Over the last few years, a record number of manufacturing jobs came back to the US showing it is possible to bring even more back. Moreover, the cost of energy in the US has dropped as compared to many parts of the world and this is a large input cost to producing goods.
In addition, as manufacturing becomes more automated, bringing manufacturing back to the US makes even more sense. Fewer humans will be needed but it is better to have some Americans employed than none.
To assist in this initiative, Rapid Robotics, creator of the ready-to-work robotic machine operator, announced $5.5M in seed funding from Greycroft and Bee Partners. With one of the first affordable robotics solutions for executing simple machine operator tasks, Rapid is helping US manufacturers reduce costs and recapture billions of dollars of revenue currently flowing offshore. Rapid customers are saving an average of $110,000 per year for each robotic machine operator they install, achieving positive ROI in as little as three months.
Interestingly, the company says US companies are struggling to fill more than 600,000 open positions for machine operators, employees who run the machines that perform 80% of all factory tasks, such as injection molding, pad printing, heat stamping, pick-and-place and dozens of other standard tasks required for creating components across almost every manufacturing sector including medical devices, electronics, CPG, automotive and more.
Moreover, it seems, US manufacturers can’t hire machine operators fast enough, and until now they’ve had limited ways to automate these jobs. Traditional robotics solutions need to be programmed by specialized systems integrators. This makes automation too expensive for most contract manufacturers, who then can’t scale their operations, can’t bid competitively and have had to watch work go to facilities overseas.
The Rapid Robotics solution is a pretrained robotic machine operator that understands how to perform common machine tasks without programming or systems integration. The Rapid Machine Operator is a complete software and hardware solution that combines proprietary machine vision and deep learning AI with proven robotic hardware to handle most machine operator jobs ‘out of the box.’
The Rapid Machine Operator becomes smarter as it works, sharing its experience through the cloud with the rest of the Rapid Robotics fleet, so that each robotic machine operator becomes more skilled—and more valuable—at no additional expense.
Manufacturers can ‘hire’ a Rapid robot machine operator for just $25,000 per year—or only about 10% the total cost of operation of competing solutions. Rapid Machine Operators can be up and running in less than a day, and can be easily moved between tasks or machines as needed. Employees who previously operated only one machine at a time can now manage numerous Rapid Machine Operators using a simple touchscreen interface, no robotics expertise required.
“We looked at automating machine operator tasks before, but as a custom injection molder, the costs were prohibitive,” said Tammy Barras, president of Westec Plastics. “Rapid’s solution was the first we’d seen that just worked, at a price that made sense for our business. We were pleased with how responsive the Rapid team is and were quickly able to start seeing value.”
This boost in productivity from the Rapid Machine Operator allows manufacturers to take on more projects, outbid foreign competitors and scale their business so they can redeploy human operators to more complex, more profitable and more rewarding jobs.
“Rapid Robotics has developed an ingenious solution to a problem with massive economic consequences,” said Michael Berolzheimer, Bee Partners Founder and Managing Partner. “Within this decade, Rapid’s robotic machine operators will bring the benefits of automation to thousands of US businesses and spark an unprecedented resurgence in onshore manufacturing.”
“Right now, billions of dollars of revenue are flowing offshore due to what I call ‘the automation gap’ for US contract manufacturers,” said Rapid Robotics CEO Jordan Kretchmer. “The need to automate simple tasks is incredibly high, but the ability to do so has been out of reach for a vast majority of manufacturers. The Rapid Machine Operator is the first robotic solution to close that gap, making US manufacturers more competitive and supply chains more resilient.”
Kretchmer and cofounder Ruddick Lawrence come to Rapid Robotics with a deep background in robotics and SaaS technology. Prior to Rapid Robotics, Kretchmer founded Livefyre, a popular SaaS engagement platform acquired by Adobe in 2016. Lawrence led the manufacturing software group for robotics for the da Vinci robot at Intuitive Surgical, the most-used surgical robot in the world.
Rich Tehrani is CEO of RT Advisors and a Registered Representative with and offering securities through Four Points Capital Partners LLC (Four Points) (Member FINRA/SIPC). RT Advisors is not owned by Four Points.