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Automation in Construction

By Sam May In Industry News

The Freedom Tower in New York City took more than seven years to complete. A 57-storey building in China took 19 days. The Chinese high-rise was nowhere near as complex as the 104-storey building in the heart of the Big Apple, but less than three weeks from ground-level to sky is still breathtakingly impressive.


How was such a remarkable feat achieved? The answer is simple. Emerging technologies and advancements in automation are revolutionising the construction industry. In this blog we take a closer look at the transformations taking place. 


Robots and construction

The robots are not coming. They have arrived. With each passing year we are getting closer to a world in which structures can be built without the need for human labour.


Multiple emerging technologies are being used to gather date, automate processes and construct buildings almost totally unmanned. Not surprisingly but perhaps more worryingly for the traditional manual worker, this is happening with greater accuracy, precision and speed.


Inspections and modern methods of approval play a crucial role in construction. Before any foundations can be laid, a site needs to be examined to comprehend aspects such as vegetation, drainage, soil and surface space to name but a few elements of the detailed criteria involved.


As the construction unfolds, inspections remain crucial to ensure compliance, quality, safety and progress. On a traditional building site, each of these undertakings are performed manually. That’s not only time-consuming but, in certain conditions, dangerous. In the future, state-of-the-art drones could be deployed to do the job. This may mean digital data can be collected quickly, efficiently and cost effectively, enabling decisions to be made in real time. But, at the moment, that is some way off.’


Automated robots are being used to lay foundations, erect beams, lay bricks, dig, drill, paint – basically perform all the tasks usually carried out by a team of builders. An on-site watchman is not even required. A highly-trained technician can supervise the work via computer hundreds of miles away if required.


3D printing in construction 

3D printing is being used to create the most structurally advanced and complex buildings. Conceiving these diverse developments using the human eye and hand is a massive, cost-prohibiting, lengthy exercise. With advanced technologies, it’s efficient, effective and effortless.


Driverless cars

Transport in the construction industry is likely to see a dramatic about-turn with driverless vehicles becoming a reality. For the hundreds of forklifts and diggers currently being used, there are practical autonomous and robotic solutions already available which can be fitted into existing fleets. In highly simplified terms, this means any vehicle can be transformed into an automated robot.


What are the disadvantages to automation in construction?

While all of this sounds incredibly exciting, there is, as always, a price to pay.


According to research, automation in construction will see the third highest percentage of jobs replaced by robots. A report entitled: ‘Will Robots Really Steal Our Jobs?’ reveals that up to 40% of jobs could be replaced by automation by the mid 2030’s as robots take over even the most routine of tasks.


On the brighter side, this advancing technology should generate enough new jobs to offset the losses, but it will be challenging for workers to adapt and change with the times.


The dawn of such a brave new era will also boost productivity, income and wealth for those prepared to move with the times. But experts warn that those in the industry should plan for the future now.


Understanding the risks and opportunities for your business and how you are likely to be affected, means you can begin to train and upskill your workforce. So, when the robots come knocking, you can welcome them with open arms.