The work of cleaning the floors in Walmart’s giant stores is about to get easier: The retailer signed a deal this week to bring in autonomous mobile robot floor cleaners made by Golden Valley-based Tennant Co.
John Crecelius, Walmart senior vice president of Central Operations says the robotic cleaners will serve as a more efficient alternative to staff having to operate a floor-cleaning machine for several hours.
“This cleaner is another great example of technology helping make the Walmart job better,” Crecelius says. “The machine allows our associates more time to focus on completing other tasks within the role, but most importantly, it frees them up to serve our customers better.”
Tennant’s T7AMR machine is equipped with a Brain Corp. self-driving, advanced vision-based operating system. Though designed with a seat for a rider, it can clean without manual control, working alongside employees completing other tasks. The “micro-rider floor scrubber,” as it’s also called on Tennant’s website, is billed as requiring less detergent and water than standard methods, with applicable optional ec-H2O NanoClean® technology.
The product partnership with Walmart is a fresh sign of growth for Tennant, which is one of the oldest businesses in the state—it was founded in 1870 by George Tennant.
Just two years ago, in 2017, the company made a slew of acquisitions, including a $353 million deal for Italy-based cleaning machine company IPC Group, despite seeing a decline in revenue in both 2015 and 201. Now, Tennant reports $1.12 billion in sales for 2018. It has about 4,300 employees, works with distributors in more than 100, and sells products directly in 15 countries.
Chris Killingstad, Tennant Company’s president and CEO, says he sees opportunity for further growth through the new deal with Walmart—which he says is the first major global retailer to introduce cleaning robots for improved operational efficiency.
“This new step in our long and valued relationship with Walmart exemplifies our deep commitment to both innovation and meeting the needs of our most sophisticated customers,” says Killingstad. “We are excited about our combined potential.”
Financial terms of the product agreement were not disclosed.