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Posted on : Thursday 5th March 2020 07:34 PM

To Service, or Not to Service—Investigating Robots-as-a-Service

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According to the Future of Manufacturing report, a third of manufacturers create profit through servitization. Robots as a Service (RaaS), the business model for deploying robotic automation on lease, is also beginning to gain traction. Let’s look at the potential of RaaS, when compared to traditional robot purchasing.


RaaS defines the purchase of industrial robots by leasing robotic devices as needed, as in contrast to the regular strategy of purchasing a robot outright. Like many other servitization models, the concept boasts reduced upfront costs and the feature of ongoing maintenance. But, why fix a model that isn’t broken?


Robots have long reigned supreme in some areas of manufacturing, such as automotive production and heavy industry. As the first adopters of six-axis robots, some as early as the 1960s, these large-scale industries understand the potential of robotics and importantly, have the financial resource to deploy this technology.


Smaller to medium-sized manufacturers, on the other hand, haven’t been as quick to adopt robotic automation. High upfront costs make acquiring, integrating and maintaining an industrial robot unfeasible for many smaller businesses. However, RaaS could soon change this.


Weighing the Benefits


One of the benefits of RaaS is the possibility to lower the barrier of entry for smaller manufacturers. Leasing robots on a monthly, quarterly or yearly fee reduces the upfront cost dramatically, allowing manufacturers to dedicate in otherwise overtly expensive automation, without breaking the bank.


Doing away with initial costs isn’t the only healing for smaller manufacturers. A large part of the saving from RaaS would be a reduction in unexpected maintenance costs. Like many other servitization models, as the robot is rented, the onus and cost of fixing the robot would fall on the robot provider.


Consider this as an example. A medium sized manufacturer has ordered an industrial robot to help with production, but after a few months the machine has broken down. On top of initial cost of purchasing the robot outright, the manufacturer would have to expend resources on contracting specialist repair technicians, purchasing replacement parts and getting the robot back in working order.


Of course, some industrial robot suppliers do render warranty and after sales support for their machines, irrespective of the technique used to purchase the robot. However, purchasing through RaaS could provide smaller manufacturers with the additional reassurance they need to make the initial investment.


Buying through RaaS would mean all repair expenditure would be taken on by the provider. What’s more, as the direct supplier of the machine in question, the service provider should be able to fix the machine quickly as they are familiar with the technology, reducing the amount of downtime experienced by the manufacturer.


Minimizing the expense of unplanned maintenance would allow for even the smallest of manufacturers to focus funds on other parts of the business, including the potential for more automation.


Keeping it Traditional


Servitization boasts reduced maintenance and reduced upfront costs. However, purchasing industrial robots outright doesn’t necessarily carry financial risks. RaaS may not suit the requirements for every manufacturer. However, there are ways to reap the benefits of this business model, while ensuring they have complete ownership of the machines operating in their facilities.


One way of lowering the likelihood of unplanned maintenance is to select the highest quality of robots before making an financial investment. By ordering an industrial robot from a reputable supplier, smaller manufacturers will be certain to receive a dependable high-quality product. They will also have access to a strong distribution network that will support their needs every step of the way being able to swiftly offer spare items. Overall, even without RaaS, small manufacturers are in a strong position to start automating.

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