Robots’ impact on construction industry

Traditional challenges to automating construction tasks are slowly disappearing, and robots are leaving their mark on construction processes.
By Robotic Industries Association March 30, 2018

The construction industry is ripe for disruption. Compared to other verticals in the industrial sector, automation has yet to make a large impact. This is quickly changing, however, as robots are now making their way into a variety of construction tasks, promising to change the way we construct homes, buildings and other structures.

Brick-laying robots, street-laying robots, drones, autonomous vehicles and large-scale 3-D-printing robots are all leaving their mark on construction processes. They’re overcoming traditional challenges in construction automation and delivering many different operational benefits.

Challenges for construction robots

Most industrial environments robots operate in are stable, predictable and indoors. Typically, robots operate in spaces like warehouses or assembly lines, or even confined within their own stationary work cell. The construction industry is much different.

Construction projects happen in unstructured, outdoor environments, and work sites are always changing. This presents difficulties for industrial robots, which excel at repetitive, predictable tasks. Construction robots usually have to be mobile and be able to respond to variables in their operating environment. While this isn’t easy for a robot, there are some construction robots beginning to clear these barriers and prove effective on the job site.

The disruptive benefits of construction robots

Courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaConstruction robots are disrupting the industry because of the many benefits they provide over manual labor. First and foremost, robots are highly precise and repeatable, leading to fewer costly mistakes. Fewer mistakes, along with robots’ superior uptime, can lead to much faster construction processes, consistently meeting deadlines.

Construction robots also lower the cost of construction. While the initial purchase price may remain high, over time the efficiency and precision benefits provide a return on investment (ROI) to make up for the initial costs. Robots, being precise and repeatable, typically are able to produce much higher quality work while protecting workers from dangerous tasks.

There are many benefits that construction robots bring to the table. Barriers to widespread adoption still remain, but the potential upside of construction robots suggests a bright future for the industry.

This article originally appeared on the Robotics Online Blog. Robotic Industries Association (RIA) is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.