StarHub and ST Kinetics have jointly announced a partnership to deploy Aethon TUG robots, to help automate material movement in business environments for greater efficiencies and productivity. For a start, the TUG robots will be deployed in three hotels to streamline the laundry supply chain, reducing a seven-step manual process to a three-step automated one.
TUG, an autonomous delivery robot designed to transport materials of up to 635 kg per trip, is the flagship product of Aethon, a US-based robot maker belonging to ST Engineering’s land systems business.
TUG is the second robotics solution that StarHub has introduced to enable corporate customers such as hotels, to manage repetitive or tedious tasks efficiently. TUG is integrated with a customer’s Wi-Fi infrastructure as well as elevator and IT systems, enabling it to navigate autonomously on premises including opening doors as well as calling and riding elevators. As a result, says StarHub, service personnel are freed up to focus on their core tasks. In addition, the robots will help to alleviate the manpower crunch faced by many hotels. The robots can be used to deliver items such as clean linen or dirty laundry, plying between the laundry room, central storeroom and guest floor storerooms.
StarHub offers robotics solutions on an ‘as-a-Service’ business model. This lowers upfront capital investment and takes away the complexity of maintaining the robots for customers when they leverage robotics technology. The managed robotics service also includes integration of the robots into existing systems to create seamless workflows, as well as the provision of 24/7 technical support and maintenance services. In addition, data captured by the robots, such as customer preferences or inventory level, can be used by the customers to improve operations.
Dr Chong Yoke Sin, chief of StarHub’s Enterprise Business Group, said the partnership with ST Kinetics is part of StarHub’s Connected Building initiative to provide IoT solutions that help companies implement green, productivity or safety concepts in business environments. “Faced with continued manpower crunch, the hospitality industry is increasingly turning to innovation and automation to drive better business outcomes.”
Automating the hospitality laundry supply chain
TUG is central to the innovation solution proposed by Singapore’s leading laundry consultant Laundry Network, in partnership with Republic Polytechnic (RP) and StarHub for the transformation of laundry and housekeeping operations.
The consortium participated in the Hotel Innovation Challenge that was organised by the Hotel Innovation committee and supported by Singapore Tourism Board, with a pipeline of hotel pilot users, including Capri By Frasers Changi City Point, Four Points by Sheraton and Grand Copthorne Waterfront.
The proposed solution seeks to transform the hospitality laundry supply chain, optimising the sorting, packing and movement of hotel linen, from the commercial laundry plant to the individual hotel guest floor storerooms. What is a traditional seven-step manual process with multiple handovers between different parties will be streamlined to a three-step automated process using different technologies, including TUG, RFID and sensors. It will allow hotels to focus on higher-order skills to deepen guest engagement and satisfaction, as well as maximise financial benefits, such as 15% decrease in linen inventory, 15% reduction in storage space, and elimination of low-skilled menial tasks.
“Hotel laundry and housekeeping operations have changed little since the inception of hospitality. This innovation to revamp the laundry and housekeeping supply chain ecosystem will transform a process that is time consuming and labour intensive,” said Chan Tai Pang, CEO of Laundry Network. “From introducing RFID technology for automated inventory management to revamping the laundry production process and redesigning the ubiquitous housekeeping cart into a smart cart for integration with autonomous mobile robots, it is very exciting that the entire process is now tapping into the capability and potential of today’s high automation, technological and digital environment.”
Ng Yu Lik, principal lecturer for Republic Polytechnic’s School of Hospitality, said that much of the current focus on joint Singapore hotel projects is on productivity innovations due to the severe manpower crunch that cuts across the entire industry.
“The introduction of IoT, robotics, and smart technology into the hotel environment is timely not only to ease this critical manpower pain point, but to also ensure the high service and efficiency standards that Singapore is renowned for is maintained and even enhanced for the future,” Ng said. “Importantly, hotel staff will develop attitudes, aptitude, and competencies to co-work with emerging technologies.”