“Robots-as-a-Service” (RaaS) business models

Project robotization has all chances to replenish the range of integration services in the medium term. Experts have recently started talking about robotization as a service (RaaS). Until now, almost every project of a fully automated enterprise has been developed and implemented on an individual basis. Which is quite understandable: these solutions are still unique, there are no industry standards or certificates (like the Uptime Institute Tier-system) in this industry. Yes, individual robots (assembly manipulators, for instance) are produced in large numbers, but fully autonomous factories equipped with them are still a rarity.

Robots as a Service (RaaS) business models can only be assessed for the area of transportation and logistics in premises without mass transit because there is no information of such turnover. RaaS business models include all types of leasing and other monetization methods that are not traditional sales. Such models contribute to turnover statistics (in USD) but not production statistics because the same robot is used and likely is upgraded and has been generating turnover continuously for many years.

However, in most applications, RaaS business models are either not offered at all or occupy only a tiny fraction of the turnover. Outdoor transportation and logistics robots without public transport have grown by 25% to 2,660 units over the past year. Turnover increased by 18% to USD 74 million. This class of applications is the only one with a large share of RaaS turnover (23%). It is one of the three professional service robots sold in 2020 that was created to transport goods or cargo. The turnover in this segment increased by 11%. The share of RaaS business models covers less than 3% of this amount.

However, the situation should change soon - all the conditions are ripe for this purpose. Robotic industrial enterprises, eliminating dangerous accidents, dealing with natural disasters are costly for customers. The expected benefits that should, in theory, bring the abandonment of the labor force (with its salaries, taxes, training, hospital, organization, and quality control of labor, etc.) are not achieved immediately.

Isn't there an analogy with the IT industry regarding server hardware? Only corporations and the largest medium-sized companies can organize their reliable, high-performance server infrastructure. At the same time, with the widespread penetration of clouds, SaaS, PaaS and others have made enterprise-grade server solutions available (by subscription) even for the smallest enterprises. Experts note that a gradual shift in the paradigm of robotics in the same direction is expected today.

The cost of a genuinely autonomous factory focused on producing certain products is so high that only a few of the largest customers on the planet can invest in such a project exclusively for themselves.

However, suppose communication between the machines will be established via a wireless channel. In that case, it is possible to allow rapid reconfiguration (rearrangement, replacement, and addition of new devices) within the broadest limits and in the shortest time. It sounds completely logical and leads to the concept of robotization as a service - RaaS.

But analogies with data centers, the computer facilities of which can be rented by anyone, in the foreseeable future there may be independent, autonomous production centers ready to provide customers with a service for the production of one or another high-tech product under the drawings and specifications provided. Demining, clearing services, warehouse management, accident elimination, logistics - robots have already been developed and become widely applied for all this.

However, they are still quite expensive to begin massively replacing workers from their relevant fields. With the introduction of RaaS, renting robots to perform specific tasks will certainly seriously change the business landscape in many sectors of the economy, and the IT industry should prepare for this today.