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Travelodge creates an army of RoboVac buddies to support its nationwide housekeeping teams

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A squadron of hundreds of RoboVac Buddies have been assigned to the group’s 26 Travelodge Wales hotels

Today, in a UK first, an army of custom made RoboVac Buddies have checked-into 579 Travelodge hotels across the length and breadth of the country, to support the company’s housekeeping teams. This investment includes a squadron of hundreds of RoboVac Buddies checking-into the company’s 26 hotels across Wales.

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This multi-million pound UK collective investment of 7,500 RoboVac Buddies is Travelodge’s latest brand evolving initiative, specifically designed to support the company’s housekeeping teams – who have to clean up to nearly 44,000 rooms every day, 365 days of the year.

This is no mean feat, as housekeeping is one of the most important and physically demanding jobs within the hotel sector. This role includes the remit of vacuuming which is a strenuous task.

To help lighten the workload for its housekeeping team members, who collectively vacuum the distance from Holyhead to New York every day – Travelodge travelled into the future to create an industrial hotel spec RoboVac.

The hotel chain teamed up with KILLIS Ltd, a Sheffield based company that specialises in manufacturing specialist cleaning equipment and together engineered the UK’s first industrial RoboVac designed for a busy hotel.

The robotic vacuum cleaners line up in the corridor of a Travelodge Hotel (Image: Travelodge)

This laborious mission took nine months to complete and included the production of five prototypes before the birth of the Travelodge RoboVac Buddy – as this is no ordinary RoboVac. It has robust features to enable it to withstand the daily heavy duty requirements of working in a busy hotel.

These feature include

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  • An industrial booster battery allowing the RoboVac Buddy to vacuum lots of rooms with one charge during their shift
  • A larger and lighter dust collector so that the RoboVac Buddy just needs to be emptied at the end of its shift
  • It is greener and quieter than a traditional corded hoover. A traditional hoover used 1200 watts of power whilst the RoboVac takes 60 watts of power, plus it is bag less so reduced waste to landfill
  • It speaks Travelodge specific software data language

A Travelodge RoboVac Buddy has been allocated to each housekeeping team member to support them during their shift.

Whilst the housekeeping team member completes a comprehensive room & bathroom cleaning task list, its RoboVac Buddy gets to work thoroughly vacuuming the room. This includes going under the Travelodge Dreamer bed and in every nook and cranny of the room. It also vacuums the hotel’s hallways, public spaces and the Bar Café if the hotel has one.

At the end of their shift, the Travelodge RoboVac Buddies are tucked into their custom made (six) team bunk beds for some much needed R&R (Recharge & Rest). Each hotel has been supplied with 12 RoboVac Buddies on average, while larger sites have up to 40.

District Manager Stuart Bell with RoboVacs (Image: Travelodge)

Craig Bonnar, Travelodge, Chief Executive said: “We are very excited to kick start 2022 by revolutionising the hospitality sector and supporting our housekeeping teams with the roll-out of the UK’s first hotel RoboVac Buddy recruitment programme.

“Housekeeping is the most important and physically demanding job at Travelodge and we are always looking for low cost and innovative ways to support our colleagues.

“Automating vacuuming with the introduction of the Travelodge RoboVac Buddies is a fun, win-win solution which helps us to drive a greener, cleaner and more efficient room clean.

“The army of Travelodge RoboVac Buddies have settled in really well and are a massive hit with our hotel teams and customers.”

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Lira Namoni and RobVacs in hotel corridor (Image: Travelodge)

Lira Namoni, Travelodge RoboVac Buddy Trainer said: “On behalf of my colleagues across all of the UK Travelodge hotels, we are thrilled to welcome our new RoboVac Buddies. They are just incredible and made such a significant difference to housekeeping duties. They have now all completed their induction training and passed their probation and are just raring to get to work.

There have been a couple of casualties during training, a RoboVac Buddy at Gatwick Airport Travelodge took a wrong turn and was found in Spain. Another RoboVac Buddy at Cambridge Orchard Park Travelodge had a technical glitch during its reception cleaning shift and bolted out of the hotel onto the streets.

The hotel team were distraught and put a SOR (Save Our RoboVac) message out on social media channels for its safe return. Luckily the RoboVac Buddy was rescued and after a good reboot and charge it is back on duty.”

Travelodge has around 1,000 RoboVacs on standby in a secret base so that they can be deployed to a Travelodge hotel in case of an emergency.

KILLIS Ltd who designed and built the RoboVac Buddy with Travelodge have also built a bespoke surgery at their headquarters to provide a full health service for the Travelodge RoboVac Buddies.

Tibor Killi, KILLIS Ltd, Managing Director, said: “We are delighted to work with Travelodge and create the UK’s first hospitality spec RoboVac. This is the largest cleaning equipment mobilisation in our company’s history and it has been an honour to be making history with Travelodge within the hospitality world.”

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“The Travelodge RoboVac Buddies are going to revolutionise the company’s housekeeping teams working lives and will be a great addition to the Travelodge hotel teams. It has been a pleasure working with an innovative company who puts its people and customers at the heart of its business, and we look forward to the next challenge Travelodge gives us.”

(Lead image: Travelodge)

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Business

Swansea digital agency iCreate enters the metaverse with bespoke digital environments

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Swansea-based creative agency iCreate is entering the metaverse by creating 3D visual environments for Dubai-based NFT boutique Jumi – a new outlet for curated digital art.

The metaverse hit the headlines last year when Facebook’s parent company rebranded to Meta, reflecting the growing potential of the internet to offer an interactive virtual world through AI and 3D digital animation.

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The metaverse offers social connection through technology, interaction with brands and businesses, and online recreation.

It encompasses everything from online video games to virtual shops where you can digitally try on items before you buy them, and bespoke venues for online events of all kinds.

It’s expected to expand into an online world where people will have their own virtual avatars which they take from one virtual environment to another, purchasing virtual products for them and housing them in virtual homes.

This is where iCreate – which specialises in creating digital environments – comes in. The company provides CGIs, 3D flythrough animations, VR tours and marketing brochures to the off-plan property sector.

From interactive, customisable home interiors that enable buyers to plan every detail of their dream home, through to large-scale digital animations of new housing developments, iCreate is adept at creating virtual environments that look and feel like the real thing.

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Now it’s teaming up with Jumi and other partners to create digital environments that will never be built in the real world, but will exist in the metaverse, where people’s avatars can explore and socialise in them.

A key aspect of the metaverse is non-fungible tokens (NFTs): digital assets that can be bought and traded. These are increasingly hitting the headlines as everyone from independent artists to big brands creates and sells digital-only products, music, artwork and more.

Dawn Lyle (right) and the team at iCreate

Jumy, which completed a $1.2M seed funding round last year, is the ultimate NFT boutique marketplace for exclusive digital art. All artworks are curated from the world’s most creative digital artists, to guarantee outstanding quality.

The platform is the world’s first to offer a fully integrated digital art experience where visitors will be able to purchase pieces with payment cards, trade their NFTs, order NFT frames (digital frames for NFT art) and flex their NFTs on metaverse – all in one place.

By collaborating with Jumi, iCreate will make beautiful, exclusive digital environments for displaying NFTs in the metaverse. From here, it’s expected that a new market in bespoke virtual homes and offices will develop over the coming years, as more aspects of all our lives are lived in the metaverse.

Dawn Lyle, iCreate’s co-founder, said: “We’re delighted to have formed this new partnership with Jumi and to be taking our bespoke digital environments into the metaverse.

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“The metaverse offers such a wealth of possibilities, and over the coming years it will become increasingly common to play, meet and do business with people all over the world in virtual settings.

“We’re excited to be creating stunning digital environments in which these activities can take place; in the metaverse, there are no limitations and it’s possible to bring dreams to life, creating astonishing virtual places that delight and surprise. It gives us the opportunity to put all our creative skills to use in exciting new ways and we can’t wait to get started.”

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Business

Rising costs are the biggest imminent fear for Welsh businesses despite steady expansion

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Rising business costs have been cited by 65.1 percent of businesses in Wales as the biggest threat to their operations in the coming quarter, according to a new survey from Swansea-based Uplands Communications.

The results of a new Business Aspirations Survey from telephony experts, Uplands Communications, shows that more than 65 percent of firms are anxious about the issue, even though 76.4 percent of businesses polled have seen revenue grow during the pandemic and 85.2 percent have grown their teams by 1 to 10 members of staff.

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Paul Hooper, MD of Uplands Communications, which is based in Swansea, said: “We deal with many hundreds of businesses across the country and these results, which were taken from manufacturing, retail, professional services and other sectors are really borne out by the conversations we are having with customers on the ground.

“The Uplands Business Aspirations Survey shows continued buoyancy, investment, job creation and a commitment to assimilating the streamlining and efficiencies that have been put in place as a result of Covid. However, rising costs of fuel and energy, raw materials and wages is biting and business owners are feeling the sting.

“A big part of our role as telephony providers is to support customers to make savings or efficiencies with their telephony and this is something that many firms approached us for during the pandemic.

“A shift to hybrid or home working or a move towards having more teams in the field rather than being tied to an office or a company HQ has given a number of our customers the impetus to make changes to their communications that are delivering efficiencies and will help future-proof their operations.

“We are also helping companies to reduce and control costs by offering a free Telecoms audit, as we often find that business are paying for services they simply do not need and they weren’t aware of this.”

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Paul adds: “Clearly the big story in telephony at the moment is the swich to VoIP, which has inherent costs associated, but which is an unavoidable change for businesses with a looming deadline.

“There are certainly things you can do in the planning stages to mitigate costs further down the line and to make sure the switch is planned and the tech and hardware that firms put in place are appropriate and cost savvy.”

Uplands Communications is a leading managed services company delivering flexible voice, data and mobile communications. The firm, which has its HQ in Swansea and an office in Somerset, specialises in independent network management and providing bespoke, converged solutions that aren’t tied to technology and supplier.

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Awards

University team who developed COVID respiratory support system win St David Award

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A team of engineers from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) who developed a 3D-printed jet respiratory support system to help the NHS in the fight against Covid 19 have received the 2022 Innovation, Science and Technology Award at the prestigious St David Awards in Cardiff.

The awards recognise the extraordinary achievements of people from across Wales.

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Presenting the awards, First Minster Mark Drakeford said it had been an inspiring and moving evening and humbling to hear the stories. He added that the finalists were all truly inspirational and a credit to Wales.

Graham Howe, Executive Head of Made Cymru said: “We just did what many engineers were doing around the country and across the globe at the time, using our engineering skills as creative problem solvers to try to help solve our biggest challenges.

“Just really glad that news about our work got picked up in places like Nepal, and was able to be used to help people in the most challenging of circumstances.”

It was back in May 2020, that UWTSD’s Luca Pagano, Graham Howe, Professor Peter Charlton, John Hughes, and Richard Morgan decided to focus their expertise on the development of a highly efficient 3D printed jet Venturi based respiratory support system to help the NHS during the initial COVID-19 outbreak.

The main objective was to develop a device that could be manufactured cheaply, rapidly and, at the same time, be user friendly whilst maintaining high performance levels. The device was optimised to be able to perform CPAP functionalities such as maintaining PEEP pressures in scenarios such as overwhelmed hospitals where oxygen supply was limited.

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UWTSD’s Luca Pagano, Senior Research Project Engineer at Made Cymru said: “We found that standard CPAP devices are extremely inefficient, our device instead could function utilising a third of the oxygen. It’s also very uncommon for Venturi devices to be able to confidently maintain positive pressure within the patient’s airways while delivering correct gas mixtures. This was achieved through numerous iterative steps between modelling and testing.”

A Lead Bio–Medical Engineer in Nepal who had read the news about the Venturi asked if the team could share their 3D files for printing in his hospital in Pokhara where the COVID-19 situation was worsening by the minute.

The team responded rapidly setting a license agreement and subsequently transferred all the documentation/technical files and supported the Nepalese engineers with any queries. The device was successfully manufactured with low-end desktop 3d printers and adopted to save lives.

A group of engineers at University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) have been involved in the rapid development of a highly efficient 3D printed jet Venturi based respiratory support system.

The team’s 3D printed jet Venturi based respiratory support system (Image: UWTSD)

Graham Howe added: “Dr Steven Fielding brought the initial problem to my attention 10 years ago before I joined the University. He and I worked on the idea, along with David Williams from UWTSD’s School of Manufacturing & Logistics, who was studying for an MSc Lean & Agile part-time.

“We picked it back up in Covid times as we realised it had the potential to really help, especially in the context of scarce oxygen supplies. But there were still significant issues to resolve in terms of the physics of it and so it could be additively manufacturing around the globe in places like Nepal.

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“To be shortlisted and then win a St David Award is such an exciting accolade and proud moment for the team and clearly demonstrates how the R&D work at UWTSD can address critical global challenges.”

Barry Liles, OBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Skills and Lifelong Learning) at UWTSD said: “The University is pleased to see this team being recognised for their collaborative, innovative efforts undertaken at the height of the pandemic. Whilst striving to maintain their day-to-day workload, with all the restrictions that Covid placed them under, they worked above and beyond to rapidly find a solution which has yielded significant benefit. Their passion and enthusiasm shone through as they drove to secure a positive outcome.”

(Lead image: UWTSD)

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