Construction Robots Put To The Test For Reducing Worker Injury And Filling In Labor Shortages

Precision planning is an integral part of the construction industry. Highly detailed schedules, careful budgeting, and coordination of resources are imperative to the success of a job, whether it’s a private home or a massive skyscraper. It’s not always easy to achieve this when there are many unpredictable factors that affect building industries around the world.

There are short-term, somewhat predictable issues like poor weather and reduced daylight hours. There are also unexpected hindrances and more critical issues that can delay jobs for extended periods, such as lack of qualified workers and materials shortages.

To help alleviate issues for the industry, some companies have positioned themselves as problem-solvers, such as New York fastener manufacturer, bacoent.com and their construction fasteners delivery services, which are coordinated with a client’s building schedule to prevent common causes of job delays. While these options are highly advantageous, there are still other major concerns that the industry is working to address.

Modern technology, specifically automation and robotics, may have a lot to offer in the future of urban development and infrastructure maintenance, particularly in regions that need special support. Japan is one such place. A third of their construction workforce is on the cusp of retirement age and there aren’t enough new applicants to take their place.

The need for a solution was apparent to senior construction industry professional, Shinichi Sakamoto, who is now the deputy head of Shimizu Corporation’s product technology division. The architectural, engineering, and general contracting firm has begun to test the Robo-Carrier, an advanced building robot that’s contributing to the construction of a high-rise development in Osaka.

In a recent BBC article, Mr. Sakamoto highlighted many benefits that come from working with Robo-Carrier as it strategically transports gypsum pallets from ground level to other areas of the building site. “Can you imagine that materials are in the right position in the morning when labourers come to the site? He even works at night time.” Robo-Carrier is not the only robot making Shimizu’s job a little easier; the aptly named Robo-Welder takes care of steel column welding, while Robo-Buddy goes to work inserting hanger bolts and installing ceiling boards.

Apart from lightening the load and anticipating the requirements of the job, while not being limited to ordinary working hours, construction robots can be carefully coordinated and even learn from one another to complete a series of tasks in a highly efficient manner. The capabilities may significantly alleviate the pressure of finding new workers, as—according to Shimizu spokesman Hideo Imamura—the firm’s robots reduce the need for manpower on a given task by as much as 80 percent.

Whether that’s a relief for the future of the construction industry or a threat to those who are pursuing carriers in it may depend on who you ask. The construction robots are not necessarily meant to replace humans, but will help them in situations that pose the toughest demands and greatest risk to personal safety. The machines themselves may become job creators; though they are capable of functioning freely and reliably, humans will still be needed to maintain and manage them.

Could such technology provide a tidy solution to construction labor shortages in the United States and other nations around the world?