For decades, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have produced the industrial robots their customers use to manufacture their own products, from automobiles to electric toothbrushes. But as manufacturing environments have evolved, the limitations of these traditional robotics designs have been laid bare. Existing equipment is difficult to retrofit when production changes demand it. Improving the sustainability of that equipment is also challenging. These limitations can increase an organization’s costs, delay production, and reduce its competitiveness in the market. 

Modular robotics designs, however, provide numerous bottom-line-enhancing benefits for OEMs and customers alike.

Modular Robotics Offer Important Benefits

Unlike their general-purpose counterparts, modular robotics designs provide the flexibility today’s OEMs and their customers require to keep pace with the ever-evolving landscape of modern manufacturing. Modular robotics designs are composed of discrete components that can be reconfigured as industry or customer needs evolve. And because these components can be removed and replaced far more easily than parts in a traditional robot, modular robots are easier to service, upgrade, and adapt for new purposes. As a result, OEMs and their customers can more effectively adjust to shifting consumer demands and industry specifications. This raises margins, reduces delays, and positions these organizations to succeed in a new era of manufacturing. 

This post explores the benefits and advantages of modular robotics designs and details the specific advantages and benefits they provide OEMs and their customers.

Keeping Pace With Change

In the age of connectivity and near-constant technological advancement, the pace of change in manufacturing has never been faster. Consumer expectations also change, as do industry requirements. As a result, adaptability is more important than ever for OEMs and their customers. But the parent machines and robots on which these companies rely can make it difficult for them to keep up with those changes efficiently. Replacing industrial machinery every time a requirement evolves is impossible, so existing robots are often retrofitted awkwardly with jury-rigged parts and fittings. That can affect the equipment in unforeseen ways and lead to maintenance and production issues.

In contrast, modular robotics allow OEMs and their customers to adapt more quickly when changes occur. Compared with traditional robotic systems, robotic modules can be more easily (and affordably) designed, produced, and replaced. This means OEMs can more quickly develop and deploy new solutions to keep up with industry demands. Just as importantly, their customers can pursue innovations without worrying about whether their equipment can keep up. As a result, these companies can bring new products to market ahead of their less adaptable competitors, which drives up revenues.

Modular Robotics’ Impact on Sustainability

Traditional robotics designs can also make it difficult for OEMs and their customers to shrink their environmental footprint, interfering with their environmental goals and reducing their competitiveness. Traditional robotics are costly to replace and difficult to upgrade, which creates a dilemma—pay a high price to replace existing equipment with more sustainable options, or fail to meet sustainability goals and fall behind others in the market.

Modular robotics offer a simpler path to sustainability for both OEMs and their customers. For OEMs, production of new modules requires fewer material resources than production of traditional robotics designs. OEMs can produce new, more eco-friendly modules on shorter timelines, which allows them to provide more consistent sustainability improvements to their customers and gain an advantage in the market. For customers, modular robotics make achieving sustainability goals easier and more affordable. Modules can be easily upgraded as new innovations arrive, eliminating the need for large-scale investment. As a result, both groups become more appealing to their environmentally-minded customers and reduce costs, all while making good on their commitment to sustainability.

A Smarter Long-term Investment

Just as traditional robotics designs have limited companies’ sustainability efforts, the way those robots are sold has limited OEMs’ ability to increase sales and develop stronger relationships with their customers. Manufacturing cells and machines are often large, heavy pieces of equipment that, once installed, undergo maintenance to extend their lives for as long as possible. They can require hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital investment and years of negotiation to purchase and implement. They can also last decades and are rarely replaced. As a result, customers may only rarely engage with OEMs, which limits sales opportunities and means customers are less likely to take advantage of new innovations.

Modular robotics, on the other hand, represent a valuable long-term investment OEMs and their customers can make to improve outcomes and build a mutually beneficial relationship. Interchangeable modules provide OEMs with a steadier stream of income between large, less-common purchases. OEMs also typically enjoy higher margins on smaller pieces of equipment, so modular robotics deliver a boost to their bottom line too. In addition, modules are quicker and easier to produce than entire pieces of equipment, allowing OEMs to reduce development costs and respond more quickly to new customer needs. 

For customers, modular robotics offer the chance to spread out their spending, making it easier to upgrade modules or add a new one to meet an emerging need. This allows customers to more affordably and efficiently keep up with necessary manufacturing changes. It also increases engagement with their OEM, which makes it easier to get questions answered and receive guidance on getting the most from their machines.

A Win-Win Proposition

Keeping pace with changes in the manufacturing world is challenging, but OEMs and their customers make it much easier for themselves when they invest in modular robotics. That’s because modular robotics provide flexibility and sustainability improvements for both groups. OEMs can more quickly and efficiently develop the solutions customers need as new requirements arise. They can also increase their marketing potential through eco-friendliness. Customers, meanwhile, can more simply and affordably implement and upgrade their equipment, which spaces out capital expenditures while allowing them to reconfigure modules to keep up with customer expectations. Modular robotics also increase engagement between OEMs and their customers. The former gain steadier revenue streams, while the latter can facilitate improvements to their products without the hassle of ballooning costs or makeshift equipment upgrades. 

The advantages and benefits associated with modular robotics will be crucial for robotics OEMs and their customers in the years ahead. Companies that don’t offer modular systems risk falling behind the competition. Robotics OEMs that strive to excel in the market should invest in modular robotic initiatives for their equipment and offer modular robotics designs to their customers.