The construction sector is key to the economy – yet it is one of the areas where automation has been slow to catch on. This tide is now turning, and here we look at robotic automation in construction.
Performance of the construction sector is not great. Worldwide, the average big construction project takes 20% longer than planned, and is a shocking 80% over budget! One of the key factors here is the shortage of skilled workers.
Development of lean construction processes, where efficiency and productivity are improved as waste is reduced, is an important driver in the construction industry. Robotic technology can play a large role in achieving these goals.
The key areas where robotic technology can impact on construction projects are:
- 3D printing robots, able potentially to print an entire structurally safe building
- Brick-laying and masonry tasks, where repetitive actions can easily be programmed into a robot, dramatically improving the speed and quality of the construction work
- Demolition robots, which may be slower than human teams but deliver a safer and cheaper outcome
Research has discovered that as the complexity of the task increases, so the benefits of automation also increase. Deploying robots gave the design teams a greater degree of flexibility as well. The conclusion here is that humans will be working alongside robots on construction projects for many years to come.
Labour shortages combined with increasing automation will contribute to a changing construction sector workforce over the coming years. The World Economic Forum predicted a total job loss of 10% in the years up to 2020, alongside the development of complementary tasks to support the robot functions. They also predicted a significant increase in the number of architecture and engineering tasks, as higher technical skills will be required.
Liz Reid, MD of RNR Robot Solutions, sees great potential within the construction industry: “Robots were once only considered strong on repetitive tasks, but new developments mean that modern, advanced robots will increasingly disrupt traditional construction methods. Any sector looking to achieve significant increases in productivity, efficiency and accuracy should be looking to robots. Watch this space!” To find out more about how robotic automation in construction industry, contact Liz here.