Robot orders rise by 40% as employers seek relief from labor shortage

  • Robot orders rose 40% in the first quarter of 2022 as companies seek solutions to the labor crisis.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, the robotics industry is now valued at $1.6 billion.
  • Automation may offer a temporary salve, but some fear it will displace human workers as the shortage subsides.

As employers across the country seek ways to fill labor shortages, many are increasingly turning to the help of automated technology and robots.

While the move to automation is certainly not a new phenomenon, it has become a salve for companies struggling to meet demand in a recent tight market, the Wall Street Journal reported. Robot orders rose 40% in the first quarter of 2022 and grew by 21% in total in 2021, according to the Association for Advancing Automation, propelling the industry to an estimated $1.6 billion.

“People want to remove labor,” David A. Zapico, CEO of Ametek Inc., told Bloomberg in November, noting that the automatic equipment company had “fired on all cylinders” to meet demand.

At the very least, robots offer a temporary solution for companies facing difficulties hiring in the tightest labor market since World War II, marred by the pandemic, record-high layoff rates and massive economic turmoil.

In March, the number of job openings in the US hit an all-time high of 11.5 million, and some experts have predicted the labor crisis could last for several years. The shortages have already had a significant impact on everything from air travel to retail, as companies are forced to cut production with fewer resources.

However, advanced technology enables machines to support a growing number of industrial sectors, while at the same time making them more accessible.

“The robots are becoming more and more user-friendly,” Michael Cicco, CEO of industrial robots supplier Fanuc America, told the Wall Street Journal. “In the past, companies thought that automation was too difficult or too expensive to implement.”

But as robot use increases, some have expressed concern about the machines displacing human workers as the labor crisis eventually subsides.

“Automation, if done very quickly, can destroy a lot of jobs,” Daron Acemoglu, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the Journal. “The labor shortage will not last. This is temporary.”

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