Robot orders surge 40% as employers seek relief from labor shortage
- Demands for robots increased 40% in the first quarter of 2022, as companies seek solutions to the labor crisis.
- The robotics industry is now valued at $1.6 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- Automation may provide a temporary salve, but some worry it will replace human workers as shortages recede.
As employers across the country search for ways to close employment gaps, many are increasingly turning to the help of robotic technology and robotics.
While the shift to automation is certainly not a new phenomenon, it has become a salve for companies struggling to meet demand in a tight market recently, the Wall Street Journal reported. Demands for robots increased 40% in the first quarter of 2022, and rose 21% overall in 2021, according to the Society for Advanced Automation, driving the industry to an estimated value of $1.6 billion.
“People want to remove labor,” Ametek CEO David A. Zapico told Bloomberg in November, noting that the automatic equipment company was “shooting all the cylinders” to meet demand.
The robots offer at least a temporary solution for companies struggling to hire in the narrowest labor market since World War II, which has been marred by a pandemic, record dropout rates and massive economic disruption.
In March, job opportunities in the United States reached a record high of 11.5 million, and some experts predicted that the labor crisis could last for several years. The shortages have already had a huge impact on everything from air travel to retail, as companies are forced to reduce production with fewer resources.
However, advanced technology allows machines to assist an increasing number of industry sectors, while at the same time becoming more accessible.
“Robots are getting easier to use,” Michael Secco, CEO of industrial robotics provider Fanuc America, told The Wall Street Journal. “Companies used to think that automation was too difficult or too expensive to implement.”
But as the use of robots escalates, some have expressed concern about machines displacing human workers as the labor crisis eventually subsides.
“Automation, if it goes too fast, can destroy a lot of jobs,” Daron Acemoglu, professor of economics at MIT, told the newspaper. “The labor shortage will not last. This is temporary.”