Pro Tip: Check out new “service plans” to hedge your bets when doubling down on new technology.

During this year’s BakingTech in Chicago, a snack manufacturer asked how machines as a service (MaaS) might impact future automation projects. Not that long ago, buyers would typically consider direct-asset purchases, but component obsolesce, automation effectiveness, vendor support and turnover have started to shift the discussion.

There are really three components that I’d suggest you reflect on before making your next automation purchase: software as a service (SaaS), robotics as a service (RaaS) and machines as a service (MaaS). These provisioning options help ensure a level of effectiveness that are directly related to cost of ownership.

Technology is always in flux and sometimes seems obsolete as soon as something ships, which puts the end user on the hook for updates, transition and support.

With SaaS, the buyer places the supplier or OEM in the position of ongoing support. Think of this like a monthly subscription or membership fee, similar to how you often get software updates on your cellphone. It isn’t really “free” but built into the ongoing fee you pay. This helps protect the end user from unforeseen events.

RaaS and MaaS are where you see more current interest as it relates to provisioning. With these purchasing concepts, the buyer negotiates pay-for-performance, uptime, effectiveness and (potentially) support (maintenance and troubleshooting) into the subscription.

Some would consider this more like leasing a vehicle where you can bolt-on usage limits, service/support, upgrades and agreed upon trade-in value.

As a seller, there’s an expectation factored in for full visibility to cycles, in-spec versus out-of-spec product and other data that must be exchanged to allow both parties a level of comfort related to the pay-per-cycle calculations.

With the aforementioned models, I feel the relationship between seller and buyer must be one of transparency and trust for things to progress beneficially.

The risk shifts more from the buyer to the seller, with how it relates to ensuring the system is properly designed and supported — the seller isn’t charged when the system goes down or does not complete missions for in-spec product. states that “RaaS is the latest way that robot OEMs are introducing automation in the industrial sector at increasingly lower costs. While just a few years ago RaaS had yet to catch on, it has since gained ‘widespread adoption.’ ”

Regardless of whether you are a manufacturer or the end user, do your due diligence before making any rash decision. Getting the model wrong can have huge financial consequences for both parties, even if you select the right automation or systems integrator.

Rowdy Brixey is founder and president of Brixey Engineering Inc.

You can connect with him at LinkedIn.