The Robo-Construction Revolution Improving Worker Lives, Not Replacing Them

The Industrial Revolution has changed the way we see and manage the manufacturing processes that continue to make our world go round. A common misconception, however, is that the “revolution” itself is a thing of the past and our present state is at the end of that so-called “period of industry”. Yet the fact of the matter is that we’re likely in the Third Industrial Revolution moving rapidly toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution as we continue to see more and more integration of technologies within our daily lives.

One industry that has been significantly changed by the arrival of smarter and more focused technologies is that of the construction industry, wherein the skills and expertise of seasoned carpenters and engineers are slowly being replicated by robotics in the field. Yet this isn’t a siren call for those working in the field to hang up their coats, but rather an opportunity for them to leverage these very same technologies to transform their daily work experiences into a safer and albeit more efficient time all around.

Robotics in Construction Today

It may seem like science fiction, but technology has truly come a long way since the advent of the printing press presenting opportunities for an industrialized business at large. Today, robots are found in almost any industry, utilizing armatures and fixed placement robotics to manage and support specific tasks.

In construction, you can find a litany of different robotics being used in the field, from automatic paint sprayers to smart area mappers, and even driverless machinery that can execute specific routines without the need for human interaction.

With so many innovations, the concern that eventually rises is the possibility that robotics will essentially replace some of the manual labour on which the construction workforce depends. Yet, as we are about to expand upon, robotics in construction might actually have the effect of bolstering the workforce instead of hampering it, which will all depend on how the technology is utilized in the field.

How Robotics and Workers Come Hand-in-Hand

The tug-and-pull between innovations and the current status quo has always been at the forefront of any technology that is looking to instill a significant change in the way things are done. It’s likely that given advanced enough technology, some of the more rudimentary tasks will be at risk of being moved from human hands toward a machine’s. But construction remains a highly complex endeavour that isn’t defined by a singular task, but rather by a multitude working together to bring a specific project vision to life.

As such, the entrance of new technologies should be met with optimism instead of fear as it might actually change the landscape of construction work to be easier and safer with people in mind.

Better Productivity

A clear advantage that robotics in the construction field has is the increased productivity they provide. Through the automation of specific tasks via robotics, there are fewer risks for error as well as reduced downtimes in the execution of the work.

Through connectivity and better intelligence shared across construction robotics, the industry can also begin developing in areas of sustainability and planning, “The construction industry is set to undergo a profound transformation in the coming years,” says Philip Nelles, CEO of Continental’s ContiTech group sector, to which he anticipates the current industry level of robotics to be the start of a stronger turn towards digitization and robotics in the future.

Improved On-Site Safety

More than just productivity, it’s the actual safety of the workers that remain a top priority not just for the current workforce, but for the possible future workforce entering the industry as well. Safety and workplace protection is a consistent factor in every job site, so much so that the Office of Safety and Health Administration has a robust set of guidelines to better keep workers safe throughout their work.

New technologies can help mitigate the risk involved with work by transferring some of the more hazardous work towards smarter robotics and machinery that can handle the job better. Activities such as demolition and material handling have long been handled by different tools and machines in the past, and robotics now is inserting a level of intelligence that allows humans to further remove themselves from the harm inherent in some of these tasks.

Increased Long-term Wages

The economic reality of robotics entering the workspace can’t be ignored as well. There is truth to the perspective of thinking that certain robotics will replace the needed work for menial tasks, but this also gives rise to the opportunity for those with more advanced skills. For example, this can mean that skilled carpenters can spend less time having to measure and cut angles and more time designing plans that put them at a competitive advantage versus their peers.

This also opens the floor for newer positions in the construction industry for workers looking to leverage the growing robotics space, such as software engineers, robot mechanics, and even more specialized industrial designers.

Key Takeaways

The future of robotics in construction is showing major signs of growth. Already, the industry is projected to reach upwards of $230 billion in value by 2028 as more and more companies adopt the technology not to replace their workforce but rather to supplement them in their work.

  • Robotics in construction today is evolved from its predecessor machines and is focused on building smarter technologies that can navigate the construction job site in different ways.
  • While some work done by construction workers is expected to be replaced by automation, an often overlooked aspect of robotics in the field is their ability to support the very same workers in the completion of other tasks rather than fully replace them.
  • Robotics in construction carry many benefits for workers, such as better productivity, improved on-site safety, and even the possibility of increased long-term wages for advanced workers.

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Published on 

Dec 13, 2022


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People & Skills
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