How Robots are Changing Construction (Robotics Break New Ground in the Industry)
Earlier this year, a San Francisco-based technology firm, Built Robotics, made headlines by sharing its progress toward self-operating construction machinery. The company led by a former Google engineer has received several million in venture capital to continue its development of the automation technology behind its machines. Other venture-backed firms around the world are focused on the same outcomes – a more technology-driven business model throughout all facets of the construction world.
The reason for highlighting forward movement in construction through robotics leans firmly on the fact that the industry has been slow to adopt updated technology in years past. Unlike other industries that have fully embraced the digital revolution, construction has often lagged in its advancement in this arena. That resistance has led to labor shortages on jobs both big and small, growing inefficiencies on projects, and increased waste on job sites. To fight off a future of rising costs, the construction industry, thanks in part to companies like Built Robotics, is finally coming into the digital age.
The Advantages of Robotics in Construction
Adding robots to the mix on any construction job site may seem out of place, given the countless hazards that lurk on nearly all projects. However, giving machines the ability to function on their own, without the need for human interaction, actually has the potential to improve safety for all workers. Robotics in construction is currently being used for self-operating machinery, including bulldozers, excavators, and cranes, but the implications for such technology are far-reaching. When construction workers are taken out of the role of completing the mundane tasks now managed by robots, they can use their time to do more skilled work. This bolsters efficiencies and timeline management for most construction job sites.
In addition to autonomously completing tasks, robotics in construction may also influence the level of safety construction workers experience. Ekso Bionics, another California-based technology firm, has been developing wearable robotics for construction industry professionals for the past few years. Enhancements like exoskeletons that help improve mobility for contractors and robotic arms to reduce the impact of repetitive tasks on the job are being used at many job sites currently. These additions to construction projects pave the way for a safer job site, increased productivity, and a reduction in the time it takes to complete a job. The combination of the benefits robotics is adding to the industry ultimately lead to lower operations costs, from surety bond pricing to insurance expenses.
What it Means for Construction Workers
Adding technology like robotics to the construction industry has been met with some hesitation, mostly from industry professionals who have spent countless hours to get licensed and bonded, create and nurture professional relationships, and stay up to date on safety and building standards. However, technology and construction industry experts agree that while the trends moving toward digitization of the field has the potential to take away some low-level positions, it will be several years before robotics in construction is the norm. Instead, a slow and steady introduction of new technology in the industry is more likely.
Construction workers who are fearful of tech-infused solutions taking away jobs should rest assured that human skill will not be replaced by automated machines. Several tasks cannot be completed accurately or more efficiently by a robot, and project management is not a role that can be replaced by technology. The benefits robotics brings to the construction industry are evolving every day while being embraced on a wider scale, but construction workers are not out of a job because of it.
Eric Weisbrot is the Chief Marketing Officer of JW Surety Bonds. He has several years of experience and expertise in the surety industry and a contributing author to the surety bond blog.