Cleaning robots deployed at Circle Line stations

SINGAPORE – Cleaners keeping train stations along the Circle Line spick and span amid the Covid-19 pandemic now have a troop of tireless workers to give them a hand.

Starting this month, SMRT has deployed 13 robots to enhance the cleaning regimen at all 30 stations along the MRT line.

Each robot can clean large floor areas two to three times faster than their human counterparts, SMRT said on Wednesday (Feb 3).

But the cleaning staff are not being replaced any time soon.

Instead, the move towards higher productivity through the use of automation will give cleaners the chance to upskill themselves, the train operator said.

“They will learn to use smart devices and build their confidence in the use of technology as the industry shifts towards the increasing use of automation in facilities cleaning and hygiene management,” said SMRT.

Cleaners will be trained to manage several of these cleaning robots, freeing them up to perform other duties. They will also be trained to troubleshoot minor faults that the robots might encounter, such as obstacles.

SMRT said it had conducted a trial of different cleaning robots between May and September last year before it decided to deploy nine robots from Canadian firm Avidbots, two from local firm LionsBot and two from Chinese firm Gaussian Robots.

It has plans to eventually deploy cleaning robots at all stations along the North-South Line and East-West Line as well.

In addition, SMRT will also be progressively installing smart panels and ammonia sensors in toilets at its MRT stations. These sensors will indicate when a toilet is more heavily used and requires cleaning.

This is so that cleaning resources can be deployed when needed, rather than relying solely on scheduled cleaning hours at fixed times every day.

SMRT Trains president Lam Sheau Kai said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has led many to better appreciate the benefits of a high standard of cleanliness and hygiene in public areas.

“SMRT strives to meet that standard for our commuters by using a two-pronged strategy – leveraging technology and automation, and to better utilise limited resource, thereby optimising cost,” he added.

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Restroom Association (Singapore) executive director Emerson Hee lauded the move.

“The Restroom Association (Singapore) has been strongly advocating the adoption of technology in cleaning and maintenance, when we introduced it as a new criterion for our Happy Toilet Programme in 2019.

“We hope more building owners and operators will follow suit as we move towards becoming a Smart Nation,” he said.

A man operating a cleaning robot that SMRT has deployed to help clean MRT stations along the Circle Line. PHOTO: SMRT

For Mr V. Ganesan Velu, 46, working alongside a cleaning robot for the first time was a breeze.

Said the senior supervisor with A-Force Maintenance, one of SMRT’s cleaning contractors: “After getting the training, I could operate the robots easily – these new skills will be useful for my future progression.

“The cleaning robots have also made it faster and easier to clean the stations compared with how I did it in the past.”

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