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FamilyMart in Japan Deploys Cleaning Robots Across 300 Convenience Stores


As Japan’s staff shortage problem continues, the country’s second-largest convenience store chain, FamilyMart, rolls out cleaning robots to save the day. FamilMart’s plans to deploy 300 cleaning robots across stores took effect in late January and aims to expand the service to franchise sites for a monthly fee starting this April.

Each robot works by cleaning the store’s floor five times a day. Said task would usually take a single store staffer to do three times a day for about an hour. With the use of a cleaning robot, human staffers will be freed up to do such a task and focus more on cognitively and manually demanding roles such as stocking shelves, inventory, and training. Not only that, with the cleaning robot performing these tasks five times a day, it will also save companies on operational costs in the long run as the need for regular cleanings by external services will be cut down.

Aside from cleaning floors, the robots are equipped with a monitor that will display product information of items sold in the store and ads. The cleaning robots also have approximately 20 sensors that will help them navigate around the store without getting into collisions with customers and shelves.

Since deployment, FamilyMart has reported no major problems aside from a robot in testing chasing children. However, it is important to take note that this happened during the testing stage. Nonetheless, FamilyMart is looking ahead and has plans on installing AI cameras into the system of these cleaning robots to allow real-time monitoring of the sales floor. FamilyMart also envisions using the cleaning robots to help out with inventory and data analytics. Needless to say, these are industry applications of service robots that can be truly helpful.

With the deployment of cleaning robots as an answer to the country’s staff shortage problem, the concern about whether these AI beings replacing workers can sometimes arise. However, as Tsuneo Murai, a Managing Executive Officer at FamilyMart says, “As the workforce decreases, we would like to coexist with robots in order to run stores with a small number of people,”. Therefore, we can say that the use of robots in the workforce still ultimately contributes to our benefit as a society and its success depends on how we utilize and integrate them into our processes.

Linda Takahashi

American-born New Yorker Linda Johnson has been fascinated with robotic machines since she was a teenager, when her father, a surgeon, would introduce to her the machines that he used to perform keyhole surgeries. This interest led her to pursue a tech degree at the University of Washington, where she met Sota Takahashi. They married and now have two children. Linda’s father developed dementia later on and was given a robot pet as a companion. She saw how much having a robot pet friend helped her father, which is what led her to create this website and advocate to spread word about robot pets and how they can help both children and the elderly.

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