Cleaning Automation Post COVID-19

IIT Kharagpur Develops Mechanised Mobile Broom for Cleaning Large Public Spaces

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Researchers at IIT Kharagpur have developed a vehicle-based mechanized broom to clean the 2100 acre campus area. The technology has been successfully tested across the campus during the present lockdown situation. 

Named Sammarjak MB 4.2 this technology consists of two mechanized brooms in the front and one side, running on battery and solar power. It has the flexibility to move the dirt on roads in angular directions or in up and down direction to fit various road conditions.

Prof. Virendra K Tewari, Director, IIT Kharagpur, has planned to deploy the vehicle to be used on campus as the administration expects to face a shortage of sanitation staff even after lockdown opens. Talking about the current labour situation on the campus, he said,

“We had restricted entry of a significant section of the workforce to our campus since late March. Further we have reassigned some cleaning staff towards sanitizing the key areas in the campus which are frequented by the residents. But considering our campus size we needed a substantial number of sanitation workers and this gap is being filled by automatizing the brooming system across all the pathways.” 

He congratulated Prof. Mihir Sarangi who led this frugal innovation to keep the campus clean during the lockdown period.

“The system is highly flexible to suit Indian road conditions including those in semi-urban areas. Being an indigenously built technology we kept in mind the steep curves and undulations of Indian streets and made the brooms adjustable vertically and horizontally. Further we have added solar power charging in addition to the battery to keep the running cost low,” said Prof. Sarangi.

He is hoping this would enable organizations and public bodies, with budget constraints, to adopt the system.

Another key issue being addressed by this system is that of automation of public services. With the restrictions on movement of labourers and their uncertain health conditions, engagement of 30 per cent workforce to maintain social distancing norms as recommended by the government, cleaning and sanitizing large areas are becoming a concern for various public bodies and organizations. IIT Kharagpur envisions automation as the solution to address this challenge.

“To avoid any disruption or slowing down of productivity due to less labourers, it is crucial for our society to make a firm move towards automation, be it industries or the regular walk of life such as community maintenance mechanisms. This has been a reality in the developed nations and I do not see a reason why it cannot be ours,” remarked Director Tewari.

When asked whether such automation would reduce job opportunities, Director Tewari cited how the introduction of computers has revolutionized Indian job sector and the opportunities automation would create through new avenues and ancillary industries engaged in indigenous production.

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