As the world progressively marches towards more and more automation, would it be arrogant of the construction world to assume that jobs are untouchable, or is there a very realistic chance that robotic construction is going to transform the building world?
We know that robotic building is on the rise, with some reports suggesting that use of robotics in construction will grow by 25% annually through 2023.
There are definite benefits to using robotics in construction…
· No sick days – on a big job this reduces a lot of lost time
· Consistent performance – a predictable rate of construction, allowing deadlines to be accurately predicted and kept to
· Easier management – no delays with contracts, site licences, proof of qualifications and associated paperwork
· Reduced back end costs – fewer project support administrators, significantly less management time and reduction in salary requirements
· Limited ongoing costs – machinery doesn’t require ongoing salary, so it’s a largely one-off cost
· Fewer wasted materials through human error
· Longer working days possible – machines don’t need breaks and aren’t subject to labour laws
· Faster work output – machines are capable of working faster than humans, reducing build times
Despite these benefits, does this mean that construction as a whole will become solely reliant on machinery, or is there a future for tradesmen?
Human workers are still needed
The reality is that although many jobs can be done quickly and accurately by robots, the technology just isn’t in place for them to do everything – nor is it likely to ever be. Wiring, plumbing, roofing and internal joinery are just too far beyond the reach of robotic technology and will remain so for a long time.
There are also the issues concerning navigation of a building site. They’re not perfectly-formed, flat-surfaced rooms. They’re uneven, sometimes chaotic and difficult to navigate. These are big problems for robots at the moment, so construction workers need not think about retraining any time soon!
What tasks are robots capable of currently?
With present technology, robots are capable of doing simple, repeatable tasks in a clear environment. For example robots can lay bricks quickly and neatly. They can plaster fresh walls and they can paint walls with a great finish.
That sounds good in theory, but even here there are human interferences required. These machines have to be manned, programmed, have their materials topped up etc. It’s not as simple as plug in and away it goes.
They can’t think for themselves, they can’t problem-solve and they can’t liaise with a client to make on the job changes.
Predicting the future
It’d be wrong to dismiss the impact of robotics in construction – they’re here to stay and their role will only get bigger. The likelihood is they’ll largely be kept to the new build, large-construction sites.
This will help large construction companies operate more accurately and will allow projects to be completed quicker. In theory it should also drive down the price of construction as there are fewer labour and material costs to meet.
The domestic market just won’t have the budgets or requirements for much in the way of machinery. They’re also not going to be suitable for intricate work such as plumbing, wiring, hanging doors, repairing rooves etc for a long time so just simply won’t be an effective replacement for tradesmen.
Making contract management simple