The construction industry is evolving to include robotics and artificial intelligence

Although the concept of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems like the plot point of a science fiction movie, both are increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives. Automation improves safety, increases efficiency, controls costs, and reduces user error, which is why it’s being heavily invested in by industries across the globe. Traditionally, construction has been behind the curve in embracing technological improvements, but the future is coming; the growth of your construction company may be impacted if you aren’t prepared to adapt.

Automated employees

According to a study by Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI), robots could fill 2.7 million construction jobs by 2057. That number was determined by using employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for various construction trades, applying a 6.5 percent growth rate for each decade to project employment numbers for 2057, and then incorporating potential automation estimates from a report by McKinsey & Company to estimate how many jobs would be replaced or displaced in 40 years.

Some construction jobs have a higher automation potential than others, such as operating engineers which is estimated at 88 percent, due partly to the fact that autonomous heavy equipment already exists and is used for excavation, grading, and site work. Major equipment manufacturers like Volvo CE, CAT, and Komatsu are actively investing in research and development to refine this technology, making its evolution almost inevitable.

Benefits of automation

Although industry disruption can create apprehension, the benefits of automation are innumerable, including:

  • Increased productivity: Robots can lay more bricks, build more roads, prepare more sites, and create and construct more modular building materials in fewer days than human labor. While human labor can generally only work 8-hour shifts, machinery can run around the clock.
  • Reduce costs: Robots can be programmed to switch tasks easily, and AI means machines can “learn” from accumulated data, reducing mistakes and allowing for updated processes without training. Also, since machines don’t need breaks, raises, or benefits, a robot replacing a welder could save a company approximately $17 an hour, according to the Boston Consulting Group.
  • Improve safety: AI programs can help contractors optimize safety on the worksite, even among non-robotic employees. Companies like Skanksa and Arup use a management platform that searches a database of job site images and videos to spot potential hazards, such as the use of safety vests, hard hats, or other safety equipment. Violations are collected and automatically sent to site supervisors for correction.

Advancements in automation

Whether your company is ready to embrace the idea or not, development and adoption of construction robots are already in progress, and big names in the construction business are excited about its arrival.

Innovations are emerging all of the time, but the following technology is already in the works and is receiving the most industry buzz about revolutionizing construction processes:

  • 3D printing robots that can build large buildings or bridges on demand
  • Bricklaying and masonry robots that work at record speeds
  • Demolition robots that may be slower than demo crews, but are far safer and cheaper
  • Remote control or autonomous vehicles for excavating or material-moving
  • Drones for site supervision and building inspections
  • Robots for tying rebar, which is generally labor-intensive and dangerous
  • AI-driven software that uses collected data to draw conclusions or improve processes in a variety of ways

Although many in the industry worry about the human cost as jobs are automated, the threat to jobs is not as frightening as it may seem initially. In the above examples, humans are still required – for instance, a mason is needed to oversee the work of a bricklaying robot and humans will need to correctly place and space rebar before the rebar tying robot can get to work. Change brings new opportunities, and the introduction of robots and AI will eventually require new skill sets and create different jobs.

In an industry that is traditionally unautomated, construction robots will have a huge impact on revolutionizing construction. A reluctance to adopt new technology that could affect the scalability of businesses; automation is coming, and the biggest and best are already planning for its arrival. Consider how robots and AI could improve your business and your bottom line, and start looking forward to the future.

No Boundaries Advisors has been helping construction businesses grow for over 25 years. Contact us today to find out how our expert staff can help you plan and meet your financial goals.

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