Eight TUG robots, created by Aethon, Inc., assist with carrying luggage, delivering room service, and helping clean up rooms and hallways at the Sheraton Hotel in San Gabriel, California. The current favorite, named Gabriel, greets guests in the lobby with a display which reads, “Where do you want to go?” He then guides them to their destination within the hotel.
The robots are not replacing workers, but rather are being used to save workers time so they can focus on other tasks. This innovative technology is also used in many hospitals in the U.S. to deliver medication, food, and linens to patients in their rooms.
Video Spotlight: SoCal Sheraton has team of robots toting luggage, room service
This post is based on articles from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, There are robots on staff at this San Gabriel hotel, by Michelle Mills, August 31, 2018, and from The Star Online, Robot butlers are coming to this Miami hotel, by Dylan Jackson, September 3, 2018; and on the video, SoCal Sheraton has team of robots toting luggage, room service, by ABC7, January 30, 2018. Image source: Shutterstock / studiostoks.
1. What role are TUG robots playing in the operations of hotels and how does it affect job design?
Guidance: According to the articles, at Sheraton, the TUG robots are not replacing human workers. Rather, in some cases they are performing duties that enhance the guest experience (such as the novelty of having room service delivered by a robot, which some guests are capturing with selfies!) or by providing sufficient “manpower” to perform tasks which there may not have been enough workers to previously do (such as guide guests to specific locations within the hotel, rather than just pointing them in the right direction).
Fifty-one percent of guests report preferring the services of the robot to those of humans, and the novelty may generate positive reviews when guests describe their stays to friends or provide online feedback. In other instances they help relieve the housekeeping staff of mundane duties such as moving dirty or clean linens to and from rooms, freeing the staff to perform more detailed housekeeping tasks like cleaning baseboards or shampooing carpets which may have stretched the workforce thin in the past.
2. How might these issues relate to productivity?
Guidance: Some companies, such as McDonald’s, report that the cost of using technology like kiosks for ordering costs less than hiring people, even when the employees are only paid minimum wage. As some costs, such as labor, energy, or materials go up, the use of robots may help some employers reduce overall costs and thus improve productivity.