Construction Robot : The Next Generation Construction Worker?

Swiss robotics engineering group ABB is looking to tap into the shortage of skilled labor plaguing the construction industry with construction robots.

A survey sponsored by ABB of 1,900 large and small construction businesses in Europe, the US and China found that 91% of construction businesses will face a critical skills shortage over the course of the next decade. The survey also found that 9 out of 10 such construction businesses foresee a skills crisis by 2030 with 81% of businesses intending to introduce robots into their workforce within the next decade.

According to the survey, at least 55% of construction companies are already currently using robots.

“With so few construction businesses using automation today, there’s huge potential for us to transform the industry through robotics. Unlike building cars or assembling electronics, many techniques used in construction haven’t changed for generations, so we are developing new solutions to address key industry challenges,” said Sami Atiya, President of ABB’s Robotics & Discrete Automation Business Area. “We are putting our expertise and industry-leading portfolio of robots and digital tools at the center of the construction industry value chain with automation solutions for faster, more affordable and sustainable construction, while supporting the industry’s labor shortage, by handling large and heavy loads, accessing dangerous spaces and enabling new, safer ways of building.” he added.

Automation in Construction can reduce waste

Atiya also mentioned the need to focus on health, safety and sustainability. As the construction industry faces more environmental regulation and the need for more cost-effective projects, automation can reduce waste by improving quality and consistence. This is noteworthy as it is estimated that up to a quarter of material delivered to a construction sites leaves as waste.

Automation in Construction can improve safety

Automation can also improve safety. Given that construction workers amount for roughly 30% of workplace injuries and are more prone (up to 4 times more) to fatal accidents as opposed to workers in other sectors, The value of the global industrial robots market is estimated to be USD 45 billion a year. ABB’s main competitors are FANUC and Kuka that are based in Japan and Germany respectively.

ABB’s Robots and projects

Swiss robotics engineering group ABB is a global technology company with about 105,000 employees in over 100 countries. ABB’s construction robots currently work in automating component production for prefabricated modular residences. They are also used at construction sites for welding of steel reinforcement baskets used in strengthening building structure. Atiya is confident that sales for such construction robots in the construction industry will continue to rise. The costs of ABB’s products such as robots, peripherals and software are in the range between USD 100,000 to USD 1 million.

Construction Robots in Singapore and South East Asia

Despite the many benefits of relying on automation in construction activities, many construction companies in Singapore and South East Asia may continue to resist the move to automation. This is likely due to the expensive costs involved in investing in automation and robotics and the low construction labour costs in Singapore and South East Asia. These factors result in little incentives for firms to improve automation. That said, what used to be a readily available labour force has been rendered inaccessible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In such difficult times where more construction companies face labour shortages and difficulties in retaining labour, digital transformation and automation can prove to be a saving grace.

View our earlier article “Singapore Construction Sector : The Future of its workforce” here.

View our earlier article “Construction Sector seeks safe entry of foreign workers and additional relief” here.



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