This year, with the impact of COVID-19 on worldwide businesses, more companies than ever before are gravitating towards a pay-per-use model with no substantial upfront financial commitments. The global market for contract manufacturing should grow to $2.7 trillion in 2023, which also increases the potential of robotics. One has seen start-ups move from a software licensing business to a full service business and adopting Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) to be more approachable to customers’ requirements. Extensive automation is unavoidable.
Typically, robots are used to replace lower-paying jobs done by humans at companies. But, since robots are quite expensive, it can take years before companies realise a return on their investment. This fact has kept many smaller organisations from capitalising on robots. That’s one of the reasons RaaS is quite attractive today due to its cost-friendly nature.
Today, robots are not just for large corporations anymore. They are making an impact in numerous sectors, but thanks to RaaS, the rewards of robotic automation can also be leveraged by small- and medium-sized companies. Today, rigid robotic solutions that are preprogrammed to complete one repetitive task no longer make sense when production needs to modify as fast as consumer tastes. Pioneering companies who endeavour to sustain the trustworthiness of their consumers will invest in flexible solutions like robotic workcells that are swiftly reconfigurable for new tasks in the warehouse or to the shifting needs of a supply chain’s workflow.
There are several examples of companies developing tools to enable RaaS on a great scale and the ways it can be used. For example, Amazon’s contribution is the AWS RoboMaker, and it includes Machine Learning, analytics services and monitoring. Or Google developing the Google Cloud Robotics Platform that combines Artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud and robotics to enable ‘an open ecosystem of automation solutions that use cloud-connected collaborative robots’.
The RaaS model is extremely important right now, as manufacturers are trying to automate key processes due to increasing wages, an unprecedented labour shortage and the rise in worldwide competition. For many manufacturers, automation is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’, but a ‘need-to-have’.
One criticism of RaaS is its practicality. Is it possible to build upon the concept of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) with hardware? SaaS was established as the internet permitted immediate delivery, upkeep and updating of software. With hardware, there’s no instant maintenance. Can a robot manufacturer offer a similar level of service and attentiveness to its RaaS customers across the globe?
Nonetheless, the implications of RaaS are massive for the robotics industry. There are many cases in which buying automation equipment makes sense. But there are just as many circumstances, where the benefits of the RaaS model will overshadow the traditional model. As many technology providers move towards selling services such as RaaS, there are still things to overcome such as the volume of customisation of the hardware to make the robots suitable for individual organisations with precise needs. It’s obvious that the market necessitates a more flexible substitute to buying equipment, especially now, when manufacturing is facing so many challenges. Irrespective of the mounting discomforts, RaaS will be the solution many organisations hunt for.