The construction industry has changed little in terms of advancements and technologies. That is, until now. A major revolution is happening as new construction materials and construction automation start showing up on construction sites.
Companies that start changing how they work will quickly gain an advantage. Investing in construction automation now will put them ahead of competitors. The new technology allows them to work faster, more efficiently, and save time.
Data from McKinsey and Company reveals construction labor productivity lags compared to overall economic productivity. Furthermore, construction uses the least amount of digitization out of all industries.
So what construction automation is here or coming that you need to know about? Here are five.
One of the biggest causes for schedule overruns comes from unexpected geological problems. For instance, discrepancies between early survey estimates and actual ground conditions lead to expensive last-minute project scope and design changes.
The latest drones can provide more accurate survey estimates of geological conditions. They scan the working areas for potential hazards to improve safety. Drone pilots can conduct site inspections without setting foot on the building. This further increases safety, especially on large projects like skyscrapers.
They also come in handy for inventory management. Typically, surveyors use GPS coordinates to determine the quantity of materials. Drones equipped with a camera and laser can count inventory in minutes for big labor and time savings.
Unfortunately current legislative challenges limit the use of drones. However, the future looks bright.
The average bricklayer can place about 500 bricks per day. A robot that lays bricks is another story. The Sami-Automated Mason, or SAM from Construction Robotics, can handle 380 bricks in an hour. It's designed to be a collaborative robot in that it's meant to work with the mason.
According to the company, SAM100 increases mason productivity by 3 to 5 times and reduces lifting by 80 percent. Workers manage the mortar and load SAM. Other repetitive automation includes a Robo-Welder that welds steel columns. A Robo-Carrier transports supplies and heavy pallets unmanned to where the company needs the material. Robots can also do demolition, concrete recycling, and spool fabrication.
One of the key benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) is it allows equipment and machines to connect and communicate with each other. The same idea applies to construction in which machinery, equipment, material, and structures can monitor productivity and report updates. Sensors can track readings of locations, temperature, pressure, and other conditions in real time. They can also signal machines to initiate an action.
For example, smart structures with vibration sensors can act as an early warning system by detecting and correcting deficiencies. Another instance is a connected system that can predict when inventory runs low and let site managers know when they need to order more supplies.
3D printing is not new, but it's going to do much more than print small scale versions of construction buildings. For construction, these printers will do massive jobs, unlike the microwave-sized printers people see in a makerspace.
Apis Cor, for one, has developed equipment for 3D printing that can print walls, roofs, floors, electrical systems, and plumbing. The BOD, short for Building on Demand, in Copenhagen is the first 3D-printed building in Europe. CyBe produces 3D concrete printers that print mortar. 3D-printing will speed construction, reduce errors and waste, and cut labor costs.
Construction automation technology is expensive but will deliver a quick return on investment by saving time, catching things earlier in the process to prevent expensive fixes, and increasing safety. It's also important to have construction site security to protect your on-site technology. You can achieve that cost-effectively with remote video surveillance.
Another advantage of live video monitoring is that, because operators watch your property remotely, the liability risk that often accompanies on-site guards often goes away. Video monitoring technology acts as they eyes in watching the construction company's equipment, tools, materials and site. It also costs 25-60% less than security guards.
Advances in construction automation help workers do their jobs. Technology will not replace workers as the two will collaborate. Together, they will revolutionize construction productivity and increase safety.