How Construction Automation Can Accelerate Project Timelines

Two men discussing plans at a construction site

Robotics and automation remain the cutting edge for industries looking to transform how efficiently and precisely we work. In construction, automation, project management systems and robotics have countless applications, from assembly to safety and everything in between. 

They’ve even become valuable for helping companies meet deadlines. How can automation accelerate building project timelines?

Compensating for Labor Shortages

Labor shortages are a growing fact of life in the construction industry. According to a 2019 study, 70% of surveyed companies were struggling to meet deadlines because of a lack of skilled labor. These same companies find themselves facing overworked teams, increased costs to hire new workers and even rejecting new projects to meet the deadlines they’ve already adopted.

Automation will likely never replace the need for skilled workers in the construction industry, but it can help accelerate project timelines by offsetting some of the labor shortages the industry is facing. Robots and automation as a whole are valuable tools for taking over some of the many repetitive or mundane tasks that make up a large portion of the early stages of any construction project.

Preventing On-The-Job Injuries

Speaking of redundant and mundane tasks, the injuries that can result from these activities can cause untimely delays and make it difficult to meet deadlines. According to information collected from the Trades Union Congress, as many as one out of every 50 workers reports symptoms of repetitive stress injury as a direct result of their career choice. 

Mechanical transporters, automated machinery and robotics can take care of riskier tasks and let human labor focus more on getting a job done correctly. By introducing automation for mundane or repetitive tasks, supervisors and companies can prevent repetitive stress injuries from resulting in costly delays and downtime. In addition to preventing problems that could delay timetables, it also helps protect team members, turning automation into a win-win. 

Supporting Lean Construction Practices

Lean construction is an off-shoot of lean manufacturing practices. They might seem complicated, especially for companies unfamiliar with the methods, but at their core they all focus on one thing — reducing waste. Waste reduction can come in various forms — from paying close attention to ordering levels to utilizing recycling and reclaimed materials. It can also take the form of preventing wasted time, which in turn will help accelerate time tables.

Time is a valuable resource for building companies and not something that should be squandered lightly. Incorporating automation means there is no time wasted for tasks that get automated or integrated into existing technology. For example, heavy machinery equipped with real-time data can save teams hours of time over the course of constructions. Similarly, project management software can streamline decision-making and communication processes.

It sounds simple, but wasting time on the job site causes undue delays and makes it more difficult to meet deadlines. Introducing automation support for lean construction techniques can help speed up timetables and keep everyone on task.

Producing Higher Quality Consistently

Consistency and quality control are essential for construction, enabling teams to provide clients with the same high-quality work every time. Of course, when dealing with human workers, there is always the potential for human error. Automation and robotics eliminates the risk of quality variations.

Automated systems deliver the same high quality levels every time. There’s no risk of human error when there are no humans involved. When streamlining timetables, this application of automation prevents costly repairs and rebuilds that could occur if something goes awry during the construction process.

Incorporating 3D Printing

3D printing isn’t just for hobbyists printing figurines in their craft rooms anymore. It’s proving to be one of the most valuable tools for manufacturing in nearly every industry. In the construction field, it’s a useful tool for everything from laying concrete to performing more traditional masonry. A robotic bricklayer can lay up to 3,000 bricks per day, many times what a human bricklayer can do.

While 3D printing isn’t a replacement for specialized workers, it can help keep things on track and increase everyone’s speed, especially if the company is also contending with a labor shortage. It’s also a valuable tool for improving ergonomics, which, in turn, reduces the amount of on-the-job injuries and keeps everyone’s schedules moving forward.

Doing this prevents delays and streamlines the workday. When making construction operations more efficient and productive, it becomes apparent that many of these automation suggestions are all tied together.

The Future of Automation in Construction

Automation in construction isn’t a new concept, but the construction industry as a whole is often slow to adopt new techniques and technologies. Meeting deadlines is challenging even under the best circumstances, and 2020 has been anything but.

Incorporating automation and robotics into construction does more than just improve safety and increase productivity. Many of these tasks have a double use, making it easier to meet deadlines and streamline worker schedules. Adopting these new technologies can represent a significant investment, but for any companies that find it difficult to meet deadlines, robotics and automation can be an invaluable tool — well worth the money spent.

By Evelyn Long, Editor-in-Chief of Renovated.