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Robots as Asset-as-a-Service: A rental model for industry

IoT Use Case SAP, wandelbots, Smart Systems Hub
4 minutes Reading time
4 minutes Reading time

Processing performance data from industrial robots in the edge and cloud allows to improve human-machine collaboration and prepare robots for a convenient rental model. In the process, users no longer buy the machine, but only its use in order processing.

The challenge: Human-robot interaction is not optimal for pay-per-use models

Cobots or “collaborative robots” are industrial robots designed for interaction between robots and humans working in the same area. They must be able to respond dynamically and quickly to people’s actions. A simple evasive movement into a rest position is not flexible enough. Especially in the area of cobots, short waiting times are also a challenge. Especially when robots are only rented for individual production steps, the efficient work of the robot and the knowledge of all data is essential for new service offers and correct billing.

Wandelbots, the provider of teaching software for programming robots, has set up a testbed for increasing the efficiency of robots in the Digital Product Factory at the Smart Systems Hub in Dresden together with development partners Infineon, SAP and Objective Partner. In addition, an “Asset-as-a-Service” business model was created on the basis of the software solution.

The solution: Evaluate performance data of a robot

Wandelbots equips robots with intrinsic intelligence to predict a human’s likely next moves. It should then react accordingly and continue its work at another point, for example. The robot needs so-called skills (work orders) for this. They stand for certain motion sequences with which the robot performs its tasks. They are sent to it as a data packet. It is also equipped with Infineon sensors that measure position and performance data. The position of the robot is determined with sensor fusion, a combination of localization systems radar and 3D cameras(TOF). An adaptive AI solution in the edge evaluates this data and can thus improve collaboration between humans and machines. This makes the robot much more flexible and allows variable deployment scenarios, so it can be used in a rental model. The data collected by the sensors is then transferred via the Industrial IoT to the SAP cloud (SAP Business Technology Platform), where it is analyzed by another adaptive application. Its main task is predictive maintenance, i.e. predictive maintenance based on changes in performance data. This enables the solution to detect the degree of wear of tools on the robot’s head at an early stage, for example. The performance data builds a bridge between the purely producing system (in this case the robot) and the actual order data from Order Management. This is especially important for the billing of rental equipment. Here, it is important to precisely invoice the individual orders, for example, according to the number of pieces produced or per unit of time. In addition, documentation is automatically created for the client, who can thus better evaluate the billing of the rented systems.

The result: Asset-as-a-Service as a new business model

Overall, the solution is an exemplary model for “Asset-as-a-Service”. In the process, the supplier sets up machine tools, robots and other systems for industry at the users’ premises. The user pays according to usage, such as the number of units produced. The installer, on the other hand, takes over commissioning, maintenance and repairs in the event of technical faults. This model controls and monitors robot deployment with a digital twin of the robot built in the cloud. It is created in real time from the sensor data on the one hand and from the skills on the other. This allows users to determine the status of the device at any time and respond immediately with appropriate commands. This enables convenient rental models in which technical services relating to the robots can also come from the cloud.

However, the solution developed in the innovation lab is only an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). It offers only basic functions and shows what possibilities the Industrial IoT, cloud services, artificial intelligence and modern teaching software have. Furthermore, the solution can be generalized: Asset-as-a-Service forms a marketplace for digital services that can be connected to different machines.

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