Partnering for success: A practical look at scaling your robotics business
According to IDC, the worldwide spending on robotics and drone solutions will reach $201.3 billion in 2022 and achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.6% over the 2017-2022 forecast period.
For the eager robotics company seeking to capture a share of this market growth, the time will come when they need to face the challenge of deploying their robots on a broader scale to meet the needs of their customers. It's a good problem to have!
However, scaling a robotics business presents some challenges. It can be burdensome for a small company to have one of its key employees travel to a customer site, with a robot in tow, to integrate the new robot, train the end-users, and troubleshoot potential deployment issues. Even more challenging is maintaining the robots after they are deployed. Preventative maintenance and quick response to issues are key to realizing the efficiency gain of robotics. Multiply the cost of travel and time out of the office by multiple customers, and it becomes difficult to sustain. Worse, time and resources get redirected from what is likely a key reason for starting a robotics company in the first place: the innovation and design of their next generation robot. For a growth-oriented startup, this is a good time to take advantage of the power of partnerships.
Keys to identifying partners and managing growth successfully
A good partnership begins with the belief in the product and trust that the company will continue to grow. Bringing in a service partner early on facilitates clear communication and understanding of the product and the goals and objectives of the end-users for the robot. Take, for example, NXT Robotics Corp. NXT is making inroads to the private outdoor security robot market, with a focus on parking facilities and large event or construction sites. As NXT Robotics concentrates on their expanding client base, they wanted to assure customers that not only is their robot the right robot for the job, but their company has the right solution and support for their customer's needs.
“We signed a service agreement early on in our trial phase to accelerate the rollout of our Cognitive Robotics Platform to customers," said NXT Robotics Corp. CEO and Co-founder Darin Andersen, “this arrangement allows us to service our customers on a round-the-clock basis while we continue to grow our business."
Having an established partnership with a more extensive service provider gives small robotics startups an edge and offers their clients the assurance the robot will be taken care of in the field once implemented.
Knowledge and Resources
Most robotics companies have the technical expertise to support their products of course, but what they often lack at this stage are the resources to handle the support-side efficiently. Likewise, with an influx of funding, there may be a temptation to fix this by increasing headcount in anticipation of market demand. This need may lead to premature internal scaling, rather than pacing the hiring in response to demand. This is a common pitfall that can lead to costly overhead within a startup company. Outsourcing certain aspects of the implementation and support business at this stage can make sense while allowing the startup's key personnel to continue concentrating on the design, engineering, and marketing of their robot to interested customers.
It's essential for the company to choose a service provider with the correct technical competence, but it's also worthwhile to consider the scope and breadth of resources the partner can bring to the startup. Do they have the right infrastructure in place to meet demand? Is their reach nationwide or even global and within proximity to the end-users? And, it's not just about cost. What other intangibles will the service provider bring to the partnership? Trusted partners want to see your robotics company mature, and they may discover other efficiencies or avenues for expansion within their network that a startup robotics company can leverage.
Your relationship with the end-user doesn't stop once they purchased your robot. Teaching end-users about the capabilities and proper use of the robot is an essential part of successful deployment and integration for your customers. While your chief roboticist and engineers are certainly the most knowledgeable source of information regarding your robot, it's unlikely they'll have enough resources at their disposal to produce and deploy formal training materials and classes on large-scale projects. A robotics company with specialized or custom equipment can take advantage of utilizing a trusted service partner that can also provide a comprehensive training program as part of the client-side implementation process.In conclusion, forging beneficial partnerships helps robotics startups successfully manage growth and scale. Your end-users will be reassured of their investment if an established, multi-resourced, global company supports your product. You demonstrate assurance to your investors that their capital funding gets utilized for innovation and sales instead of internal overhead — a differentiation that reduces risk and shows you can sustain market demand long-term.