RaaS vs. Gas

So, how do you tackle an ongoing labor shortage? What about busing people in from nearby states to fill open positions? According to a 2019 article in a Tennessee newspaper, that’s exactly what FedEx did as part of a pilot program, transporting nearly 200 employees from Cleveland to the company’s Memphis hub and back again every weekday.

“Our goal is to continue the shuttle program as long as there is a sufficient number of people in the Delta willing to seize the opportunity to work at FedEx Express,” said a company spokesperson. Although the COVID-19 pandemic certainly put the brakes on those four-hour roundtrips, the fact remains that logistics companies and businesses of all kinds have long been desperate for reliable workers.

The question then becomes: at what cost? Fuel, insurance, vehicle maintenance—these are just some of the considerable expenses that employers are willing to incur if it means remaining operational. Isn’t there a better way?

For parcel induction and depalletization, at least, there is. It’s called Robotics as a Service, or RaaS, and it eliminates the hefty investment in automation that labor-starved companies are otherwise forced to make.

How does it work? Simple. Just as many of us pay monthly subscription fees for everything from that Tennessee newspaper to streaming services like Netflix and the Disney Channel, RaaS allows companies to implement robotics without purchasing the robots outright.

This means customers can benefit from automation technology without the high initial capital expenditure, similar to Software as a Service (SaaS) and other “as a Service” business models.

In the case of logistics and delivery providers, RaaS helps to streamline operations, reduce costs, and increase efficiency. That’s because robots can sort and pick items from conveyors or pellets much more quickly and with fewer errors than humans. And thanks to the RaaS model, the often high cost of purchasing, programming, maintaining, and integrating robots into existing systems disappears.

RaaS also makes it easier to scale up or down as business needs change. And, although the FedEx story suggests that busing people thousands of miles weekly accomplishes the same goal, that is only effective until the next pandemic or when workers find jobs closer to home.

Much of what goes on with a human workforce—hiring, onboarding, training, and remembering their birthdays — will always be needed. But, with robots onboard to tackle the dull, repetitive tasks, the employees who remain will not only have an opportunity to learn new skills, but will be happier besides.

By using RaaS, logistics companies such as FedEx can also experiment with the latest robotic technologies and automate more processes without the risks and costs associated with purchasing robots outright.

Their robots will also receive regular maintenance and software updates from the RaaS provider, eliminating obsolescence, while the people responsible for getting packages out the door—your workers—will have instant access to a team of automation experts, a perk that’s especially beneficial to companies without in-house robotics knowledge.

And as noted earlier, the “rent a robot” approach also allows companies to adapt to seasonal demands or changes in business volume more flexibly, keeping capital free for other investments or navigating uncertain economic conditions.

So which is better: gas or RaaS? For me, I’d rather work closer to home. Let’s save the road trips for the weekend.

To find out if RaaS is a good fit for you, reach out to the Plus One team at +1 (210) 664-3200.

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