At machine parts producer S&D Blech, the head of the grinding unit is retiring. With Germany's acute labor shortage leaving few candidates to take on the skilled but dirty and hazardous manual work, the company will replace him with a robot.

Other small and medium-sized companies are also turning to automation as the gradual exit from the workplace of Germany's post-war "baby boom" generation tightens the labor squeeze.

Some 1.7 million German jobs were unfilled in June, official data shows. The German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) says more than half of companies are struggling to fill vacancies, at an estimated cost to growth in Europe's largest economy of nearly €100 billion ($109 billion) per year.