Potential of robotic automation to improve productivity, efficiency and safety on construction sites
In one global survey of 1900 large and small construction companies in Europe, the United States and China, commissioned by ABB Robotics (ABB), 91% of those polled said they will face a skills crisis in the next 10 years, with 44% saying they are currently struggling to recruit for construction jobs. Although only 55% of construction companies say they currently use robots – compared to 84% in automobiles and 79% in manufacturing – 81% said they plan to introduce or increase the use of robotics. robotics and automation over the next decade.
“With so few construction companies using automation today, we have huge potential to transform the industry through robotics. Unlike building cars or assembling electronics, many techniques used in construction have not changed for generations, so we are developing new solutions to meet the main challenges of the industry, ”said Sami Atiya, President of ABB’s Robotics and Quiet Automation business line.
Industry forecasts for the total value of the global construction industry predict that it will grow by 85% over the next decade to reach $ 15.5 trillion globally by 2030. The analysis ABB’s internal robotic automation market potential in the industry indicates a high double-digit growth rate in key construction sectors, including prefabrication and 3D printing.
ABB believes that robotic automation offers the potential to improve productivity, efficiency, and manufacturing flexibility across the industry, including the automation of the manufacturing of modular homes and off-building components. site, robotic welding and material handling on construction sites and robotic 3D printing of houses and custom structures. “In addition to making the industry safer and more profitable, robots improve sustainability and reduce environmental impact by improving quality and reducing waste,” the company says.
We think that up to a quarter of material transported to a construction site leaves as waste, according to the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA. Using automation and digital solutions, builders can design waste early on in a project through efficient building design and construction processes.
Robots allow a new approach
In the United States alone, the Associated Builders and Contractors estimates that 430,000 more construction workers still need to be hired to meet demand. As young workers “have delayed their construction careers by perceiving it to be a dangerous occupation”, the labor shortage in the industry will continue to be a growing problem in the world. globally, according to ABB. It is therefore not surprising that 42% of survey respondents ranked improving the health and safety of workers on construction sites as a priority.
the International Labor Organization reports that construction workers are responsible for around 30% of workplace accidents and are up to four times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident compared to other sectors of the industry, with around 108,000 fatalities around the world every year.
ETH ZurichABB believes robots can make construction safer by:
- handling large and heavy loads,
- work in dangerous spaces
- and enable new, safer construction methods.
He argues that using robots for repetitive and hazardous tasks means automation can help support the job and skills crisis in the industry and make construction careers more attractive to young people.
“A new focus on health, safety and sustainability are catalysts for investing in robotics, while the shrinking pool of skilled labor means the construction industry needs robots to operate. help it face the challenges of urbanization and climate change, ”Atiya said.
Companies like ABB can provide automation solutions for faster, more affordable and sustainable construction, while helping to address the labor shortage in the industry.
Automation already in use
- automated manufacturing of wooden roof supports with Autovol in the United States
- robotic elevator installation with Schindler Lifts
- and the robotic automation of prefabricated modular house production by Intelligent City, which increased production efficiency by 15% and speed by 38% and reduced waste by 30%.
In addition, Skanska’s robot welding application has improved quality, employee productivity and safety by automating the manufacture of steel reinforcement baskets on site, ABB points out. It has also reduced the cost and environmental impact of transporting bulky finished reinforcement baskets to job sites.
“It’s increasingly difficult to find people to do difficult and time-consuming tasks, which means we have to look further to find the workers we need,” said Ulf Håkansson, Technical Director of Skanska Construction. “Assigning these tasks to robots can solve this problem, allowing us to deploy our people more efficiently.
BAM Weber Saint-Gobain“Automation also suits the experience and imagination of the next generation of engineers, who have grown up with technology and will help us find new ways to use robots in our business,” Ulf added. .
ABB is also working with several leading universities, such as ETH Zurich, a leading research university in Switzerland, to co-develop new automated construction technologies. At ETH, ABB supports research in the field of robotic manufacturing in architecture and construction and has helped establish a collaborative robotic digital manufacturing laboratory in architecture at the ETH Institute of Technology in Architecture.
For more information, see “Automation and the construction industry”, a roundtable organized by ABB focuses on the potential of robotic automation to improve productivity, efficiency and manufacturing flexibility in industry.
Information provided by ABB Robotics and edited by Becky Schultz.