In this interview, AZoRobotics speaks with Robert Scott about their new cleaning cobotics division, which is built in collaboration with Metabots. We discuss the rise of cobot technologies, as well as the flagship product, the Meta-Scrub 60.
Please could you introduce yourself and your role?
I am Alastair Scott, the sales director at Robert Scott - a family run business that dates back to 1925. As one of the largest cleaning manufacturers in the UK, it is my role to set the strategic direction for the business, growth opportunities and future plans.
How did you become involved with the company?
I joined the business full-time in 1985; although, as it is a family company, I have been involved in working in the business during summer holidays going back to the late-seventies.
Can you provide an overview of the company’s involvement in the cleaning robots industry and some of its core products?
Cobotics is a new division for Robert Scott. The introduction of Metabots’ Meta-Scrub 60 is the first machine to be released, with further models in the pipeline. For Metabots however, the business’ evolution into cleaning cobotics comes from a foundation as an OEM of traditional cleaning machines for world-leading brands.
What does the term ‘cobotics’ mean, and why has it garnered so much attention?
The terms cobotics, robotics and autonomous are often interchanged. The official definition of cobotics is "a collaborative robot intended for direct human-robot interaction within a shared space".
These machines are growing in popularity across the cleaning industry due to their ability to complement existing workforces. They take care of larger, more time-consuming and repetitive tasks, freeing up cleaning operatives and enabling them to focus on more complex and high-value tasks, such as disinfecting or deep cleaning. This, in turn, can provide greater opportunities to upskill, which improves both job satisfaction and retention rates.
How has this industry changed over the past five years, and what applications would benefit from its use?
Cobotics have been present in the cleaning industry for a number of years, but as labour shortages are impacting the market more heavily, the interest in cobotics is increasing. Similarly, the rising cost of labour and materials is making the investment in a cobotic floor cleaning machine a realistic and practical reality - be that in airports, shopping centres, educational settings, stadiums or a myriad of other locations.
Metabots has recently partnered with Robert Scott to launch a new division focusing on cobotics cleaning solutions. Could you tell us a bit about how this relationship developed?
Robert Scott has a long-standing relationship with Metabots’ parent company, Clean Tools, co-designing high-quality products for the professional cleaning industry.
The creation of Metabots was a natural evolution for an innovative company that was producing original equipment manufacturer (OEM) cleaning machines for major worldwide brands. The opportunity to combine this with the excellent service and wide customer base of Robert Scott made further collaboration an easy choice.
What are some of the solutions we can look forward to from this new cobotics division? How will they compare to existing solutions?
The Meta-Scrub 60 is the first product to be introduced. It offers an industry-leading algorithm that enables close-edge cleaning and a zero-degree turning radius, meaning it can access narrow areas that other machines cannot reach. The Meta-Scrub 60 is, first and foremost, a cleaning machine and Metabots’ results-led focus ensures that floors are left clean and dry.
What are the main challenges that commercial cobotics companies face when introducing their products to the market?
The financial case for autonomous cleaning robots – which is compelling – comes over time and with the cost of labour increasing, the case becomes ever stronger. However, the most obvious barrier is the high-ticket costs – an autonomous cleaning robot may cost ten times its manual equivalent.
While many customers have the means to purchase a machine outright, the facility to offer leasing or rental options widens the customer audience and enables them to adopt the technology immediately, spread their costs and quickly overcome staffing issues.
How can partnerships like Metabots’ with Robert Scott help to grow the UK’s cobotics market, as well as the European robotics market as a whole?
Exposure to autonomous machines within the UK is growing rapidly, but it is fair to say that other European markets are still further ahead. The implementation of cobotic cleaning solutions through our partnership with Metabots will help to increase and normalise the presence of robotics in everyday life. In turn, a wider acceptance of the benefits of robots should lead to increased adoption of these new and exciting technologies.
What can we look forward to from the company in the future?
Metabots is committed to evolving the Meta-Scrub 60 and introducing a range of cobotics solutions that will be tailored to different environments so that more companies can harness the benefits of cobotic cleaning.
About Alastair Scott
One of the most exciting things for me is seeing the business grow; from a £3m company back in the mid-eighties, to the current £54m. To help achieve this we’ve concentrated on looking after and growing our core customer base, as well as anticipating where the market may be going next. Career highlights have to be engineering and managing company acquisitions.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.