By Katabella Roberts
Orders of robots increased 40 percent in the first quarter of 2022, amid soaring inflation and labor shortages, according to a new report by the robotics industry’s trade group, the Association for Advancing Automation (A3).
According to the report, which was first cited by The Wall Street Journal, orders for workplace robots in North America rose by 40 percent in the first three months of the year compared to the same period in 2021.
North American companies purchased the most robots ever in a single quarter in the first quarter of 2022, according to Robotics 24/7 citing the A3 report.
Orders in the plastics and rubber industry rose 29 percent year-over-year, while they surged 23 percent year-over-year in the semiconductor, electronics, and photonics industry, and rose 21 percent year-over-year in the food and consumer goods industry.
Robot orders also increased 14 percent in the life sciences, pharma, and biomedicine industry, while all other industries saw robot order growth of 56 percent year-over-year.
Across North America, 11,595 robots were sold at a value of $646 million in the three-month period from January through March, an increase from 9,098 units valued at $466 million in Q1 2021.
The surge in demand coincided with a record number of American workers quitting their jobs in March and an all-time high of 11.5 million job openings.
The Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) on May 3 that job openings, which are a measure of labor demand, rose 205,000.
Meanwhile, the number of quits rose to a record high of 4.5 million.
The labor department found that job openings were rising in retail trade and durable goods manufacturing, leaving businesses struggling to hire enough workers to meet demand.
A3’s report suggests that businesses are instead turning to robots to fill in the gaps amid strong consumer demand and tight labor supply as the COVID-19 pandemic upended job market dynamics.
“Companies of all sizes, and increasingly small and medium-sized companies, are deploying robotics and automation because it’s more feasible than ever before,” A3 vice president of membership and business intelligence Alex Shikany told FOX Business. “There are a variety of funding models, new hardware and software, and more user-friendly experiences for customers to enjoy.”
“The major trend we are hearing about relative to labor in automation right now is that companies can’t find people,” Shikany added. “So many of our members are hiring right now but can’t fill the positions due to lack of qualified candidates.”
And it looks as though the trend is set to continue, with the Future of Jobs Report 2020, commissioned by the World Economic Forum, finding that companies expect to restructure their workforce in response to new technologies.
Specifically, the report found that 43 percent of businesses surveyed intend to reduce their workforce due to deeper technology integration.
It noted “a significant increase in the number of firms expecting to adopt nonhumanoid robots and artificial intelligence, with both technologies slowly becoming a mainstay of work across industries” and that “by 2025, the time spent on current tasks at work by humans and machines will be equal.”
An estimated 85 million jobs could be displaced within the next three years due to the shift in the division of labor between humans and machines, the report states.
However, it notes that 97 million new roles may emerge that are “more adapted to the new division of labor between humans, machines, and algorithms across the 15 industries and 26 economies covered by the report.”