As firms struggle to employ enough labor to complete surging demand, robots are becoming more common on assembly lines and factory floors.

According to the Association for Advancing Automation, the robotics industry’s trade body, orders for workplace robots surged by a record 40% in Q1 of 2021 compared to the same time in 2021. Following years of static or falling order quantities, robot orders increased by 22% in 2021, totaling $1.6 billion, according to the association.

Executives claim that rising salaries and personnel shortages, along with a spike in Covid-19-related absenteeism, are causing some businesses’ attitudes toward automation to shift.

There was a time you could throw people at a problem

Joe Montano, CEO of Delphon Industries LLC, a semiconductor, medical device, and aerospace component packaging company, said that previously, you could throw personnel at a problem rather than finding a more elegant solution.

When the coronavirus swept across Delphon’s staff in Hayward, Calif., the company lost 40% of its production days in January. According to Mr. Montano, the interruption hastened the company’s purchase of three additional robots early this year.

Manufacturers in the United States, where labor is plentiful and salaries are steady, have been slower to embrace robotics than those in other developed nations.

Robots make their way from automobile factories to other sectors

According to the International Federation of Robotics, the number of robots deployed per 10,000 workers in the United States has generally lagged behind nations such as South Korea, Japan, and Germany.

For years, the automobile sector in North America has been the primary user of industrial robots, with robots doing repetitive activities such as welding on assembly lines. According to the automation organization, automakers and auto component manufacturers accounted for 71% of robot orders in 2016, but just 42% in 2021.

Meanwhile, robots have made advances into other industries such as food manufacturing, consumer goods, and medicines.