Dan Carr

By: Dan Carr on November 28th, 2021

Print/Save as PDF

Calculating the Cost Benefits of an Autonomous Cleaning Equipment Purchase

The cost of labor can account for up to 85% of the cleaning costs for your facility.

Since the process of cleaning can be time-consuming, getting the most out of every cleaning shift is important to achieving the most without increasing your labor expenses.

The right cleaning equipment is one way to ensure that your staff is able to clean as much as possible. Autonomous cleaning equipment is the most innovative and most effective way to help your staff do more during their cleaning shifts.

Autonomous cleaning machines are battery-powered janitorial equipment that can operate without the need for a human operator. 

Autonomous cleaning equipment can help you do more by reducing the amount of time your staff spends doing repetitive cleaning tasks. With the right autonomous cleaning equipment, you can redeploy staff to other more important cleaning tasks, achieve consistent cleaning, and increase worker safety. 

Now that you have a brief understanding of the benefits that autonomous cleaning equipment can provide, you’re likely asking, “how much does autonomous cleaning technology cost?” And, as a follow-up to that question, you’re probably thinking, “Can I afford to make this investment?”

While autonomous equipment can come with a high price tag, that doesn’t mean it’s not affordable.

The cost of an autonomous cleaning machine can seem high especially when you factor in preventative maintenance costs, long-term maintenance, repairs, and any upgrade expenses.

However, the right equipment can offer your business large savings through lower labor, chemical, and water costs.

In this article and video, we’ll help you understand what is considered a good purchase by determining the return on investment of your equipment.

What is ROI?

ROI, or return on investment, is a measurement of how profitable an investment or purchase is.

When you purchase new equipment for your facility, the ROI of that purchase is the amount of money that is generated or saved by your equipment investment. 

ROI can be expressed as a percentage or dollar amount over a certain period of time.

Why is ROI important?

ROI can be useful in helping you decide whether or not autonomous cleaning equipment would be beneficial for your facility. Knowing the return on investment of your equipment purchase can help you make better equipment purchasing decisions.

If you calculate the ROI of an equipment purchase, you’ll know exactly how long it will take for your investment to pay for itself.

Once an investment has paid for itself, any additional savings would contribute to the ROI of your purchase.

If your equipment is generating a positive ROI, that means your investment has paid off and is earning or saving you money.

How Do I Calculate The ROI Of An Equipment Purchase?

Calculating the exact ROI of your equipment purchase can be challenging because there are so many factors. 

We’ll break it down into 7 simple steps. 

To calculate ROI, some of the factors you'll need to quantify include:

  • Total Square Footage to be Cleaned 
  • Frequency of Cleaning
  • Average Amount of Time it Takes to Complete a Cleaning Task In Your Current Process
  • Average Amount of Time it Takes to Complete a Cleaning Task with the Automated Equipment in Consideration 
  • Payback Period 
  • Loaded Cost of Labor (Hourly Rate, Benefits, Liability Insurance)
  • Average Chemical & Water Usage 
  • Average Lifespan of the Automated Equipment in Consideration 
  • Initial Cost of the Automated Equipment in Consideration

To help you understand how to calculate the ROI of an equipment purchase, we’ll walk you through the steps to calculate the ROI for an autonomous floor scrubber below.

Step 1: Identify Total Square Footage & Frequency of Cleaning

The first step in determining the ROI you can achieve from an autonomous machine purchase is identifying how much floor space your staff typically cleans in a shift.

This measurement should be the amount of cleanable space, taking into account obstacles, such as desks, file cabinets, and other obstructions to your staff’s cleaning route. 

For example, while you may manage a 50,000 square foot facility, the square footage of the floor to be cleaned may only be 35,000 square feet due to furniture, fixtures, or other objects.

Next, you’ll need to account for how often the floor is cleaned.

The frequency of floor cleaning in your facility depends on a variety of factors like the amount of traffic and soil levels. While some facilities only clean their floors once a day, some other facilities may need to clean their floors more often to maintain a clean appearance.

In our example, our staff cleans the floors twice every day. Accounting for the occasional holiday or day off, we’ll be using 360 days as the frequency of floor cleaning.

Step 2: Identify the Loaded Cost of Labor for an Employee

In case you’re not familiar with what the loaded cost of labor is, an employee’s loaded labor cost includes everything your business would have to pay for an employee to complete an hour of work.

It’s important to note that the loaded cost of labor for an employee is not just their hourly salary. To figure out the loaded hourly labor costs of your employees, you should consider the hourly pay rate, taxes, benefits, liability insurance, and other related costs.

Including all of these costs into the loaded hourly labor rate accounts for every cost an employer would have to pay an employee for an hour of work.

When you’re trying to calculate the ROI of an equipment purchase, you’ll need to account for all of the costs of having an employee to get an accurate payback timeframe.

For the sake of this example, we’ll use the loaded labor rate of $32.50/hr. 

Step 3: Identify the Yearly Labor Costs of Your Current Cleaning Method versus the Costs of Running an Autonomous Machine

Knowing the yearly labor costs of running your current equipment will help you calculate how much you could potentially save on labor by upgrading your equipment.

How do I calculate the yearly labor cost of my current cleaning method?  

To calculate the yearly labor cost of your current cleaning method you’ll need to know both your loaded cost of labor and the amount of time it takes to complete cleaning in your facility.

For the sake of our example, we’ll be comparing a 20-inch walk behind floor scrubber to a 20-inch autonomous floor scrubber, which would be the equivalent sized model.

According to the ISSA 612, a 20-inch walk-behind scrubber can clean approximately 20,000 square feet an hour. 

So for our facility, that means it would take approximately 1.75 hours to clean 35,000 square feet. Since our staff will be cleaning twice a day, it would take them about 3.5 hours total to clean our facility twice.

Daily maintenance of your automatic floor scrubber (preparing the machine, dumping and refilling the tanks, and end-of-day cleaning) usually takes about half an hour, according to the same ISSA study. Maintenance will need to be done twice, so daily maintenance would take an hour of your cleaning time.

Given that, you’ll need to add an hour to your floor cleaning routine. This means that it takes about 4.5 hours (3.5 hours to clean our facility’s floors + 1 hour for machine maintenance) for our cleaning staff to clean the floors of our facility.

To calculate the daily loaded labor cost of cleaning 35,000 sq. ft. twice, you would multiply the loaded labor cost by the amount of time staff needs to work to complete cleaning.

As mentioned in step 2, the loaded cost of labor we’re using for our example is $32.50. 

(loaded hourly labor cost) x (hours worked) = daily loaded labor cost 

$32.50 x 4.5 = $146.25

Next, you’d need to calculate the yearly labor cost. Since you’ll have your daily labor cost, you just need to multiply that by the number of days worked.

As mentioned in step 1, we’re using 360 days for our yearly workload.

(daily loaded labor cost) x (amount of days worked) = yearly labor costs

$146.25 x 360 = $52,650

Over the course of a year, using a 20-inch walk-behind scrubber will cost about $52,650 in labor. 

How do I calculate the yearly labor cost of running an autonomous cleaning machine?  

Since an autonomous floor scrubber can run without an operator, your staff would only be responsible for the daily maintenance of the machine, which includes preparing the machine, filling and dumping the tanks, and end of day cleaning. As previously stated, daily maintenance takes about half an hour, and when done twice a day your staff will spend an hour on maintenance.

(loaded hourly labor cost) x (hours worked) = daily loaded labor cost 

$32.50 x 1 = $32.50

An autonomous floor scrubber would only cost about $32.50 in daily labor costs. Using the same formula as before, you can calculate your yearly costs for cleaning with an autonomous floor machine.

(daily loaded labor cost) x (amount of days worked) = yearly labor costs

$32.50 x 360 = $11,700

What is the total yearly labor savings? 

To calculate your yearly labor savings, you can subtract the yearly cost of running your current machine from the yearly cost of running an autonomous floor machine.

(current machine labor cost) - (autonomous machine labor cost) = yearly labor savings

$52,650 - $11,700 = $40,950

Cleaning with an automatic floor scrubber minimizes the risk of operator error such as missed spots, damage, or other mistakes which could otherwise lead to reworks. 

With the addition of autonomous floor cleaning machines, you can achieve between 98% and 99.5% floor cleaning coverage every time due to pre-programmed paths that ensure the machine cleans the same every time - never forgetting or missing an area. When operators use standard floor care equipment, they typically miss about 15% of space without meaning to, leading to expensive reworks.

In our experience, reworks could cost as much as $500 a year, which would be avoided with an autonomous cleaner.

Step 4: Calculate Approximate Chemical & Water Savings (if possible)

The cost of cleaning a floor includes the cost of cleaning chemicals and water use.

Depending on the method and machines used, this can vary. The cost will also depend on how much chemical and water usage costs for your facility.

In our example, water costs about $7.00 per 1,000 gallons in our area. Autonomous floor scrubbers can use anywhere between 40-70% less water than a traditional autoscrubber, which translates into cost savings of about $7-10.

With less water usage, you can also see savings on your chemical usage in your facility. We can estimate savings of about $840 due to the ability of autonomous scrubbers to clean with reduced chemicals.

Given that, we’ll estimate our chemical and water savings to be around $850 a year.

Step 5: Calculate the Payback Period

The payback period of an investment is simply the amount of time it takes to make back the amount of your initial purchase. After the payback period, your investment begins to save you money.

To calculate the payback period of a purchase, you will need to know the total approximate savings you will be generating over a year. This can be calculated by adding up the savings (labor, rework, chemical, and water), which we just showed you how to calculate above.

You can calculate your total yearly savings using the equation below:

(labor savings) + (chemical & water savings) + (rework savings) = yearly savings

$40,950 + $850 + $500 = $42,300

In our example of switching to an autonomous floor scrubber, we could be saving $42,300 each year as opposed to when using a walk-behind scrubber.

Then, to calculate the payback period, divide the yearly savings by 12 to get the monthly savings. 

(yearly savings) / 12 = monthly savings

$42,300 / 12= $3,525

Next, divide the price of the new equipment you’re looking to purchase by the monthly savings. This will tell you the number of months it will take to recoup the cost of purchasing your autonomous equipment.

(cost of purchase) / (monthly savings) = payback period

$58,000 / $3,525= 16.5

If a new autonomous scrubber costs $58,000, it will take about 16 months for the purchase to pay for itself in labor savings. That’s a little more than a year.

Step 6: Calculate the Savings over the Lifespan of Your Equipment

To calculate the labor savings a machine will generate over its lifetime, you’d want to know the average lifespan of the machine you’re investing in. You can multiply the yearly savings by how long your investment should last.

(yearly savings) x (equipment lifespan) = lifetime savings

$42,300 x 7 = $296,100

The average lifespan of an automatic floor scrubber is 7 years, which would mean that in our example we will save roughly $296,100 over the lifespan of the equipment.

Step 7: Determine ROI

To finally calculate the ROI of your purchase, you’ll subtract the amount of your purchase from the calculated savings over the lifespan of your equipment. The resulting number will tell you how much your purchase will provide as a return on your investment.

(lifetime savings) - (equipment cost) = ROI

$296,100 - $58,000 = $238,100

The ROI in this example will be approximately $238,100.


Final Thoughts

Knowing the ROI of your equipment purchase can help you determine whether or not your purchase is beneficial to your business.

The ROI of equipment is dependent on various factors, such as the amount of time a task takes, labor costs, original equipment cost, common lifespan of the equipment, and average maintenance costs. 

Looking for help determining the ROI of adding autonomous equipment to your facility?

We understand that calculating the ROI of an investment can be tricky, even with the steps above. EBP has a team of Specialists that can help you understand if an autonomous machine is a good investment for you. 

Have an EBP Specialist perform an onsite evaluation to help you calculate what you could be saving with autonomous cleaning equipment.

If you’re located in the United States, Puerto Rico, or the Caribbean, EBP and other Imperial Dade locations can help you with all of your janitorial equipment needs, including finding the perfect autonomous equipment for your facility.

Check Out These Related Articles:

About Dan Carr

Dan Carr is the Equipment Program Manager for EBP Supply Solutions and a Trainer for the EBP Training Academy, which offers CMI-certified and other training courses for supervisory and front-line cleaning professionals throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. He holds the ISSA CMI Basic certification and has over 35 years of experience in the janitorial and sanitation industry.