IPF employee EMMA celebrates its one-year anniversary

Graphic of the new floor cleaning robot compared to a cartoon robot

June 18, 2019

It doesn’t talk much, and its personality isn’t anything to speak of; but it’s one heck of a worker, and a valuable member of the custodial crew at the Biomedical Physical Science Building.  

It is the Enabling Mobile Machine Automation floor scrubber, more affectionately known as EMMA. This 881-pound robot operates both manually and autonomously, scrubbing multiple levels of the BPS facility every day. 

“IPF Custodial Services is always looking for new technologies that can enhance our service and help assist our workers,” said Brandon Baswell, Custodial Services manager. “We have looked at several pieces of robotic equipment over the years; we saw this unit at a trade show and decided to pursue a test.” 

The robot has received positive reviews from custodial staff, and IPF is considering purchasing a second unit. 

“The robot does not replace staffing but allows crew members to cover other tasks while it is running,” said Judy Ramirez, Custodial Services operations coordinator. “When we are short staffed, this is particularly helpful in completing IPF’s mission.”

When in autonomous mode, EMMA is powered by Brain OS navigation software. Cleaning “routes” are first encoded into the robot by driving it manually in a programming mode. A special “location code” attached to the wall marks the starting point. EMMA can store up to 10 different routes per each “location code”, and up to 60 routes in total.

Once it’s been programmed, the operator drives EMMA to the location code, selects the desired route and presses the blue start button. EMMA then takes off, running that route independently.

Operators can also pair the robot with their mobile device for remote communications. If the machine is interrupted during its operation, it will send a message to the operator’s phone, letting them know what happened and prompting corrective action.  

“If someone walks past the machine while it is in operation, it will stop and restart once the person has passed,” Ramirez said. “If an obstacle is in its way, it will stop and send a message to the operator via mobile phone to come remove the obstacle and restart the machine so it can finish the route.” 

“EMMA helps us in our pursuit to be better stewards of university resources,” Ramirez said.  “Everyone should be open for opportunities to improve safety and productivity while saving money.”

Time-lapse video of EMMA in action.