The construction industry is booming. For example, in the construction of apartments alone, the number of projects increases every year. In 2017, around 560,000 units are under construction, up from about 190,000 units in 2011. According to an Associated General Contractors of America report, nearly 70 percent of construction firms are having trouble filling necessary roles like carpenters, electricians and other forms of skilled labor. The result is that time to completion on these construction projects is reaching a 15-year high.
One solution construction managers are turning to is robotics. While this technology is not necessarily standard at construction sites yet, it could soon become commonplace. By using advancements like drones, automation and construction robots, construction managers can significantly increase efficiency and safety at construction sites and help compensate for the job gap.
Benefits of Construction Robotics
Introducing robotics into the construction process has a variety of potential benefits.
One of the biggest benefits to construction firms, and to their clients, is a reduction of cost. Construction robots can perform certain tasks with greater speed, accuracy and efficiency than humans can, so repetitive, time-consuming tasks can be done faster, more easily and with fewer mistakes. Decreasing time helps keep projects on track, while greater accuracy means projects are more likely to stay on budget since less time is spent having to fix mistakes.
While construction robots do require an up-front investment as well as maintenance, they don’t require wages or breaks, and their speed and accuracy saves money in the long term.
Construction firms are increasingly gravitating toward lean practices, and a key component is reducing waste. In construction, waste includes both defective and overproduced parts and materials, as well as wasted time and effort due to underutilized personnel or mistakes during construction.
Construction robots reduce waste, increase efficiency and save time and money through ensuring accuracy and precision, as well as more uptime than a project that relies primarily on human labor.
Increased Worker Safety
As construction robots become more common, the role of human labor in construction projects shifts. Rather than performing unsafe, unpleasant or highly repetitive tasks themselves, human workers supervise and manage robots who perform those tasks instead. Construction robots can handle hazardous materials more safely and can be placed into situations too dangerous for humans. There is also less risk of injury to workers, either from performing a specific dangerous task or repetitive tasks.
This increased precision and efficiency, combined with a construction robot’s ability to perform tasks safely and without breaks, mean that construction projects that use robots can be completed incredibly quickly. Construction robots have built entire houses in just two days.
Major Trends in Construction Robotics
Construction robotics has the potential to change the industry. Here are just a few of the emerging trends with this technology.
3-D printing isn’t brand new anymore, but its impact on the construction industry could be massive — think using it to print entire prefabricated building structures quickly. This technological trend allows construction companies to effectively print a building in pieces, then assemble them into a whole building on-site. Not only does this have the potential to improve speed and efficiency in the construction industry overall, but it has specific application in remote regions, developing nations and areas that need disaster relief.
Much of the expense in the construction industry comes from a working environment with unpredictable conditions, heavy objects and machinery, and numerous potential hazards and opportunities for inefficiency and waste. By automating parts of the process, construction managers can mitigate these problems and create a safer, more efficient workplace.
Many tasks on a construction site can be automated, from bricklaying to painting to driving a forklift. While these construction robots still need some human supervision, using them reduces the number of people required to complete a job and helps maximize uptime for expensive industrial equipment.
Information is crucial for construction managers, and drones can help them get more accurate information about their construction sites. Drones are cheaper and easier to fly than manned aircraft and are able to fly into areas that larger craft like helicopters cannot. This allows construction managers an unparalleled perspective on their sites. Since they can collect topographical and volumetric measurements to turn into maps or even 3-D structural models, drones are poised to revolutionize how construction managers observe their sites.
Replacing Skilled Labor
As previously mentioned, construction managers are having a harder time than ever finding skilled labor to work on their projects. Earlier this year, an estimated 200,000 construction jobs went unfilled, a labor gap that costs the construction industry huge amounts of time and money. Increasingly, construction robotics is filling that job gap. With robots, construction managers can accomplish more with fewer workers and can do so with more accuracy and efficiency.
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