Rapid Robotics recently raised $12M in Series A funding led by NEA, with existing investors Greycroft, Bee Partners and 468 Capital also participating. The latest investment brings Rapid Robotics’ total funding to $17.5M, following on the heels of $5.5M in seed funding in November, 2020.
The Rapid Robotics solution is a “ready-to-work” robotic work cell, based around a collaborative robot arm that is pre-programmed and quick to deploy. Over the past year, Rapid’s solutions have produced more than 50,000,000 parts across almost every industry sector including plastics, metals, medical devices, automotive, pharma, semiconductors and electronics/EMS.
The solution is especially effective for markets and applications that are experiencing shortages of machine operators. Rapid Robotics is changing the cost-curve and time-to-value for automation solutions for US manufacturers.
“If we don’t solve this problem, US manufacturers will never be able to compete in a global market,” said Rapid Robotics CEO Jordan Kretchmer. “It’s really that simple.”
The shortfall is especially acute with machine operators, the employees who work the machines that perform 80% of all factory tasks. By some accounts, American manufacturers need 600,000 more operators to meet demand and compete with factories overseas.
“America’s shortage of machine operators is a bona fide crisis,” agreed NEA General Partner and former Silicon Graphics Chief Technology Officer, Forest Baskett. “We have to address it if we want to make America a manufacturing leader again.”
Rapid Robotics is bridging the gap between a scarcity of machine operators and an inability to automate. Its promise is: “All of the hardware, software and support you need to automate machine tasks for $25K per year” (from the Rapid Robotics website). The Rapid Machine Operator (RMO) is a 6-axis collaborative robot that comes pre-loaded with everything ready to deploy. This shortens the traditional cycle for integration. The system leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to quickly learn a new task and can get to work in less than a day. The system also learns and improves over time. The entire RMO fleet shares knowledge over the cloud and improves over time.
“Robotics made sense for large-scale assembly-line jobs with decades-long windows for ROI, but not for operating the manufacturing machines that do most of the work on factory floors,” Baskett said. “Robots cost too much to begin with and even more to train. The numbers just didn’t pencil out.”
“I’ve been in manufacturing for more than 20 years, and the enthusiasm for the Rapid Machine Operator is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” said Mike Lewis, head of sales and marketing at Rapid Robotics, and former VP of business development at global technology, supply chain and manufacturing company Flex. “When we meet with potential customers, at first they’re skeptical because they’ve been burned by vendors who couldn’t deliver. When they see what the Rapid Machine Operator can do, they start to get excited. By the end of the visit they just want to know how soon we can get RMOs in place.”
With Rapid Machine Operators available by subscription for less than $2,100/month, manufacturers increase profits by an average of $110K per year for each unit installed, and reach positive ROI almost immediately as a result of Rapid’s innovative OpEx pricing model, allowing them to successfully bid for work that previously would have gone overseas.
“It’s hard to overstate the economic implications of the Rapid Machine Operator,” said Aaron Jacobson, partner at NEA. “After looking at numerous robotics startups in America and beyond, only Rapid Robotics had the right technology focused on the right needs to make a broad-based, immediate impact on the competitiveness of US companies.”
Recent Rapid Robotics customers include:
- TouchMark, a Hayward, California medical device company where Rapid Machine Operators are pad-printing plastic components for medical devices and semiconductors
- Fabri-Tech, a global component fabricator using Rapid Machine Operators for package heat-sealing in their Fremont, California facility
- Applied Engineering, a contract manufacturing company that has Rapid Machine Operators applying labels to pharmaceutical vials in South San Jose.
Rapid Robotics’ customers report their RMOs have not only helped them win contracts but also increased headcount and transitioned existing employees to less repetitive, higher-value, more satisfying work. This is especially important for small to medium sized manufacturing organizations. The robots-as-a-service (RaaS) subscription model for Rapid Robotics RMO solutions ensures that manufacturers easily understand the long term costs of the automation while deploying a solution that can be quickly reprogrammed for new tasks.
The RaaS business model is capital intensive for robotics service providers (RSP) like Rapid Robotics, since they continue to grow their fleet of machines. This equipment remains on an RSP’s books as an asset throughout its working life. This is why the Series A (and subsequent funding) is important to the continued growth of Rapid Robotics: to be successful, RSP’s need savvy investors who understand and support the unique requirements of a RaaS business model.