Rent-a-robot schemes gain popularity in Malaysia as cheap machines replace costly workers

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Renting a robot to perform simple tasks is becoming a trend in Malaysia, especially for businesses that want to cut labor costs.

Demand is high in places such as Kuala Lumpur, George Town and Johor Bahru, said Jeremy Ng, a business development manager at a robotics company.

“Kuala Lumpur is adapting to the technology very fast,” he added. “This is partly because the wages in the city are higher compared with other places.”

These robots, he said, help businesses to save on costs by not having to hire too many workers.

Companies supplying the technology are now allowing customers to rent robots instead of buying them at full price.

Ng said the option to rent the machines was made available early in 2021 after many businesses expressed interest in doing so.

Instead of spending at least RM35,000 (US$7,945) for a single unit, he said, employers could rent a robot with just a monthly payment of around RM1,500 to RM2,000.

“They can decide how long they want to rent it. And if they feel that it works well, then they can consider buying it later,” Ng said.

He added that the robots can perform tasks such as delivering food to tables, carrying a large number of dishes at a time, directing customers to specific locations within a building, and providing information.

“For now, a majority of businesses that are keen to use the robots are those in the food and hotel industries,” he said. “We also have customers from malls, hospitals and factories.”

Ng said the use of robots in Penang, for example, started in restaurants during the pandemic.

“Back then, these restaurants lost many workers after they returned to their home countries,” he said. “The practice of maintaining physical distance also encouraged the use of such robots.”

“In Johor, robots are most beneficial to the hotel industry as it is facing a lack of manpower with many locals moving to other places to pursue their careers,” he added.

The Malaysian Association of Hotels Johor chapter chairman Ivan Teo said that apart from recruiting part-timers during busy periods, hotels as well as the food and beverage industry are turning to robots, too.

“The use of robots has helped some hotels and restaurants cope with the manpower issue,” he said. “It is also relatively cheaper compared with hiring a worker.”

Human workers are still required, though.

“For now, the robots’ only task is to deliver food to the tables. We still need workers for other areas,” Teo said.



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