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SoftBank Robotics and Compass Group Shortlisted for Major Industry Award

SoftBank Robotics, and contract catering giant Compass Group, have been shortlisted for an award that recognises their innovative application of robotic solutions in food and beverage.

The Robotics & Automation Awards celebrate the latest innovations and highest achievements across the world of robotics and automation, with awards made in a range of categories, including best use of robotics or automation in cleaning and sanitation, retail, and construction.

SoftBank Robotics and Compass have been shortlisted in the ‘best use of robotics or automation in food and beverage’ category, with the winner to be announced at an awards ceremony in London on October 31 2023.

The two companies made it onto the shortlist after SoftBank installed its “Keenbot” tray delivery robots in Compass Group’s head office in Chertsey, Surrey.

In a four-week pilot, the robots - or “cobots” as they’re known in reference to their collaborative work alongside humans - were used to deliver food in the on-site restaurants and across other parts of the building where 200 employees are based.

This included providing meals to tables, taking away empty plates, and using sound and voice features to enhance customer engagement.

Due to the success of the trial and the metrics collected, Compass has now deployed cobots throughout its Global HQ restaurants and to serve conference rooms, as well as supplying them to several large clients.

Charles Elliott, a regional General Manager for Compass Group, said: “The robots have helped improve efficiency within the workplace by allowing table service to be delivered whilst the catering team are still serving customers on the counter. It also adds innovation to the site which has sparked attraction from other clients.”

Compass wanted to explore the introduction of cobots as part of its mission to implement digital technology and innovative solutions that help support frontline teams and meet the needs of clients and end users.

It had already successfully deployed a cleaning robot at its head office and believed that cobots offered a realistic and cost-effective solution to the current staff shortages faced by hospitality, as well as the increasing demand for ultra-convenient, technology-led services.

Compass is using two models of Keenbot: the T5 tray delivery cobot for restaurant service, and the W3 room service cobot to deliver food and drink to other areas within a building.

The key features of the two cobots are:

Keenbot T5:

  • Fully autonomous delivery from one location to destination point.
  • Multiple delivery modes – loop stops, direct, delivery and snack.
  • 4 x interchangeable trays and 40kg capacity.
  • Adjustable speed control/voice/sound options.
  • Android Device UI – integration available via open API (T2E App).

Keenbot W3:

  • Fully autonomous delivery including lifts/multiple floors.
  • Multiple delivery modes – loop stops, direct, delivery and snack.
  • 4 x secure cabins (expandable) and 40kg capacity.
  • Ventilated storage units.
  • Adjustable speed control/voice/sound options.
  • Android Device UI – integration available via open API (T2E App).
  • Powerful IoT system enables lift integration (via API or ‘e-box’).
  • Communicates with in-house telephone system to contact end user.

Both cobots are equipped with a 3D camera and a LIDAR (light detection and ranging) system, similar to the kind of technology used in self-drive cars. This laser mapping system enables the cobot to navigate to the desired location, avoiding people and obstacles.

The W3 also has the capability to communicate with the in-house telephone system and with lifts, enabling it to deliver room service orders autonomously to any floor.

Users can operate multiple cobots all at once through their mobile device, and with the cobots taking care of the bussing side of hospitality, staff are free to get on with other tasks that enhance the guest experience.

During the four-week pilot, the T5 was fully mapped to operate in the Compass House restaurant, Watermelon, while the W3 was fully mapped for operation from the kitchen to lift, first floor and the Watermelon.

The SoftBank Robotics team trained key staff for operation of both cobots.

The T5 was used during the breakfast shift to deliver food to guests and clear plates, as well as in ‘snack delivery mode’ to deliver complimentary products to staff.

The W3 was used to serve food for meetings and special events all around the building.

During the pilot, the T5 completed 142 trips during breakfast delivery, the W3 completed 38 trips for hospitality deliveries, and in total the robots covered a distance of 2,147 metres.

Harry Ridley, Automation and Emerging Technology manager for Compass, said: “The trials at Compass Group HQ at Chertsey were a great success. Off the back of these trials, a large amount of data metrics has been collected, including hours of operators’ time saved, increased customer satisfaction and improved service times. In particular, the tray robot has provided tangible benefits in all of these metrics.

“It is a no-brainer to deploy robots throughout our global HQ restaurants and to serve conference rooms. We are already expanding our cobotic service solution to several large clients, both in the university education sector and business and industry space, with more planned in the next few months in partnership with SoftBank.”

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