The cleaning robot Seppo cleans warehouse spaces.

Science and technology

As Finland faces a critical shortage of professional cleaners, robotic assistance is becoming increasingly crucial in maintaining the cleanliness of Finnish workspaces and public areas. Property and facility service company ISS now employs over a hundred cleaning robots, with plans to increase this number significantly, underscoring a shift towards automated cleaning solutions.

In Helsinki’s Jätkäsaari, robots named Ulla and Seppo are already hard at work at the retail and warehouse facilities,

where they've become a familiar part of the landscape since their introduction in the fall of 2023. The robots, which clean approximately one thousand square meters each day, are part of a larger strategy to address the looming workforce gap in the cleaning industry—a gap expected to widen as about 20% of the current workforce retires by 2028.

Veli-Pekka Kortelainen, ISS’s Business Director of Cleaning and Multipurpose Services, emphasized the dual role of robots in the future of cleaning: "Robots clean consistently and tirelessly, allowing human colleagues to focus on quality control and other tasks. Although we're leading the charge with robots, the expertise of professional cleaners remains invaluable."

The use of cleaning robots not only helps maintain high standards of cleanliness but also reduces the physical strain on human workers. Robots take over laborious tasks such as vacuuming and floor scrubbing, freeing up human employees for more detailed and varied tasks. This integration of technology enhances job satisfaction and efficiency in the cleaning sector. has embraced this technological shift enthusiastically. "When ISS proposed the use of cleaning robots, we immediately saw the potential benefits. Keeping our facilities clean is paramount, not just for customer experience but also for operational efficiency," said Miika Heinonen, who oversees the company's properties.

The introduction of robots has also sparked interest and engagement from customers, with a naming contest for the robots drawing hundreds of suggestions. This engagement highlights the public’s curiosity and acceptance of robotic workers in everyday environments.

As Finland continues to integrate robots like Ulla and Seppo into the cleaning industry, the role of these machines is set to expand, ensuring that even as the workforce ages, Finnish public and private spaces remain spotless and welcoming.