Automation Is Revolutionizing The Construction IndustrySeptember 8, 2017
Automation revolutionized the auto industry. Robots began replacing humans on assembly lines in 1961 when General Motors installed the first robotic arm. Robotic solutions in automobile manufacturing have led to advances and production levels early car makers never dreamed of. Today, assembly line robots are doing much more than assembling parts. They are die casting, painting, welding and much, much more. The 60’s and 70’s may have been the decades of robotic revolution in auto-making. The world may now be experiencing the decade of revolution with automation in the construction industry.
Hadrian X: Fastbrick Robotics, an Australian company, has developed a robotic bricklayer. Are contractors interested? Is it worth the investment? You tell me. On average, a human laborer can lay about 1,000 bricks daily. Hadrian X can lay that many bricks in a single hour. A contractor has to call it a day and let a bricklaying crew go home to rest overnight, the unfinished project to be resumed the following business day. Hand over a 3D CAD model of a project to Hadrian X and the robot works day and night until the project is complete.
SAM: The technology developed by New York’s Construction Robotics, SAM, may not be as productive as Hadrian X, but that hasn’t stopped this robot from making a significant impact on the construction industry. Capable of laying about 3,000 bricks daily, it is a promising addition to any firm desiring to improve performance and efficiency.
Not all the advances in robotics are aimed at replacing a human worker. Exoskeletons have a goal of improving safety for the humans at work and even giving them superhuman capabilities.
EksoVest: A California company, Ekso Bionics, produces an exoskeleton vest designed to prevent crippling injuries and empower workers to continue plying their trade long past what would be considered their prime for a physically demanding job. Years of physical labor is brutal to the human spine. The EksoVest is equipped with bionic arms that do the heavy lifting. This reduces work-related injuries and enables a company to retain some of their most skilled and experienced laborers longer.
Demolition: Sometimes, before a project can go up, something must come down. Robotics have been at work for some time in the area of demolition. Razing a steel and concrete structure takes enormous amounts of manpower if done the old-fashioned way. Many urban demolition projects have proximity issues with regard to other structures as well as public traffic. These issues create an array of safety and access challenges. But robots are the options that save the day.
Track driven pint-sized excavators, equipped with hydraulic arms, can break and crush concrete then load their own buckets with debris. Small enough to fit through a doorway, they can even perform within a structure. Remote control improves safety conditions for operators and demolition crews, yet still gets the job done.
Husqvarna’s DXR 310 boasts their most powerful model produced to date. Compact silhouette and lightweight design makes this robot more manageable and capable of accessing even tiny spaces. It’s only 31 inches wide and 59 inches tall. An optional feature package makes it possible for this robot to perform in areas of dangerously high heat where a human simply cannot tread.
Are Robots A Threat?
What does an automation revolution mean for the job security of laborers? With expectations of robots working in nearly 500,000 construction labor roles by 2020, it means that many laborers need to learn new skills. About 10% of construction industry tasks are repetitive: bricklaying, loading and unloading materials, pre-fabrication of structural modules, etc. These are the tasks that can be handed over to robots. As for the laborers being replaced, rather than feel threatened, they should look forward to new opportunities and roles within the same industry.
- Digital Security: A robotic solution means implementing technology that has cyber-based vulnerabilities. Re-training existing employees with the skills to manage the digital security needs of these new technologies is a void that will need to be filled.
- Mechanical Efficiency: Robots may operate like well-oiled machines but that only continues with regular maintenance. An employee being replaced by a robot can become the technician that maintains the hardware that took over their job.
What The Future Looks Like
Currently, the construction industry has been dealing with a labor shortage that has been painful. When the impact of robotics is considered, economists claim that a single robot accounts for the unemployment of nearly 6 workers. These same experts project that for every 1,000 robots introduced into the construction industry, it reduces average wages for laborers by about half a percent. With data like this, it would seem that the construction industry is looking at a very gloomy future. But the opposite is actually true.
While the initial transition is a painful process, the end result is an industry that can meet the growing demands of the entire planet. Automation lowers labor cost, increases production which results in lowering overall cost of a project. The future the world may be looking forward to is an automated construction industry that can solve the housing crisis 3 billion humans are facing. Imagine a world 20 or 30 years from now where homelessness is a thing of the past.
Robotics are here to stay. They are improving efficiency, production, and proving to be extremely cost-effective. For those wondering about the ROI of automating, consider that the average robot operates at approximately a rate of $3 hourly. Great things lie ahead for a revolutionized construction industry. To learn more about how automation may affect your company, get connected with leaders in technology based business solutions.