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How Robots Are Disrupting the Construction Industry

Read Time: 5 minutes

Construction is considered to be one of the least digitized industries in the world. There are still too many repetitive tasks and processes requiring manual labor and the use of pen and paper. Nevertheless, a substantial shift in the sector has started to become visible in the last years. More specifically, the advent of digital technologies has allowed the industry to take a brave step forward with regards to construction automation and robotics.

Robots are gradually entering the field and are anticipated to add much more precision to the building process. On top of that, the presence of robots on the site can solve limitations related to physical strength and weariness.

To get a better understanding of how robotics can be beneficial for construction, here are six ways in which robots are disrupting the construction industry:

Lower Building Cost

Robots can play a decisive role in lowering the cost of the construction process, from start to finish. This can happen due to a number of reasons. First things first, the reduction of project delays is one of these factors.

Thanks to the use of robotics, tasks can become more automatic while the predictability in terms of the project’s duration can improve significantly. Furthermore, repetitive tasks that have been automated will eventually be completed faster and with fewer mistakes.

As a result, less time and fewer resources will be required for the successful development of a project.

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Less Rework

Similar to the first point, the higher the precision on site the fewer mistakes will be made during the construction process. However, it is no secret that the entire sector is struggling with high rework rates and low productivity.

The source of this problem goes back to poor communication and the lack of coordination between contractors and subcontractors. The slightest misunderstanding during the completion of a task can lead to costly mistakes which can both delay a project and force it to go over budget.

In many cases, robotics can eliminate this scenario. Unlike humans, robots can provide precise feedback on the status of construction activity, while also following the guidelines given to them with high accuracy.

It doesn’t take much, then, to understand that in the long run robotics can have a substantial contribution to the reduction of rework time in the industry.

Safer Working Conditions

Construction is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), more than 60,000 people are part of a fatal construction site accident on a yearly basis.

That is a terrifying number which could surely be decreased with the help of robotics. Hazardous tasks completed by robots minimizes the risk of a serious injury for construction workers.

In short, here are some of the tasks robots could already conduct (or could conduct in the near future):

  • Working at heights
  • Working on unstable/slippery surfaces
  • Bricklaying
  • Cement mixing
  • Site surveillance
  • Access to unapproachable areas of the job site by self-driven vehicles

This quite impressive list is solid proof that when it comes to safety, robotics holds great potential for the construction industry.

A New Type of Workforce

At the time being, the skills shortage is one of the most burning issues for construction. The sector faces serious problems when it comes to talent acquisition and retention due to a poor public image.

Robotics provides construction with a unique opportunity to recreate its profile and become an appealing professional choice for the young and tech-savvy workforce. This image shift could be the solution for the lack of talent in the sector.

Of course, there is still a long way to go given that most construction projects depend on intensive manual labor.

What is more, robotics could introduce gamification to the industry and increase engagement for current workers. Such a change would certainly play a positive role in the effort of the industry to attract new thought leaders and tech innovators.

3D Printing

Poor field productivity, project delays and budget overruns are part of the industry’s daily routine. As a consequence, construction had no choice but starting to explore different operating options.

Undoubtedly, 3D printing is one of these options. And it is anticipated to become more and more popular as prefabrication continues to progress. Being able to create newly built structures in a predefined time and way can really help the industry take off with regards to productivity and resource management.

Moreover, 3D printing in construction can make work much safer as a big part of construction activities will take place in a warehouse or a factory. BIM technology will play a vital role in that direction, as well.

Less Waste

Last but certainly not least, more robots will mean less waste for construction. That comes as no surprise if we consider the accuracy that robots bring to the building process. Standardized processes and material management will lead to higher profitability for the sector.

This is where concepts like 3D printing could make a huge difference in terms of resource management. It goes without saying that implementing robotic technology can be a very demanding project in the beginning, but it will eventually lead to remarkable savings and an admirable productivity boost.

The Link Between Humans and Robots

All in all, it becomes evident that robotics is already disrupting the construction industry. As technology progresses and the sector becomes better in collecting, storing and analyzing data, robots will increase their influence on the job site and start substituting human activity.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that the human presence will no longer be necessary for construction. To the contrary, the industry needs to find the right balance between the robots and humans in order to get the most out of both.

This won’t be easy in the beginning as all systems and processes will need readjusting. Moving forward, people should shift their attention to tasks which could make the entire process smarter and more intuitive, while robots should focus on tasks that require extraordinary speed, accuracy and physical strength.

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Anastasios Koutsogiannis. Anastasios is a Content Marketing Manager at GenieBelt (soon to be LetsBuild).

How Robots Are Disrupting the Construction Industry
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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. Megan is also a regular contributor to The Naked Scientists, Thomas Insights, and Real Clear Science. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking, and stargazing.