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Calculating Return on Investment (ROI) for Automation

Hans + AI
Jul 26, 2023

Maximizing Efficiency and Profitability: Understanding the Average Time to Return on Investment (ROI) When Implementing Automation

In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, companies across various industries are constantly seeking ways to streamline their operations and boost productivity. One increasingly popular solution is the implementation of automation. By leveraging technology and software to handle repetitive and time-consuming tasks, businesses can free up valuable resources, minimize errors, and ultimately improve their bottom line. However, as with any strategic decision, the crucial question remains: How long does it take to see a return on investment (ROI) when investing in automation?

Understanding ROI in the Context of Automation:

Return on Investment (ROI) is a key metric used to assess the profitability of an investment relative to its cost. It quantifies the gains achieved from the investment as a percentage of the initial investment amount. In the context of automation, ROI is calculated by comparing the financial benefits generated by automation (such as increased productivity, reduced labor costs, and minimized errors) against the upfront costs of acquiring and implementing the automation system.

It's essential to recognize that the average time to achieve ROI from automation can vary significantly based on several factors, including the type of automation being employed, the complexity of the processes being automated, the scale of implementation, and the industry in which the business operates.

Factors Influencing ROI Timeline

Process Complexity and Volume
Highly complex and volume-intensive processes often yield more substantial ROI over time. Automating tasks that are performed frequently and involve significant labor hours can lead to quicker returns.

Initial Investment Costs
The cost of acquiring and integrating automation technology is a significant determinant of ROI. Generally, a higher upfront cost will extend the time required to realize a positive ROI. In the case of automation, this can range from simple (a quoted flat fee) or more complex if there are recurring costs, hardware maintenance, software to maintain and update or other long term requirements.

Training and Implementation Period
The efficiency of automation adoption relies on how well employees adapt to the new technology. A smooth and swift implementation, accompanied by comprehensive training, can expedite ROI. It's critical that the people who will use the automation buy into the vision. To be most usable, simplicity of the automation becomes a key factor.

Error Reduction and Quality Improvements
Automation's ability to minimize errors and improve product or service quality can lead to long-term ROI by enhancing customer satisfaction and retention.

Competitive Advantages
In many cases, automation can provide businesses with a competitive edge, leading to increased market share and faster ROI for new products.

Average Time to Return on Investment

While pinpointing an exact timeline for ROI is generally challenging due to the variations mentioned above, on average businesses can expect to start seeing positive returns within 12 to 36 months after implementing automation. Some businesses may witness more immediate results, particularly for simple and high-volume processes. On the other hand, complex projects with substantial upfront investments may take longer to break even. There are also a variety of longer term costs, only some of which are mentioned above. Since every business is unique, diligence is a key aspect of doing things right.

It is crucial for decision-makers to have a well-defined strategy and realistic expectations when embarking on automation projects. Implementing automation solely for the sake of technology adoption may lead to disappointment if immediate ROI expectations are not met. The true value of automation lies in its ability to optimize processes, increase operational efficiency, and drive long-term growth.

Benefits Beyond the Obvious

Beyond the financial aspect, businesses experience additional benefits from automation that contribute to their overall success. These advantages can include:

Automation systems can easily scale to accommodate business growth and evolving needs.

Data-Driven Insights:
Automation generates valuable data that can be used to make informed decisions, identify areas for improvement, and optimize operations further.

Employee Morale and Focus:
By automating repetitive and mundane tasks, employees can focus on more creative and strategic aspects of their roles, boosting morale and job satisfaction.

Agility and Adaptability:
Automated systems allow businesses to respond quickly to market changes and seize new opportunities promptly.


Automation is undeniably a powerful tool for businesses seeking improved efficiency and increased profitability. While the average time to return on investment varies, the long-term advantages of automation extend beyond financial gains. By carefully analyzing process complexity, initial costs, and the potential for growth and competitive advantage, businesses can make informed decisions about when and how to implement automation effectively.

Strategic planning, coupled with a forward-thinking approach, will undoubtedly pave the way for a successful automation journey and foster sustainable growth in the dynamic and competitive business landscape of today and the future.

ROI calculation with MARC is simpler.

Calculating ROI for implementing MARC robotic carts is a much more simplistic model. With flat (and transparent) pricing, MūL Technologies takes a majority of the guesswork out of the equation. Since implementing our product requires no infrastructure updates, no long term software support (or cost), the calculation looks like this:

Cost of wasted time
To calculate the cost of the time wasted in pushing carts around - simply take the trip time x the number of trips per week. Next, calculate the direct and indirect cost of the employee that is pushing the carts. This should include the salary and the operational costs (including benefits) of that associate. Something like this:

(Trip time x number of trips/month) x (Salary + Indirect costs) 

This simple formula can be used to approximate the cost of the time lost. This calculation does not include some more discrete losses, like the cost to reengage a task that the associate stopped midstream. Or, frankly, the time spent talking to coworkers as they walk through the facility.

Cost of the automation solution
In many cases, this can be tricky. With MūL Technologies, all pricing is completely transparent and available at our online shop. This makes this part of the formula simple.

ROI calculation example
Let's say you have an associate with a salary of $35/hour and the total cost with operations and benefits is $63/hour. They make a 4.2 min trip 12 times per day (or 60 times per week).

4.2 x 60 = 252 min (4.2 hours)/week x ($35 + $28) = $264.60 (or $1146.60/mo)

Then, divide that lost productivity into the cost of the solution:

$14995.00 / $1146.60 = 13.08 months for ROI

So that's it! The ROI for this example is 13.08 months - significantly shorter than most automation solutions, which can take years to realize the benefits. 

It is also important to understand that once the ROI is achieved, the savings continue. After the 13 months in our example, the recurring annual savings are over $13000.

All with no infrastructure, no software (thus no IT involvement) and nearly instant implementation. MARC makes the ROI calculation simple - just like the product itself!

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