Ahold Delhaize USA’s Retail Business Services (RBS) arm is testing ultraviolet disinfection robots in two distribution centers to support stepped-up cleaning procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From Cambridge, Mass.-based Ava Robotics, the UV disinfection robots are now being used in a pilot at Ahold Delhaize’s affiliated DCs in Schodack, N.Y., and Dunn, N.C. In announcing the initiative on Friday, Ava said Ahold Delhaize is the first grocery retailer to employ the technology.
Ava Robotics said the UV robot can disinfect both air and surfaces, with 99% effectiveness against COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Ava Robotics)
“2020 was an unprecedented year for grocery retail. As we delivered an exponential volume of products to grocery stores and their customers to provide the nourishment families need, ensuring the safety of associates in our distribution centers has been a top priority,” Chris Lewis, executive vice president of supply chain for Retail Business Services, said in a statement. “In addition to other robust health and safety measures, the robots have enabled us to further enhance disinfection procedures at two sites to protect our greatest asset — our people. We were pleased to be the first in the industry to support the testing of this technology.”
When asked if the robot will be deployed to other Ahold Delhaize USA distribution facilities and stores, a spokeswoman for Quincy, Mass.-based RBS told Supermarket News that the company is still assessing Ava’s solution.
“The team continues to evaluate the technology at this time. No decisions about further rollout have been made yet,” Erin DeWaters, director of communications for RBS, said in an email.
Ava’s robot is designed to provide autonomous UV disinfection — for COVID-19 and other cleaning needs — in workplace settings, such as corporate offices, warehouses and other workspaces. The UV robot can be used to disinfect both air and surfaces, with a disinfection rate of approximately 9,000 square feet per hour and 99% effectiveness against COVID-19, Ava reported.
Facilities managers can remotely access the robot and automatically receive email reports to confirm proper dosages for assigned areas. In addition, screens and speakers on the unit provide disinfection-related announcements, and the technology offers easy integration with cleaning best practices and current protocols, Ava said.
The UV robots are slated to ship and become widely available early in the second quarter of 2021, according to Ava. The company also offers Cisco Webex-enabled telepresence robots to provide a mobile solution for workplace collaboration, including videoconferencing.
Because the UV robots can automatically clean specified areas in a workplace based on preset schedules, employees can focus on other areas of need for disinfection, Ava noted.
“With this timely expansion of our technology, we are bringing an intelligent UV disinfection robot with autonomous mobility to a market in great need,” stated Youssef Saleh, co-founder and CEO of Ava Robotics. “Businesses must make employees, customers — and really anyone coming into their place of work — feel confident that all that can be done to keep them safe and healthy is being done.”
The UV robots have also been piloted at other organizations, including Steelcase and Boston City Hall. Other companies using robots from Ava, which was spun out of consumer robotics maker iRobot, include Fidelity, Deloitte and Hilton.