More and more unmanned cleaning robots have been introduced in Japan, mainly at public transportation facilities amid severe labor shortages.
Faced with difficulties securing enough workers, Central Japan Railway Co., or JR Tokai, started using four robots this year to clean Nagoya Station and elsewhere, hoping that the use of the robots, expected to cover most of the necessary cleaning work, will help save labor costs.
In the wee hours, automated robots brush floors at Nagoya Station with water. In February, the two robots joined the cleaning work at the station undertaken by some 50 people. “We can reduce the cost of hiring and training,” a JR Tokai official said.
JR Tokai has also introduced cleaning robots at offices and commercial facilities. Softbank Robotics Corp. put on the market over 1,000 units of a new-type cleaning robot for carpets over the half year from May, reflecting rising demand for cleaning robots for use at offices and hotels.
If the robot is guided by hand along a cleaning route once, it will memorize the route and clean the area automatically. At Narita International Airport near Tokyo, over 10 cleaning robots have been introduced since November.
“Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games, we’ll make robots do work that cleaning staff do now so the staff can focus on work requiring more skills,” an official of Narita International Airport Corp. said.
East Japan Railway Co., or JR East, uses cleaning robots at main stations from 2016.
“It looks difficult to fully robotize cleaning work as cleaning of some places, such as wall corners and braille blocks, still needs to be done by humans,” said an official of JR East Environment Access Co., a cleaning unit of JR East.
The official showed hopes for technological innovations in the future that will enable robots to do such work.