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How Shiny Is Your Robot?

Le Grand Eléphant // The Great Elephant
Creative Commons License photo credit: Stéfan

Have you ever noticed how careful we are as business owners to take good care for our expensive business equipment?


Robots get their hydraulic fluid changed, hydraulic lines pressure checked, wear points examined, worn parts replaced, firmware updated, tolerances tested, configurations checked and their overall performance checked.

When a robot doesn’t measure up, it isn’t thrown away. It’s repaired and retrofitted, upgraded, updated and/or refurbished until it performs at the level of the other robots.


Our company vehicles get similarly detailed maintenance and regular upkeep.

When I get my oil changed, I see the oil change shop’s company account list on the wall next to the register. You’ll see every sizable business in town that has a fleet of vehicles. All of them get regular fluid checks and other services. Business owners want their vehicle investments not only to last, but to serve them well every day.

Airliners get even more stringent maintenance. Safety is critical, but so is fuel efficiency, so we check everything and update anything we can on those planes to provide better safety and better “mileage”. Wiring, hydraulics, metal stress, backup systems. Backup systems for the backup systems.


You’ve seen the form on the back of the restroom door with times and initials. Someone’s “real job” is interrupted every few minutes or hours because some business owners/managers have learned over time that the state of customer restrooms is important.

When it comes to regular attention and upkeep, many businesses check the cleanliness of their customer restrooms several times per day. Some check them as often as every 30 minutes – even in businesses that don’t seem to offer the kind of service that would make you think they’d care about their restrooms.

Even in some of the dirtiest businesses, I’ve found a checklist on the back of the restroom door. That form must be initialed and marked with the date and time so that someone in management knows that the restroom got a once-over few hours throughout the day. Fail to initial the box within a few minutes of the right time and what happens?

Usually discipline.


It makes perfect sense to every business owner to provide this level of care for expensive robots, vehicles and airliners a business invests in. It even makes sense for restrooms.

It either saves us money, keeps our customers safe, makes our business run more smoothly, produces our products faster and with better quality and even smells better.

Yet we see employees every day in customer-facing jobs that need to be trained. They start a new job and are shoved in front of a business’ customers with little more than a uniform shirt and a name tag. Why in the world would you hire someone, even for the summer, and then put them on the job untrained?

Do you care that little about the service your customers receive?

People are often the most expensive asset you have – and the one with the most potential to become your advantage. If you look around, you’ll find situations where the most rudimentary front line staff positions have hard-working people failing in the obvious public-facing ways simply because they haven’t been trained to do things “our way”.


Meanwhile, we try all sorts of things to manage our staff’s time. We hound them to get them to initial that restroom clipboard every 30 minutes because it proves to someone that “we keep our restrooms clean”. We value the speed and the interval that they show up in that restroom more than we value the job they actually did while there. Our controls over showing up demonstrate that.

The clipboard’s initials don’t say “I left this bathroom so clean my mom would approve.”  They say “I walked in and at the least, initialed the form” because that’s what we measure.

Yet you do it for robots

We check restrooms every 30 minutes. We retrofit, upgrade and reprogram robots. Yet some of us don’t work at all to invest time (much less money) in the improvement and training of our staff.

It’s time to focus as hard on them as we do the condition of the restrooms.

Imagine if both were highly polished.