CapEx vs. OpEx in Mobile Robotics: Is CapEx a Thing of the Past?

Published on 20.12.2023

When deciding to embrace automation with mobile robots (AGV & AMR), companies must consider how to budget, finance, and manage investment costs. Historically, Capital Expenditures (CapEx) played a significant role in acquiring mobile robots. However, leasing models like Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) are increasingly in demand. Is CapEx, therefore, a thing of the past? This article aims to answer this question and shed light on the financial approaches for implementing robotic solutions.
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How CapEx and OpEx Differ

Capital Expenditures (CapEx) encompass all investments that a company makes, expected to create long-term value. This includes purchases of machinery, and in the context of robotics, it refers to the investment in robot hardware and software. These expenditures are typically substantial and are considered fixed, one-time costs contributing to the overall assets of the company.

In contrast, Operational Expenditures (OpEx) cover the ongoing operational costs necessary to maintain business operations. For robots, OpEx includes maintenance, energy consumption, training programs, and all other ongoing costs related to their regular operation. Unlike CapEx, OpEx is usually considered variable costs, directly influencing the company's profitability over time.
The sum of CapEx and OpEx results in the total expenditures, also known as TotEx (total expenditures).

Evaluation of CapEx and OpEx

The assessment of business expenditures, OpEx vs. CapEx, in investing in mobile robots depends heavily on the specific requirements, strategic needs, and goals of a company. In principle, the decision for mobile robotics, especially for autonomous mobile robots, is an investment in the flexibility and scalability of your logistics and production.
The following considerations can present the pros and cons of both business expenditures:

CapEx (Capital Expenditures)


  • Long-term Investments: CapEx includes the purchase of mobile robots as long-term assets on the balance sheet.
  • Depreciation Opportunities: Companies can benefit from tax advantages through the depreciation of capital investments as they deliver value over an extended period.


  • High Initial Investments: CapEx typically requires significant upfront capital, often involving extensive budget approval processes.
  • Limited Flexibility: Resources are tied to a specific robot solution, making them unavailable for short-term investment decisions.

OpEx (Operational Expenditures)


  • Flexibility: OpEx allows flexible use of mobile robots without a significant initial investment.
  • Scalability: New leasing models like RaaS enable seamless integration of mobile robots. You can scale your robot fleet as needed, especially during seasonal peak times.
  • Ongoing Costs: Companies only pay for the actual use of mobile robots, which can be cost-effective.
  • Faster Implementation: Delays that may occur when approving a higher budget do not impact robot integration. You can start implementation immediately.


  • Long-term Costs May Increase: Over time, ongoing expenses from OpEx may add up to a higher total investment.
  • No Capital Depreciation: There may be no tax benefits regarding depreciation since mobile robots are not listed as assets in the robot operator's balance sheet.

The choice between CapEx and OpEx is influenced by the individual business goals, financial resources, and strategic needs of a company. It is crucial to emphasize that CapEx is not obsolete but provides a perspective on long-term value creation.

In modern business environments characterized by a high degree of flexibility, OpEx models are gaining popularity. These models offer companies the opportunity to remain agile and respond quickly to changing requirements. However, companies should recognize that there are scenarios where CapEx appears to be the most cost-effective and strategically sensible choice, especially concerning long-term and specific robot solutions.

The strategic decision between CapEx and OpEx requires an in-depth analysis of financial objectives and long-term value creation. Flexibility is undoubtedly important, but in some cases, the stability and long-term value preservation offered by CapEx may be the better choice.

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