Robots moving from factories to construction sites

Labour-intensive work is being taken over by a durable, mechanical team.

With Australia’s aging population, the desire for less physically demanding roles will increase. The construction industry has already felt the impact of this, where the number of construction workers aged 55 and over increased from 8 percent full-time in 1992, to 14.2 percent in 2014.

Developments in technology have presented the construction industry with an opportunity to adapt and embrace factors likely to affect the market in the next 20 years. Robots, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality are existing technologies that promise to reduce manual labour drastically, and assist in eliminating physical hazards. New York company Construction Robotics has developed a bricklaying robot, SAM100, that is designed to work collaboratively with the mason, increasing their productivity by 3-5 times while reducing lifting by 80 percent.

This is not to say that robots will replace people, but instead cause a shift from a labour-intensive workforce to one fueled by knowledge and innovation. Possible construction industry jobs in the year 2036 may include:

  • Building assembly technician – someone who oversees robotic systems throughout the life of a project.
  • Virtual reality trainers – apprentices are able to meet with trainers virtually to simulate any training situation, such as worksite, factory or design studio work.
  • Building drone operators – those who control and program drones to carry out site inspections, deliveries and maintenance.
  • Robot resource manager – management and maintenance of the robotic workforce, taking care of programming, repurposing or recycling of robotic parts, and commissioning.

Several benefits will flow to industry as it continues to adopt and develop this technology. Robots will assist in reducing construction costs while increasing efficiency, limit building-site construction waste, improve safety conditions for workers, lower insurance costs for buildings, and increase sustainability over a building’s lifetime.

Currently there are drones overseeing worksites, companies using 3D printing technology to construct concrete houses and major building materials, and workers continually developing technology to adapt to social and environmental needs.

To read more about what Construction Skills Queensland has learned about technology and innovation within the construction industry, read their report here.