7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying an Industrial Robot

Thinking about buying a robot? Should you buy and DIY the integration, or is there a better option? Robotics as a Service is fast, zero risk, and delivers almost immediate return on investment!

June 6th, 2023 6 min read

The traditional Capital Expenditure (CapEx) model of purchasing robotics is expensive and financially risky. When you consider the total cost of ownership, Robotics as a Service (RaaS) is a cost-effective and less risky Operating Expense (OpEx) option.

Here are 7 questions to consider:

A white man with a beard and long hair, wearing a hard hat and working on a tablet, sits near a pair of large industrial robotic arms.

What does robotic hardware actually cost?

A high-quality collaborative robot (cobot) costs between $20,000-$50,000, while industrial robots cost anywhere from $40,000-$500,000, or more. When you add in the expense of other necessary equipment — control box, cabling, software, pedestal, frame, mounting, end-of-arm tooling, etc. — costs are much higher. 

With Robotics as a Service (RaaS), all of that hardware is covered by a single, predictable operating cost every month without enormous upfront costs. And, of course, that operating cost covers way more than just the hardware.

Have you considered installation and programming?

Integration expenses typically start around $100,000 to $150,000 for systems integrator to travel to your facility, and program, install, test, and train the solution.

With all hardware, programming, and installation costs included, 75% of manufacturers report paying over $250,000 for a robot installation, and 44% paid more than $500,000.

A RaaS partner includes those programming, delivery, and integration costs in the monthly operating fee.

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How quickly can you deploy the robot?

Some of the costs of a traditional approach to robotic automation aren’t as clear, but they can add a multiple on top of the CapEx you’ll spend getting robots in place. The average time for a traditional robotic implementation is more than 9 months.

Some of that is hardware lead time. Off the shelf equipment can take months to order and arrive, unless your integrator already has it on hand. But a lot of that time will also be spent on site. Most integrators do the majority of work cell construction, robot programming, and testing on site. While they work, the line that's being automated is not producing.

Can you afford to wait that long? Can you afford to take one or more production line down while your integrator or automation team work? The issues driving you to implement robotics aren’t going away. While you wait for the robot to get to work your labor shortages and spiraling costs will continue to impact your business.

Since RaaS providers don’t make money until a robotic system is working, the model is based on speedy implementation. For example, Rapid Robotics typically can custom design and deploy a Robot Machine Operator (RMO) in just a few weeks. We build the entire work cell and program and test the robot before delivery. Once on-site, we usually complete an installation in a few hours. Thanks to that speed, combined with a low up-front cost, you’ll start seeing an almost immediate return on your investment.

Are you willing to gamble?

In today’s world, business needs often change, and predicting the future is difficult. Contracts can get canceled, and demand for a product line can drop way below expectations. Traditional robots are specialized to a single task and can’t be reprogrammed and redeployed without starting the entire programming and integration process over again - with all the costs and long lead times that entails. That amounts to a lot of time and money. Many manufacturers who purchased robots have been left with expensive and useless assets when their needs changed. 

RaaS providers are invested in ensuring their robots continue to work. In most cases, reprogramming and reintegrating a leased robot will incur a small change fee, and take a few hours to a couple of weeks at most. In at least one case, Rapid Robotics was able to reprogram and redeploy a robot in less than 24 hours!

In the contract manufacturing industry, the biggest problem with automation is that we’re constantly changing jobs. We’re not producing our own products 52 weeks a year. It’s really hard to automate a program that only runs for three weeks or a month. You don’t want to buy a robot and have it sit around and gather dust most of the time.
Tammy Barras

Tammy Barras

President, Westec Plastics Corporation

How will unscheduled downtime impact your business?

Robots don't break often, but when they do repairs on one you own can take days or weeks while parts are on order. While the robot is down, so is the line. If your business can’t meet deadlines because of installation delays and unscheduled downtime, your brand reputation may take a hit along with your bottom line. And don’t forget: if you own the robot, you’re also on the hook to pay for replacement parts.

RaaS providers are incentivized to quickly respond to issues. At Rapid, we monitor our equipment remotely and can often resolve issues without the need for an onsite visit. We’re available 24/7 for support, and when an onsite repair is required, our engineers arrive within 24 hours and can usually handle all repairs within one shift. 

If something is really broken, we won't wait for parts. We'll just swap out the robot for a new one, so that your facility can keep working. It should go without saying at this point, but this comprehensive service is all covered by the same monthly operating cost.

Have you added in yearly service and maintenance costs?

Don’t forget about costs associated with service and scheduled maintenance. If you own the robots in your facility, you have two choices:

  1. Hire staff to program, maintain, and repair your robots.

  2. Pay a third-party service provider to handle maintenance and repair.

For many manufacturers, hiring in-house robotic engineers is impractical or impossible. At a time when it’s hard enough to recruit and retain enough operators to keep your factory running at full capacity, hiring specialized engineering staff is even more challenging. In most parts of the country, robotics engineers make over $100,000 annually. 

Depending on the complexity of the implementation, the annual cost per robot for a third party maintenance contract ranges from $12,000 to $30,000. 

Service is included in a RaaS subscription from Rapid Robotics. When we say service, we mean it. Service includes everything from software upgrades to scheduled maintenance, to parts. There’s no waiting for parts, either – if a robot breaks, we’ll just replace it and repair the broken one on our own time. 

How are you calculating depreciation?

The average operating life of a cobot is about 35,000 hours, or less than 6 years at full utilization. Once the robot reaches its end of life, you need to purchase a new one and pay for a new integration.

Rapid Robotics ensures that each RMO operates at peak performance for the length of the deployment and will replace it if performance degrades. All at no additional cost to you.

Now is the time for a RaaS automation solution

Ready to save time and money and get an immediate return on your investment? Schedule a free, 30-minute automation discovery call with Rapid right now.


Rapid Robotics Content Team

We're a group of diverse humans who tell anyone who'll listen how Rapid Robotics can make it easy, fast and affordable for manufacturers to start automating. And while we believe in the power of automation and AI, we're real peeps who write every word ourselves!

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