Beep Bloop: Robotics in Construction
By Satyen Patel, Construction Executive
While the majority of construction industry professionals acknowledge that increased adoption of technology is in their future, the industry has still been rather slow to embrace innovative technologies and processes.
This hesitation to change means the construction industry’s record on innovation and the adoption of new technologies, tools and approaches lags behind nearly every other occupational sector.
ROBOTICS IN INDUSTRY
Robotics and automation have transformed how factories manufacture goods; helping companies build new types of products with speed and efficiency not possible with humans alone. Forward-thinking companies are realizing the advantages of automation and advanced robotics in the construction industry, as the technologies allow for more project flexibility in terms of timing and pricing.
Oftentimes, construction projects utilizing traditional building methods don’t meet scheduled deadlines and are well over budget by the time they are finally completed. Fortunately, technological advancements, like robotics and automated systems, are beginning to allow the construction industry to drastically reduce production time and project costs while improving a project’s overall quality and employee safety. Teams around the world are beginning to employ advanced robotics to simplify the construction process.
ROBOTICS ARE CHANGING CONSTRUCTION: SAVING TIME, IMPROVING THE BOTTOM LINE
While construction processes are heavily reliant on manual tasks, robotic systems and automation hold the key to solving productivity, labor shortage and safety issues, while allowing human workers to complete more thoughtful tasks. Many construction companies struggle to keep projects on time and on budget, but technological advancements that utilize robotics or automation can help change these issues. Time-consuming, repetitive work that requires heavy lifting and precision is the perfect task for automated robotics systems. By receiving precise specifications and dimensions for every component, manufacturing robots, such as roll-formers, welding robots and CNC drilling machines, progressively shape high-quality building components that yield an unmatched level of precision. Manufacturing robots are able to punch, dimple and cut building materials to exact measurements for assembly into entire building components such as wall panels and trusses.
Working with steel is the most common application of robotics systems in construction and unlocks a level of precision that allows for improved structural stability, allowing MEP tradespeople to begin work much earlier than with concrete structures. This level of precision drastically reduces onsite waste and eliminates the need for costly and time-consuming rework in the field as building components are complete upon arrival — they are simply installed.
With lean manufacturing robotic systems, assembly proceeds according to engineered shop drawings created by advanced BIM software; building a digital plan that guides the assembler and highlights parts by order of assembly. Automated robotic welding systems work directly from the architect’s model, eliminating guesswork and ensuring high levels of precision and building quality. Additionally, automated processes allow for robotics systems to fabricate building components before they arrive on site, making installation easier than ever before. Automating the construction process allows projects to become easier and safer for crews, as the need for expensive training and experience diminishes. Additionally, automated robotics systems allow for the creation of a seamless process — from design through installation. This seamless process eliminates speculation from third-party builders and project partners. From eliminating costly rework to phasing in mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) tradespeople to begin working sooner, robotics systems are beginning to ensure construction projects stay on time and on budget.
Robotics systems and automation are becoming increasingly viable solutions for the construction industry, allowing projects to be built faster and for less money while improving jobsite safety. In the construction industry, even slight differences in operating expenses can unlock significant savings. The future of construction is changing and companies on the cutting edge are already realizing the benefits. New techniques and technologies are being adopted, with robots and automated systems driving this shift. Companies must be prepared to meet the demands of savvy project owners with digital techniques and advanced technologies or they risk not having the tools get the job done.