Robotics can automate, improve construction industry

Construction is one of the least digitized, least automated industries in the world, which is making robots an attractive solution for construction companies as a result.
By Robotic Industries Association (RIA) August 20, 2017

Since 1945, productivity in manufacturing, retail, and agriculture has grown 1,500%, but it has barely gone up in construction. How will robots be used for productivity in construction? Why are construction companies adopting robots now?

Construction companies are understaffed and over budget

Construction is a $10 trillion global industry, but it’s plagued by inefficiency. The U.S. construction industry has nearly 200,000 unfilled positions. On average, 98% of construction megaprojects go over budget. Inefficient processes, major potential savings from productivity gains, and widespread labor shortages— construction is an environment ripe for automation.

Robotic applications in the construction industry

Currently, construction processes are heavily reliant on manual processes, but there are a number of exciting new applications just around the corner.

For example, Komatsu has built a multi-purpose drone and bulldozer automation system. The drone flies above a construction site, monitoring deliveries, inventory and overall progress. The drone creates a 3D map of the construction site, which it then feeds to an unmanned bulldozer—the information is used to direct the bulldozer without the need for a driver.

Courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE Media.Another exciting example is the combination of a 3D printer with a robotic arm by Chinese company WinSun. The robotic arm controls the motion of the 3D printer, allowing it to create large structures at once. The company claimed to have made 10 single story houses in one day with their robotic 3D printing equipment.

Robotics improve construction safety

Construction is an inherently dangerous job. Robots can improve worker safety in construction environments by taking over some of the more dangerous tasks and allowing human workers to complete more cognitive tasks.

In a $10 trillion industry, even small differences in operating expenses can mean huge savings. Fewer workplace incidents translates to lower operating costs, which can end up saving construction companies a lot in the long run.

Construction is ready for automation. Productivity needs to improve, and labor shortages need to be addressed. Robots and advanced automation systems hold the key to solving some of these problems, while at the same time making construction a safer industry. Robots provide many benefits, and safety is often an overlooked aspect of their productivity potential.

This article originally appeared on the Robotics Online Blog. Robotic Industries Association (RIA) is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3). A3 is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Carly Marchal, content specialist, CFE Media, cmarchal@cfemedia.com.