots, uses computer vision and analytics technologies to gather high-quality inventory and store-mapping data whilst cleaning floors. These robots, adapted to be multifunctional, go well beyond their initial role as effective cleaning partners, and produce valuable data on the job that provides managers with better visibility of their facilities than before.

With increased quantities of higher-quality data in place, business leaders can monitor their workplaces more comprehensively with a clear, up-to-the-minute visualisation of their facilities. A good example of this technology would be the development of virtual tour features. Currently being piloted, Virtual Tours enables department leads to virtually tour their facilities and carry out remote inspections and quality checks.

 

Automating the Aisles

 

Before a truly future-looking facility can be created, managers first need to adopt a new mindset – one informed by technology, cutting-edge data, and specifically a grasp of robotics. Robots can serve as the first step in a larger, more holistic strategy to “automate the aisles”, modernising them to a greater degree. Every corner of a facility can be mapped by a robot working its routine, which is then able to feed back into a manager’s view of the field and inform better decision making. A manager can revise existing systems, or invent completely new workarounds in response to previously unseen problems highlighted by robotic data.

Automation strategies can be expanded to involve multiple robotic machines  – floor scrubbers, vacuums, in-store delivery and inventory analytics  – all working in tandem across a given facility. With these devices in place, the robots can all be bound by a centralised, cloud-connected AI software platform. With multiple units feeding into one platform, it is possible to tap more data than ever before. In this system, every aisle becomes an automated data source for managers to exploit.

 

New Data, New Managers

 

With robots as both workers and workplace monitors, it is possible to chart a new style of technological leadership, in which data allows leaders to leverage greater insight and generate more efficient, effective and profitable operations. This approach sets up retailers for future success, including: enhanced productivity, reduced costs, improved labour reliability and consistency, better operational insights, increased worker safety, and improved customer experiences. Naturally, such benefits come as the result of smarter decision making, which depends on a broader and better idea of what is happening on the ground in real-time.

The current shift to tech-driven solutions being witnessed in facilities management will likely be regarded as a watershed moment. Future-proofing operations requires leaders to adopt technologies able to harness key data which are able to inform intelligent decision making. 

Picture: a photograph of Michel Sprujit. Image Credit: Brain Corp

Article written by Michel Spruijt | Published 29 April 2022

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