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The construction sector is currently valued at over $10 trillion globally, making it one of the biggest industries in the world. Construction is expected to continue to thrive, with increasing housing projects starting up, rising urbanization, and a growing population driving infrastructure, the market is predicted to reach a potential value of $15.5 trillion by 2030. However, it’s not all good news for the construction industry. While it is growing there are many threats facing companies in this sector, these threats are putting limits on the potential of global construction projects, as well as presenting environmental concerns that must be addressed with urgency and as a priority.
Experts have pointed out that the greatest threats to the construction industry are related to resistance or inability to adopt new technology. In comparison to other global industries, construction is one of the least digitized, despite it being one of the largest. Statistics show that worker productivity hasn’t significantly increased in decades, which is poor in comparison to other sectors, such as agriculture and retail which have shown a 1500% increase in productivity since the 1940s.
Automation technologies have arrived and are here to help the construction industry. Experts predict that they have the power to disrupt the industry, causing a profound shift in processes, and resulting in boosting productivity and quality.
Limited manpower to fill construction jobs is a major barrier to productivity in the industry. It’s estimated that around 200,000 construction jobs were unfilled in the US in 2018. Automation can step in to alleviate this problem. Drones can be used to do many of the tasks that previously relied on a human workforce. Jobs like site inspections and inventory management that may have traditionally taken up a lot of time and expense can now be completed by drones.
Large building projects especially benefit from drones with the capabilities to collect data without the need for large teams of people. Inventory management is another area that can be managed autonomously by drones. They can be used to survey GPS coordinates to determine the number of piles of materials by using cameras with lasers, resulting in the job being done in a far shorter time frame, with less reliance on expensive resources.
Prefabricated homes are one solution that hopes to address the housing crisis in numerous countries. In light of the increasing demand for affordable homes, which has been caused by the rising population and an increase in the number of low-salary workers in need of accommodation, governments are being increasingly aware of the need to quickly construct affordable housing.
Prefabricated projects are not only cheap and quick to complete because of the materials used, but they also rely on assembly lines to produce them which speeds up time and reduces the need for large teams of workers. These projects have demonstrated how a construction project can be completed in part in a factory, using an automated assembly line to construct the building. These prefabricated buildings are then transported to the site and can be put up in record time.
Automation is also bringing enhanced efficiency through robotic applications. Recent years have seen a great deal of money invested in developing robots for construction. An example of developments that have been made in this area is the recent release of the SAM 100 (Semi-Automated Mason) from the company, Construction Automation. This can lay more than 2000 bricks per day, 5 times what a human worker could achieve. Developments in these areas are set to revolutionize productivity in the industry.
Finally, autonomous equipment is being designed and developed for specific areas within the construction industry. For example, Stiles Machinery has created a multi-function bridge with the capability of automating wood-framed panel production. The company Hundegger has developed autonomous equipment that can prefabricate and process timber to exact specifications. Finally, 3D printing is being increasingly used in this sector to autonomously create both structures and tools for the industry.
The future is likely to see rapid developments in automation in construction, the result of which will be enhanced productivity, reduced reliance on a human workforce, faster project completion times and greater efficiency in the industry.