Japanese Businesses Answer to Workforce Shortage: Buy Robots

Japan’s small and medium-sized companies are buying robots to make up for a workforce shortage, this according to the latest report by Reuters. “The share of capital expenditure devoted to becoming more efficient is increasing because of the shortage of workers,” Seiichiro Inoue, a director in the industrial policy bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, told Reuters.

The population of Japan’s working-age group peaked in 1995 at 87 million. The number has been falling since. Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research projected that the population of this age group will continue to decrease below 70 million in 2027, below 50 million in 2051, and eventually drop to 44.18 million by 2060.

Hitachi Construction Machinery told Reuters that it is getting a lot of inquiries for its digging robot – a computer-programmed digging machine that can cut digging time by half.

Hotel chains, property developers, and food and beverage makers are also looking into how they can automate their businesses. Hen na Hotel, near Tokyo Disneyland, operates with as few as two to three people, according to its manager Yukio Nagai, as the hotel uses 140 different artificial intelligence and robots to serve its guests. Each of the 100 rooms of the Hen na Hotel has an egg-shaped robot or personal assistant called “Tapia.” This intelligent assistant can wake up hotel guests, manage their schedule and control other internet-linked devices such as the TV and air conditioning.

“Originally we sold this product for use in the home, but now we are getting a lot of enquiries from companies,” said Sayaka Chiba, a director at MJI Co – the company that makes Tapia. “Companies say they are interested in Tapia because of labor shortages. Nursing homes are also interested,” Chiba added.