September 26, 2017      

Editor’s Note: Dale Walsh, director of Service Advantage innovation at Ricoh USA Inc., will be speaking more about robots as a service this week at RoboBusiness 2017 in Santa Clara, Calif. He will be part of a panel on “Robotics as a Service: Feasibility and Opportunity.”

When a company deploys a robot and engages in a Robots as a Service (RaaS) model, it’s easy to think of the robot in a vacuum. But the truth is robots — whether bought outright or leased — will need servicing.

Per the International Federation of Robotics, industrial robot deployment in factories alone is expected to exceed more than 1.4 million new industrial robots by 2019, and according to IDC, by the same year, 35% of leading organizations outside of manufacturing will use robots to automate operations.

With the emerging global market for business services using drones valued at over $127 billion, these markets could be ripe for disruption, new entrants and new business models.

In fact, IDC predicts that in the next couple of years, 30% of commercial service robotics applications will follow the RaaS model. The growing adoption of robots and drones will likely lead to an increased demand for handlers to ease integration and trained experts to help plan for them, install them and service them throughout their life cycle.

Robots reach beyond manufacturing, requiring wider service

Robots are gaining popularity in industries outside of manufacturing such as retail, warehousing and hospitality. In fact, five states in the U.S. now allow delivery via robot or personal delivery vehicles by companies like Starship Technologies on their sidewalks. New robot technology outside of industrial applications could open up new paths to entry for smaller business with smaller budgets.

By 2019, 30% of commercial service robotics applications will be in the form of a Robots as a Service model. As robots become more accessible to businesses, businesses are able to engage in a robot-for-hire model instead of the traditional model, which required businesses to buy robots.

RaaS allows for more cost-effective deployment in the field, and it also equips the business with the ability to have robots learn new skills easily and help takeover the dirty, dull and dangerous jobs from humans.

Though robot adoption is on the rise, PwC found that barriers to entry still exist, one being insufficient resources and expertise. One way to meet this need is to enlist the help of trained technicians. These trained experts can work with the robots to interface between customers and robots when they’re first deployed and to help ensure they’re working properly throughout their lifecycle.

In addition to installation, technicians can also help with preventative maintenance. Just like it’s necessary to change the oil of a car, preventative maintenance is a key to helping maintain uptime and realizing the efficiency gain potential of robotics and drones.

More on Robots as a Service:

It’s an exciting time for the industries Robots as a Service will impact. As the barriers to entry of deploying robots change, more businesses may be able to partake in the RaaS model and realize the benefits associated with “robots for hire.”

As deployment of robots grows, the skills gap and lack of resources within a business to support these robots could become a concern and could likely lead the demand for trained experts to help maintain these robots to increase. After all, services need servicing too.