Integrated Facility Management: How Robots and Automation can Help Businesses Reduce their Costs
The world is now in the eradication phase of this pandemic, given that we have a better understanding of the COVID-19 virus and have to restart the economy and resume commerce. However, the pandemic has affected a lot of different sectors, and now businesses are trying to find ways to keep up with the new normal, without having added costs. Facility management companies that help reduce operating costs for businesses are also faced with offering many services but the costs may be high for some in this period. Because automation is a big part of optimizing processes and reducing costs, robots like Pepper play an immense role in the climate today. Offering many functionalities like mask detection, autonomous navigation, empathetic communication, etc, they are an important asset for facility management companies to consider adding to their portfolio.
As we continue to adapt to the new normal, companies find themselves having to adapt to the new circumstances COVID-19 has brought. It is no secret that a lot of industries have been hard hit by the pandemic, particularly the travel industry and physical retail stores, where according to studies done by Forrester, revenue was contracted by 70%, and their capacity was reduced somewhere around 70% to 90%. Similarly, in another of their reports, they analyzed that the pandemic is currently in its third stage, management. This is due to the fact that now that protocols have been in place and have demonstrated to be effective in combating the virus, so these have slowly transitioned from being protocols to just being “the new normal” or part of our regular lives and because we have had prolonged exposure to the virus, doctors know how to respond to it more precisely than when it first started out. In this sense, now business must account for these as it becomes part of the demand from customers and their experiences. How can businesses adjust to the new normal while keeping their costs low and innovating their customer, visitor, and staff experience?
OPEX is something businesses put high in their priorities to manage, and most of the time it is incredibly difficult to keep within budget without making a few sacrifices along the way. However, OPEX is the smart way to keep costs low without the high investment found in CAPEX. Businesses today turn to services as a way to reduce their costs. How can facility management companies keep their services cost-effective and innovative? Automation is a smart service facility management companies can offer, in the form of robots like Pepper or Whiz. First, let us lay some groundwork.
Investing in services or developing internally?
For many businesses, hiring services from facility management companies can make things easier and cheaper in the long run. This is turning a company’s capital expense into operational expenses. However, the long term goal is to be cost-effective, and facility management companies need to make sure that they provide innovative and automated solutions to ensure cost-effectiveness for their clients. However, let’s discuss a bit about OPEX and CAPEX first.
OPEX has the advantage of letting a 3rd party manage certain operations within your company that does not require much investment outside of the agreed installments, the services already exist, and maintenance is handled by the service provider. It really minimizes operational costs and investment. These types of services can include a 3rd party delivery service for restaurants or cleaning services for your office. For things like technologies, this can ensure that your software and hardware are properly maintained, updated, and fixed upon necessity without added cost in the majority of cases. Facility management companies offer these services, sometimes all of them or just specific/niche services.
CAPEX is mostly for start-up companies, multinational companies to consider, or tech companies. Investing in your own resources may sound like a good idea on paper. You want to build a solid foundation, and have a great selling point. However, consider that as previously mentioned, return on investment (ROI) may be minimal. Investing in your own software and hardware may lead to both long cycles of costly cycles of development, and by the time it is finished, it may be already out of date. Hardware requires maintenance and needs to be updated frequently, which adds to costs. However, owning your own equipment means that it is still an asset to you.
OPEX or CAPEX in Post-COVID?
In these uncertain times, choosing what to invest in is extremely important, but also complicated. For most retailers, for example, investing in safety measures is important, such as constant cleaning, protection equipment for check-out, added security, etc. However, right now it’s hard to do so since costs need to be kept at a bare minimum. Most places have reduced staff to keep both employees and customers safe, customer capacity, and in some cases hours of operation. The solution is complicated and every case varies. Regardless, in the next section, we will discuss a few things to consider when planning on which to invest.
Automation Where It Counts
As mentioned earlier, Forrester’s study of the 4 phases of the pandemic concludes that we are currently in the fourth phase, Eradication. According to Forrester, it’s where “Pandemic management protocols will define ways of working, traveling, congregating, eating, moving, and connecting.” In this vein, managing the queue and your visitors should be a top priority for businesses. Making things like picking up an order as fast and contactless as possible, checking in people to hotels, among other things. Consumers today have high expectations in relation to their experiences in retail, hotels, travel, etc. These are only more exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lastly, queue and visitor management are affected by some often overlooked pain points like:
Pickup orders were not ready even if they were notified that it is ready to pick up.
The limited staff makes it difficult to keep up with the number of people to tend to, and manual labor can also be time-consuming. This can lead to longer waiting times.
Certain processes are not automated, therefore some messages or actions may get lost in the chain of production.
What can one do to optimize, reduce their OPEX and CAPEX, and reduce pain points for customers and visitors? Automation is key. Optimizing processes helps reduce workload for staff and elevate the visitor and customer experience. It can also help reduce some steps that a business might have, and cut costs in the long run. How does one automate? Technology is a solution that introduces automation in workplaces and commercial venues. Things like humanoid robots, cleaning robots, contactless payments, QR codes, among other solutions offer ways to automate processes and in today’s context, help keep staff and customers safe from infection.
In many cases, acquiring equipment is very costly and not a very sound idea. This is why facility management companies are viewed as a one-stop-shop for these services. As explained earlier, facility management companies offer services with parts and maintenance, they can offer cleaning staff and even receptionists for corporate buildings. Taking into account the pandemic, one of the largest facility management companies in the world, SODEXO, has prepared a lot of its services for companies to reopen and adjust to the new normal. They are offering tons of services like temperature checks, helping companies set up a digital workspace so everyone can work properly from home, manage the office space, and much more that lets businesses keep in mind customer and staff safety and satisfaction.
However, for facility management companies, these services come at an increased cost of sale and maybe end up costly to provide all of these. That’s where automation comes in. Simple cleaning services can be automated with the right equipment, like our cleaning robot Whiz. It is cheaper to offer an efficient, automated service instead. Even in retail, you can have touchpoints where people can order or pick up products, and even pay contactless. There is a myriad of automated options that can help condense several services to offer a cheaper more efficient service product, and with the added bonus of safety in an era of a pandemic. The versatility of robots like Pepper means that it can be adapted to many things, not be focused on a singular task.
Pepper: Polyvalent Service Robot and a Go-To Tool for Automation
Our star robot, Pepper, is capable of many things, particularly making process automation and optimization run smoothly. For example, paired with a VMS (Visitor Management Software), Pepper can handle visitors and make the receptionist’s work easier. Visitors could just scan the QR codes that they have been sent, and they are checked in for their visit. This could work similarly in a hotel lobby, where all the concierge would have to do is for example do a temperature check or work on any adjustments the guest may want. Similarly, Pepper can provide health guidance tips for people visiting a public space, and even show customers around or suggest to them any special sales that may be going on in a retail store. With the recent improvements on Pepper’s navigation capability, it is even able to show people around a big mall.
A while ago, our partner Conserto started preparing Pepper robots for Elior, one of the leading facility management companies in healthcare and hospitality services. Pepper has helped offer automated, highly personalized reception services, orientation, informative games, and even generate social media moments (like offering to take selfies with people).
For facility management companies, offering robots with advanced AI, such as Pepper and Whiz, can indeed make the offer an attractive one to businesses looking to elevate and innovate their operations.
During this management phase of the pandemic, businesses are finding it hard where to place their investments in. Although the vision of what to do is clear, adapt to the new normal, it may not be cheap to do. That’s why automation and technology play an important role in considering what to invest in. Automation can help cut down mundane or unnecessary expenses/processes and allow your staff to focus on more valuable tasks. For facility management companies, offering automated services, like cleaning robots, such as Whiz, or humanoid robots like Pepper that are able to adapt to many types of tasks, is a great idea to reduce the service price and offer something more enticing to other businesses. Also taking into consideration the pandemic the world is currently facing, having contactless and automated processes help keep everyone safe from coming into contact with others or even learn about guidelines that may have been forgotten.
Service robots like Pepper can play a huge role in automating processes. With the capabilities of arranging meetings, contactless solutions, impressive navigation, and AI with emotional empathy, Pepper can really help businesses stand out from the crowd. He’s an incredibly useful tool and will probably be beneficial in reducing your operational costs and enabling your staff to be more efficient. With robots as a service, it might be interesting to rent one out to try for yourself with some of our partners. What role do you think robots can play in this situation?