Minna Salo, Taru Hakanen
Sep 20, 2022

How multi-purpose B2B service robots enhance sustainability?

We need more robots in various functions in our societies if we want to take further steps to make the world a better place to live now and for the future generations. Luckily there are already service robot developers, researchers and companies using the robots all around the world that are using their passion for robotics to help in reaching the sustainability goals. One single robot won´t solve all the problems and make the entire world sustainable, but together step by step we can work to make a difference. This starts by using the service robots at their full potential, with full utilization rate. We need to think bigger and use the same robot to conduct multiple activities, thus become multi-purpose, and serve multiple companies. It is more sustainable to do multiple tasks with one robot than perform one task per robot and use several robots.


Multi-purpose use means multiple possibilities to enhance sustainability

 Sustainability can be divided into three pillars: social, economic and environmental. The multi-purpose B2B service robots have positive influence on all of these three sustainability pillars. Let´s take a closer look on the possible influences pillar by pillar.  

Economic sustainability viewpoint: Enhanced productivity and reduced costs

For the companies using the B2B service robots, the most fundamental benefits from the economic sustainability viewpoint are seen to be enhanced productivity and reduced costs.  Compared to a human,the service robot will execute the exact same process steps every time, much faster and without the risk for human errors. They can work non-stop 24/7 and without coffee breaks or chats with colleagues and perform several tasks in a cycle.This results as an increase of the production rate and reduction of the standby time. The maintenance activities are the only ones stopping the robots but once they are done remotely and in a predictive way, it doesn´t harm the productivity. And maintaining the robots remotely instead of travelling to the site to do the maintenance activities is already more sustainable option.

When turning the robot from single-use to multi-purpose robot, it can perform multiple tasks faster and without errors resulting in even better productivity and even bigger cost savings. The savings gained can be reallocated to such work that produces higher business and social value for the companies. For instance if a production company reduces manual work in the production,e.g.  use robot to take care of the order-picking during the daytime, they can increase their R&D activities and that way improve their productivity. If the same robot is used for safety and security functions during the night-time, it is used at its full potential and it reduces security costs.  

Social sustainability: Safer and more motivating working place

Perhaps the biggest benefit from using the B2B service robots from the social sustainability perspective is the fact that the robots support the health and safety of the employees by taking over monotonous, repetitive and even hazardous tasks (i.e. “Dull, Dirty, Dangerous”). That way the employees can focus on more value-adding and meaningful work which results in higher employee satisfaction and motivation.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the service robots have been used more in cleaning and disinfection purposes in the working places to help make the working environment safer for the employees. The service robots can also be used for the hazardous situations, like checking out the damages in case of a chemical spillage or sending video stream from the shopping mall into the control room in case of emergencies. The same robot can do cleaning and disinfection as its main function and when moving around the building, monitor the safety of the environment as a secondary function and in case of a hazardous situation, be transferred there.

Environmental sustainability: Emission savings and higher recycling rate

 The service robots can help in reducing carbon emissions by giving us an alternative to carbon-emitting options. The robots can be rechargeable, electrically operated and use solar power or other renewable energy sources. Using automated component, cargo and parcel transportation we can avoid exhaust fumes in warehouses and other environments.Robots can be customized to do many different tasks and actions, so there is a need to take a deeper look into how we can replace harmful equipment with automated, clean equipment. The more this kinds of tasks the same robot can do,the bigger the emission and energy savings for the company or companies using the robot are.

The aim of the new EU regulations is that minimum 55 % of the municipal waste should be recycled by 2025 and 65 % by 2035. This regulation has raised the companies and consumers to be more precise in the recycling. The service robots working e.g. in the industrial parks could on top of their main activities take part in the recycling activities of the companies. For instance an order-picking robot could while collecting the orders from the warehouse, check out if there are packaging material left in the shelves or floor, crab it up, check out the material and sort it into the right pin (plastics, cardboard, etc.).


Why we need to think about the sustainability?

It is clear that the service robots have positive influence on all of the sustainability pillars: social,economic and environment. The sustainability opportunities that involve multi-purpose B2B service robots are endless and we need to start searching the possible opportunities and apply the service robots in new functions in order to make our earth a better place!

Multi-purpose service robotics as operator business (MURO) project studies new multi-purpose robot enabled service and business opportunities.  These subjects were also discussed in our previous article as part of the Palta responsibility campaign(unfortunately the article is only in Finnish language)


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