SINGAPORE: As Changi Airport embraces automation to beat the labour crunch, it is also turning to robots to keep its latest addition - Terminal 4 - spanking clean.
Changi Airport Group (CAG) has deployed four automated cleaning robots at the terminal after a search that took about three years. It plans to add six more in 2018.
The robots - which bear cartoon faces - cost about S$80,000 each, and can cover 1,600 square metres per hour.
Housekeepers are trained to programme the robot to mop, clean and pick up small items, among others.
"It's exhausting to clean these wide floor areas by ourselves,” said 69-year-old Tan Tiong Wah, one of 150 housekeepers. “Using these robots makes life easier for us."
Beyond the terminal floors, robots are also being used to clean car parks and toilets. CAG said this will reduce housekeeping manpower by about 20 per cent overall, and make its employees better skilled.
Mr Kenneth Ho, senior manager of facilities management at CAG said Terminals 1 to 3 will soon see such cleaning technology, after studies are done on the robots' efficacy at T4. He added that airports in New Zealand and some parts of the United States use similar technology.
“We are looking at a wide fleet of cleaning robots,” he said. “The job redesign process includes many different parts, from toilet cleaning, car park cleaning (to) floor cleaning, so we do see airports using some of this technology in parts, but not in full."
Besides housekeeping, Changi Airport has introduced automation and technology in the the ground handling, security, housekeeping, retail and F&B sectors, which comprise 80 per cent of all employees at the airport.
"At the end of the day, it's really more of a shifting of resources, and not so much letting go of people from the airport,” said T4 Programme Management Office vice president Poh Li San.
Ms Poh told Channel NewsAsia she expects T4 to be about 10 per cent more productive compared with T3. “We have to be very specific when we look at how and what kind of staff are being required at each different role,” she said.
Staff members in roles which can be automated - such as those involving data entry or laborious housekeeping - could be retrained to take on jobs which are of "higher value", Ms Poh added.
T4 is being touted as a test-bed for technology and innovation. It features automated check-in kiosks as well as automated immigration clearance and boarding gates - all equipped with facial recognition technology.