The 5 Rules for Determining the Cost-Benefit of Robotic Automation

The DIY approach to buying and integrating robots may cost you valuable time and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Robotics as a Service (RaaS) is the real simple, low cost way to hire a robot.

April 19th, 2023 6 min read

Owning a robot can be expensive. 

Exactly how expensive depends on your needs and usage; but in short, it costs around $1.2 million to run one robot over 10 years with $1.9 million to hire and maintain a qualified team of developers to run that robot. 

And that’s if the robot runs 10 years. 

In reality, it’s likely that your manufacturing needs will evolve over those 10 years. In that case, your robots will need to be reintegrated and reprogrammed for the new tasks. 

If you own robots, reprogramming them will take valuable time and will cost thousands of dollars. If you embrace the Robotics as a Service (RaaS) revolution that’s simplifying automation in manufacturing, your business won’t have to get mired in an unnecessary robot ownership quagmire.

The RaaS Revolution is Changing the Game 

Robotics as a Service is where your business pays the service provider a fixed monthly rate to lease robotic hardware. A good RaaS provider typically also provides covers the design of the automation, delivery and integration of the system, and 24/7 support and maintenance for the lifetime of the deployment - up to and including replacing the robot if it breaks. Truly great RaaS providers also act as an extension of your team. Their engineers will remain on call to answer questions, correct issues, and even support redeployment and reintegration if your needs change.

Is RaaS right for you? 

These five simple rules cover the key factors for determining the cost-benefit of RaaS vs. robot ownership.

Rule #1: Consider Time to Deployment 

A chart showing the lead times associated with traditional systems integration

It takes lots of experience to get a robot working correctly and efficiently. Manufacturers determined to take the DIY approach will need to purchase additional hardware (each with its own provider and lead times), hire robotics engineers and programmers, and find space in their facility to train and test the robot prior to integration.

The more common approach is to use a systems integrator. Any systems integrator will bring a wealth of expertise and engineering experience that will help ensure the deployment goes smoothly and runs according to plan. However, systems integration lead times can be well over a year.

Robotics as a Service providers, on the other hand are built for speed. They will work hard to get a robot deployed in weeks, rather than months.

Rule #2: Calculate True Cost of Ownership

It can be tempting to think about purchasing and deploying a robot yourself. There are high-quality collaborative robots (cobots) available on the market priced around $20,000-$50,000

The robot, however, is just the first piece of a much larger CapEx package. With all hardware, programming, and installation costs combined, 75% of manufacturers report paying over $250,000 for a robot installation. Additionally, nearly half (44%) pay more than $500,000. These are all expenses paid before their robot produced a single part. 

Companies interested in purchasing their equipment should generally consider initial estimates to be a starting point of their investment as opposed to an “all-in” cost. After the robotic arm purchase, you will also need to buy:

  • The control box, cabling, and software

  • Robot pedestal

  • Frame and mounting

  • End of arm tooling

  • Vision systems

  • Safety systems and fencing

You will also need to plan for additional installation costs. Unless your facility has robotics engineers and programmers on staff, you will need to work with a systems integrator. Integration costs typically start at around $100,000 to $150,000, including:

  • Programming

  • Staff training

  • Installation and testing

  • Travel

Not only will robot ownership end up costing your company a lot of money, it will also consume your most precious resource: time. 

Rule #3: Cost-benefit of Robotic Automation is Not Always Financial

Saving money is a top priority, but it’s not the only factor when considering automation options. You will need to implement a solution that will enhance your reputation for quality and reliability 

For example, one Rapid Robotics’ customer makes high precision GMSS antennas for heavy equipment (e.g., tractors, earth movers) OEMs. The company’s OEM customers have strict quality requirements, so they used to have a person inspect every unit for several minutes prior to shipping to their customers. A lot of quality issues slipped through, leading to an unacceptable rejection rate by their OEMs. 

Thanks to the combination of a robotic arm from Rapid Robotics and an inspection system from Elementary, the customer was able to reduce cycle time from 4-5 minutes per unit to under 1 minute, and completely eliminate quality rejections by the OEMs. 

There's financial ROI with RaaS solutions, but another cost-benefit is in the time and reputational savings vs. the cost of the deployment.

Rule #4: Consider the Future 

One of the most common reasons that robotic implementations fail is because a manufacturer's needs change. 

Robots installed by systems integrators are usually specialized to a single task and fixed in place on an unmovable pedestal. If a process changes, a contract ends, or even if tended machinery is updated or replaced, the robot will sit idle until it can be reprogrammed and reintegrated for the new task. That is, for all intents and purposes, a new integration that can add hundreds of thousands of dollars and months of downtime to the original purchase. 

Additionally, if volume drops to the point where a single shift can produce all the parts needed, you may end up with a robot doing nothing while other, higher volume operations fall short of production targets. In the worst case scenario, you end up with a fully functional robot that you simply cannot use and that just gathers dust.

Rule #5: Keep it Simple

For all the reasons listed above and more, implementing and installing an automation solution can be perplexing and complicated. Purchasing hardware may seem appealing, but considering the factors outlined above, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Better to keep it simple with no surprises. Go with an RaaS solution to ensure a professional and streamlined install, affordability, flexibility and scalability. 

The Time for an RaaS Automation Solution is Now

To find out more about how you can identify automation opportunities in your manufacturing process, contact Rapid Robotics now for a free automation consultation. 

This website uses cookies
to improve your experience.