B+N’s innovation could significantly reduce the number of infections

FM newsroom – cleaning, robot, Lab/Da. Artificial intelligence and robotic technology are now making their way into areas of everyday life such as cleaning and disinfection, where they can significantly speed up and make the process much more thorough, especially in large spaces. This is the direction in which B+N Referencia Zrt. started innovations a few years ago and has already installed several autonomous cleaning robots developed in-house.

Portfolio.hu asked Péter Zalka, the head of the LAB/DA Innovations, the R&D department of B+N Referencia Zrt., at the Interclean trade fair in Amsterdam, about the importance of Industry 4.0 in data collection, the global developments of robotic technology and the advancement of hospital cleaning.


In addition to Hungary, B+N Referencia Zrt. has subsidiaries in seven other countries. Do you already use cleaning robots there?

We have already started looking at foreign markets, but the organisations there must also be prepared. Good project preparation is critical; for example, having the right people with the necessary knowledge to use the robots. Just as it is challenging to find cleaners ready to work with robots in Hungary, it is also difficult to find them in other countries.

Today, even cleaners understand that the machine is helping them, so it’s a collaborative robot that does the big surfaces while the cleaner handles the surfaces that the robot can’t. But the proportions are important: when cleaning a car park, for example, one person can work with up to 4 or 5 robots, while fewer can work with more complex surfaces.

From a global perspective, how do competitors perform in terms of the technologies used and the nature of the operation?

The products of the other companies are typically the result of investments worth $100-200 million. The machines, production tools, and design are optimised for a much larger series number. The low piece number does not make it possible for us to use manufacturing tools costing ten thousand dollars.

On the other hand, in terms of software, I see that in cleaning, everyone is pretty much on the same page. We have everything a big company has. The only thing they are ahead of us is that they put a lot more effort into software than we do because it is essential for them that average people can use their robots, whereas we have a team that can even write a command line in the right programming language.

What we are ahead of, however, is our monitoring system. Others typically aim to sell robots to end users, but that’s a different business model that requires different thinking. With us, it’s not looking at data from a single robot, but aggregating it to the right level to give the manager a transparent picture of whether the proper cleaning has been done in the right area. This kind of fleet management requires a different approach.


What does this mean in practice? What data does the robot collect, and where can it be used?

At B+N, we set out a few years ago to take Industry 4.0 thinking forward. For a cleaning company, this means that we come up with digital data that speeds up and simplifies processes. The robot can present a large amount of data; the question is who needs what kind of data. We are constantly conducting research in this area and have created a digital infrastructure that can manage and present this data appropriately.

External data sources are also integrated into this infrastructure, such as environmental quality, gene sequencing and surface cleanliness data.

An important activity of the R&D team is developing an analysis system integrated into hospital cleaning, based on the laboratory examination of the genetic material found in the samples taken from it, which can recognise pathogens. We analyse the sample from the cleaning process, which is characteristic of the entire area, and detect the microorganisms present.

On the one hand, these are quantitative data; on the other hand, they also show the change, based on which it is possible to decide on the necessary interventions. In a hospital area, for example, this may mean that it is advisable to change the disinfectant, but of course, only with the appropriate approval. From the data, we can show the quantitative changes of the species and also what antibiotic-resistance genes are present in the given microorganism. This does not mean that the particular microorganism is actually resistant. According to our measurements, this resistance is relatively constant over time.

The quantitative and species-specific variation data obtained in this procedure may even provide an opportunity to rapidly detect infectious colonies, indicate an increase in the risk of infection, and thus reduce the number of infections. Such level of environmental monitoring has not been dealt with at the international level so far.


Read part 1 of the article.


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