Businesses Are Increasingly Relying on Robots to Compensate for Labor Shortages

The robots are taking over–and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Orders of robotic machinery have increase by 37 percent year-over-year, according to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3). The reason: there just aren’t enough workers to fill jobs. “With labor shortages throughout manufacturing, logistics and virtually every industry, companies of all sizes are increasingly turning to robotics and automation to stay productive and competitive,” Jeff Burnstein, president of A3 said in a press release. The trade association has seen a particular increase in automation in the automotive, agricultural, construction, electronics, food processing, and warehousing industries. 

Automation can help small and medium-sized businesses cope with labor shortages, especially when robotics help to streamline otherwise inefficient tasks. Research even shows that automation can have a positive impact on work environments. The journal Technology and Society found that automation and artificial intelligence can improve worker productivity and decrease stress, for instance.

The negative consequences are something to note, too, however. In that same study, which was conducted by graduate researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University, the authors found that increased automation can reduce worker satisfaction and have a negative impact on worker health. The negative impact of automation and A.I. on health and satisfaction may be due to increased surveillance and an a reduced sense of meaning at work.

Increased use of automation can help businesses cope with worker shortages, but to prevent them from alienating existing employees, leaders should consider all their pros and cons, the researchers say. When used to complement workload demands (taking on more menial tasks or streamlining more arduous tasks, like hiring), A.I. and robotics can be a solid solution.

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