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Robot Application Kits vs DIY: Which Has the Better ROI?

Alex Owen-Hill
by Alex Owen-Hill. Last updated on Aug 20, 2021 10:45 AM
Posted on Aug 20, 2021 10:45 AM. 5 min read time

What type of robot application should you choose to maximize your ROI?

Is it better to go with a DIY solution that gives you full control and customization? Or would an off-the-shelf application be a better option?

Robots are now more accessible than ever before. Collaborative robots are easy enough to use that almost anyone can now design, integrate, and deploy their own robotic applications with no additional help… if that's something that they want to do, of course!

But, recently there has been a surge in demand for off-the-shelf robotic application kits.

If you think about it, it makes sense that application kits are popular right now. Many companies are already struggling to keep up with the rapid changes to their industries caused by recent global events.

When people want to improve their operations with a robot, they want results fast! They don't have free time to deploy their own robot applications, even if the deployment would be easy. They don't want to risk purchasing the robot and leave it sitting in a cupboard until someone on their team has time to deploy it.

But, are application kits the best way to get a good return on investment (ROI)?

Looking for the cheapest way to automate your task?

A common approach that people take when trying to maximize the ROI of a new robot is to look for the cheapest option on the market. They assume that a cheap robot will take less time to pay for itself.

While this can sometimes be the right choice, it's important to ensure that you're not missing some vital factors by just looking at the price tag of the robotic hardware.

Let's take the example of a screwdriving task.

Imagine that you decide you will automate the screwdriving step of an assembly process. You have seen that screwdriving robots have some powerful benefits for companies like yours.

So, you look around the market for options.

When you run the basic numbers, it looks like a DIY robotic solution will be cheapest. You factor in the cost of the robot itself and the cost of a simple screwdriving tool. Together, they look cheaper than all the other options for screwdriving automation.

But, in your haste to find the cheapest option, you have missed some key factors…

A better way to think about the ROI of a robot application

The process for calculating the ROI of a robot application varies slightly depending on what type of solution you are using.

Each solution will be influenced by a differing range of factors.

For example, the conventional approach to robotic automation is to hire a specialist integrator to design a bespoke solution for you. This includes an upfront cost for the service, but it often also includes an ongoing maintenance contract with the integrator that people forget to factor in.

Such costs wouldn't be included in a DIY solution, for example, but other costs might influence that type of approach.

When you are calculating the ROI of various competing solutions, it's important to look for those "hidden costs" so you can include them in your calculation.

A benefit of off-the-shelf application kits is that they usually don't have hidden costs. They tend to be a single one-off payment (though remember to check if there are any ongoing maintenance costs).

Photo_Screwdriving Solution_Screwdriver fastening_1

How to calculate the ROI of application kits vs DIY

What's the difference between application kits and the DIY approach when you're looking at cost?

Here are some factors that you will need to consider for each:

Calculating the accurate ROI of a robot application kit

With a robot application kit, the overall cost is often just the cost of the kit itself.

In this case, you start calculating the ROI by looking at your current costs to perform the task manually. This includes factors like the salary of workers, the downtime caused by the manual task, scrap caused by quality issues, etc.

You then compare this with the cost of doing the task with a robot. This is likely to be simply the cost of the application kit, though keep an eye out for any potential extras for your specific situation.

We have a handy ROI calculator that you can use to calculate the ROI of using an application kit in your situation.

Calculating the accurate ROI of a DIY robotic solution

If you choose the DIY option, there are some extra factors you'll have to consider.

Examples of such factors include:

  • The individual costs for tooling.
  • Any accessories required to run the application.
  • The salaries of the people who are deploying the robot over the time of the deployment.
  • Any lost productivity elsewhere due to these people not performing their usual jobs.

You can still use the ROI calculator to calculate this, but you will have to add such factors into the calculation yourself.

The big question: How short do you want your payback time?

Ultimately, the question you are likely asking yourself is: Should I choose an application kit or a DIY option?

The answer to that question will depend entirely on your needs and your situation. But, a good rule of thumb is to look at how soon you want your robotic investment to pay for itself.

Do you want your robot to pay for itself in 3 months? 6 months? 1 year?

An application kit will allow you to get your robot up and running as quickly as possible. This means that it will probably have a shorter payback time than a DIY approach.

Remember, a robot will only pay for itself if it is actually in production. If you think that your team won't have time to deploy the robot quickly, an application kit is probably a wise option!

You can find out what application kits are available on our robot application page.

What application would you like to see in an off-the-shelf application kit? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or the DoF professional robotics community.

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Alex Owen-Hill
Written by Alex Owen-Hill
Alex Owen-Hill is a freelance writer and public speaker who blogs about a large range of topics, including science, presentation skills at, storytelling and (of course) robotics. He completed a PhD in Telerobotics from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid as part of the PURESAFE project, in collaboration with CERN. As a recovering academic, he maintains a firm foot in the robotics world by blogging about industrial robotics.
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