Robots hired as a service are becoming increasingly popular in logistics applications.
New research from analyst firm IDTechEx shows that robots-as-a-service (RaaS) currently account for six to eight percent of robot revenue.
X-as-a-Service business models are now commonplace, involving the delivery of a specific service rather than a product to perform the service. The most significant change in models such as this is the replacement of a proportionally very large up-front product price with a billing structure that is based on the services performed as the product itself.
This is particularly relevant in robotics; customers of robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) business models can get the benefits of robotic process automation by leasing robotic devices and accessing a cloud-based subscription service rather than purchasing the equipment outright. The headaches of ownership, such as paying off an expensive piece of equipment plus handling maintenance issues that spring up, are avoided with RaaS.
RaaS is becoming an increasingly popular option, especially for mobile robotics in logistics. IDTechEx found that numerous robotics suppliers are receiving increased requests for RaaS.
Intralogistics material transporting robots, like AGVs and AMRs, dominate the biggest share of the logistic mobile robotics market.
Low cost of entry
Even though the upfront cost of implementing mobile robots is usually much less than that of installing complex fixed automation systems, some small and medium-sized enterprises may not be able to afford to complete the system initialization of mobile robotics at once.
For instance, to fully automate the “goods-to-person” process in a 54,000-square-foot warehouse, 200 grid-based automated guided carts (AGCs) could be needed, and the installation cost can be US$4 to 4.5 million if software and customized shelves are also counted in.
However, with RaaS the billing can be based on a monthly subscription or a pay-as-you-go model. In this case, customers can use the service without investing too much at the beginning and will have fewer losses if they stop operating the mobile robotic system.
In many industries, particularly e-commerce, agile and lean operations are needed; companies should be able to change operations or production rapidly in response to market changes. RaaS allows customers to start or end mobile robotic systems at any time point as needed, and also allows changing product types quickly, for example, transferring from “shelve-to-person” grid-based AGCs to “carton-to-person” case picking robots easily.
Scalability is one of the strengths of RaaS compared to fixed automation. RaaS makes scaling the fleet more convenient, without concerns about the risks of reducing the fleet size in the future. For example, at sales peaks such as Black Friday, temporary workers are often needed in warehouses to fulfill demand surges. RaaS of mobile robots can address this issue cost-effectively by expanding the service size to increase capacity and productivity for only a short period of time.