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Robotics as a Service: Its Advantages and Requirements
Robotics as a Service (RaaS) is a cloud-based subscription service model. Like the Software as a Service (SaaS) programs that shifted access to software and its licensing to the cloud, RaaS uses big data and networked systems to provide users with affordable, scalable, world-class operating solutions.
In a traditional Capital Expenditure (CapEx) model, the greatest pain points are the upfront costs, system integration, and maintenance of the units.
In most use-cases, RaaS lessens or eliminates these barriers to entry.
With a top speed of 6.7mph, Alta Robotics offers the fastest AMRs on the market. Combined with our RaaS subscription service, you can shift capital expenditures to operations, scale your processes, and maximize throughput with minimal upfront expense.
Advantages of RaaS
As a cloud-based robotic solution, RaaS is a culmination of several of the key technologies that are driving the global economy: Cloud computing, smart automation, and big data analytics.
Cloud computing and smart automation allow Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) to be controlled, programmed, and updated remotely. At the same time, information across distributed networks can be consolidated and later put to use by people throughout the distribution chain. This means that every facility can benefit from the information uploaded by every robot in the entire organization.
With big data analytics, all of the information even in vastly distributed networks can be put to use, for example, by better predicting process requirements or customer habits.
RaaS offers customers many benefits, with only a few drawbacks.
Benefits of RaaS
Low cost of entry. With RaaS, you aren’t buying a product – you’re paying for a service. This dramatically lowers upfront costs by eliminating the need to purchase these state-of-the-art AMRs. Instead, you’re paying only for your use of the AMR. And when it’s time to upgrade your fleet, you aren’t left having to figure out what to do with outdated robots.
Flexible purchasing cycle. Companies have strict procedures and timelines for major CapEx projects. Budgets and expenses both have to be planned and approved, creating a protracted purchasing cycle of as much as 18 months. Because RaaS is charged as an operational expense that is competitive with manual labor, it’s more easily justified and the purchase cycle shortened.
Minimal institutional knowledge. With RaaS solutions, your team isn’t responsible for updates, maintenance, or repairs. So you don’t need to pay crews of engineers and technicians to keep your fleet of AMRs running. Our team remotely monitors and updates your system, and also handles maintenance and repair.
Tight Integration. Autonomous robots are controlled by the Warehouse Management System (WMS) and are part of your smart network. This allows them to respond to workflows and real-time data even in zones they aren’t in. As part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), they help increase the integration and streamline the workflow of your facility’s systems and processes.
Predictable costs at scale. Because you pay for the services you consume, and service and repair is included in the subscription package, the costs are predictable. At the same time, this business model allows you to scale your use up. And because these machines use the same systems and run on the same software, the relative costs decrease as the size of the fleet increases.
Easily adjust with changing needs. Because you pay for the service – not the product – RaaS allows you to more easily adjust to demand. During peak seasons, you have the capacity to scale your use up. And conversely, when business slows, you have the flexibility to scale down to save costs.
Drawbacks of RaaS
Limited customization. If you have the time and money for a truly bespoke solution, going a traditional capital expenditure route can create the exact solution you need. With RaaS, you’re limited to what your vendor can provide. But note that this downside doesn’t apply if your CapEx solution isn’t truly bespoke, but is off-the-shelf.
No capital investment or depreciation. Because you don’t own the robots, the tax benefits that come with capital investments and depreciation aren’t accessible with a RaaS solution. With a traditional CapEx project – and smart financial planning – a large depreciation expense can lower taxable income.
Three requirements for RaaS to be feasible
As you consider RaaS, be aware that there are some criteria your systems need to meet. If your facility falls short of these needs, talk with a professional integrator to see how your processes can be improved.
Many of the features of RaaS – including remote monitoring, updates, and support; use tracking; big data analytics; and security – depend on stable Wi-Fi and secure internet connections.
If your facility lacks a stable internet connection or consistent Wi-Fi, there are workarounds. Some vendors use “store and forward” software that saves alerts and messages and emails them when a connection is restored. Other services provide cellular data connections. While these are viable, they aren’t ideal.
Before you subscribe to a RaaS solution, you may need to improve or supplement your facility’s networking infrastructure.
Because you aren’t purchasing a product, the integration will have to be funded as an OpEx. Because the upfront costs are minimal, this is typically easier than funding a CapEx project, and requires less time in the budgeting process and fewer approvals.
However, you’ll have to have some discretionary OpEx budget to put toward a RaaS solution.
Measurable, consistent demand
It's normal for facilities to see spikes in demand and to have bottlenecks. But you’ll want to have some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure, in order to both justify an integration and to know when you’re ready to scale up.
Demand that’s too inconsistent may indicate that a more cost-effective solution for you will be to improve other processes before you look to RaaS. While RaaS is a pay-for-use system, your vendor also has to justify their costs – and too many robots sitting idle might not be justifiable for them.
One of the hallmarks of a fully networked, integrated system of AMRs is their ability to solve bottlenecks, flatten demand spikes, and streamline processes. Experienced automation integrators can help you examine your systems and see the value RaaS holds for you.
Needing to scale your processes with minimal upfront cost? Contact us to learn more about Robotics as a Service.