Construction automation is no longer a futuristic, far-off concept. It’s already happening on jobsites around the world. Construction professionals are slowly starting to see the value in shifting toward an automated, tech-based workflow.
The industry and its players have been slow to move toward automation technology, specifically for a seemingly good reason: Automation is scary, and many industry professionals fear that embracing automation means construction jobs will take a hit.
While it’s probable that repetitive, labor-intensive positions will be phased out, skeptical individuals can trust that connected jobsites and tech-equipped projects create demand for experts in software development, engineering and telematics maintenance, to name a few. That’s just one benefit that comes with implementing construction automation at your jobsite or firm, though.
No matter what you thought about construction automation until now, don’t discount its potential to help your team work smarter. Here’s a look at the biggest benefits of bringing automation to the jobsite.
1. Streamline inefficient processes
Most teams spend too much time on tedious tasks that could be completely or partially automated. Automation shouldn’t replace all human tasks, but there are tasks where machines can get more done faster than humans.
Take routine site and asset inspections, for example. These are typically done on foot, documented on paper and can take hours to finish. Even then, there’s no guarantee the inspections will be legible or filed properly. But if you’re using automated construction solutions, you can eliminate those issues.
Drones can perform site inspections efficiently, including hard-to-access or dangerous areas like bridges or along busy highways (just make sure you follow the FAA’s rules and operate legally). Drones can record inspections, and you can be sure they’re completed properly.
Data collection becomes more efficient and accurate with automation, as well. With fleet management software like Track, you can digitally record daily vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs) with plenty of detail. DVIRs can be completed and viewed in Track from any browser and in the Link app from mobile devices and tablets, which makes reporting accessible and simple.
Thorough documentation is essentially foolproof, and inspections happen at twice the speed with the help of automated processes. Where else could your team automate to work more efficiently?
2. Recruit and retain next-gen talent
Few businesses have escaped the effects of the labor shortage that’s plaguing the construction industry. It’s hard to find skilled workers and even harder to retain that top talent. Turnover is expensive: Onboarding and training cost time and money, and if the new hire quits, that time and money go to waste.
Plus, most firms can’t keep employees simply by offering a fair wage and benefits. Today’s job seekers want opportunities for continued learning throughout their careers. By embracing technological advancement and automation at the jobsite, you can provide them with the opportunities they want, like the chance to work with and learn more about emerging technologies.
The next generation of the construction workforce has a different skill set rooted in the digital world, and leaning into their expertise can take your business to the next level. Implementing automated construction processes is a sign that you’re paying attention to the future of the industry and you won’t shy away from tech-based innovations. And it shows the creative forward-thinkers you want to hire that your business won’t sit at a standstill while the rest of the industry goes digital.
Contrary to what you might have heard, automating processes won’t necessarily take jobs away. When you use automation strategically, you can create jobs, improve employee retention and add to the skill sets of your best employees.
3. Increase productivity
Due in part to the labor shortage, global construction productivity has flatlined while most other industries are seeing steady gains. There’s no one reason for low productivity, but the labor shortage and a low rate of technology use are large contributors. Even if your firm is not shorthanded, there’s only so much your team can get done in a day. Common inefficient processes don’t help.
Automated construction processes reverse the low productivity trend. If technology — whether that’s a drone, fleet management software or a wearable safety vest — can speed up a project or improve communication, then you don’t have much to lose in trying them out.
For example, during a site inspection, an AR headset can show the inspector exactly how the project should look, right in front of their eyes. An AR headset superimposes the correct model onto the jobsite and allows immediate comparison to the digital, most recent project design. There’s no confusion caused by dated documentation or wasted time spent comparing paperwork to the state of the jobsite.
Automating a necessary, time-consuming task like site inspections (and many others) cuts down the number of hours spent on them and ensures they’re being done correctly with the most current project data.
4. Make jobsites safer
Injuries, both minor and major, are far more common in the construction industry than in other industries. One way to reduce the risk of long-term physical injuries is to use automation for assistance with repetitive, dangerous tasks.
Exoskeletons are being tested to assist workers with lifting heavy objects for long hours. The exoskeleton shoulders the physical burden and makes it possible for workers to get more done (safely) with less exhaustion.
Drones are also useful for keeping workers out of dangerous areas of the jobsite altogether. Unlike humans, drones can quickly perform complete aerial inspections and transmit high-quality videos and images right back to you. Whether it’s a routine inspection or you need to check out a potential problem, you can quickly find out what you need to know without risking anyone’s safety.
5. Stay competitive
Undoubtedly, using automation in construction will only increase, as well as technology use in all areas of the industry. There’s no resisting its influence on the ways it can improve safety, efficiency and productivity. Even if you could avoid all automation, it wouldn’t make sense to do so when your competition is using it to their advantage — and ultimately, that will happen.
According to the USG Corporation + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index, 74 percent of contractors plan to begin using construction technology like wearable safety devices and AR/VR tools. From 2017 to 2018, there was a 324 percent increase in construction tech investment, which makes 2019 a promising year for innovation. Keep an eye out for better jobsite mapping software for drones and practical autonomous machines.
Construction automation has the potential to take the industry from tech-averse to tech-empowered and change the way projects are handled from start to finish. This should result in a huge productivity boost. Plus, automating time-consuming or unsafe processes is a net positive; this helps projects stay on schedule and on budget while simultaneously prioritizing employee safety.
Consider automation for what it is: A way to enhance and transform your work for the better, not a concept that removes you and your team’s value from the industry. Now is the time to get on board and find the construction automation tools to help you work smarter and safer.