In the era of advanced technology, robotics are increasingly utilized to enhance efficiency and minimize risks across various industries. For those who are working in the built environment sector, ensuring the safety of every individual stepping onto a project site remains the utmost priority. The industry has the potential for significant improvement through the development and integration of innovative technologies. These technologies can help alleviate some of the unique challenges and risks that the workforce encounters on a daily basis.
Robotics and robotic creatures offer the greatest advantages to the sector, especially when construction occurs in hazardous or uncharted terrains. By relocating human colleagues from high-risk areas, these creatures guarantee their safety, health, and overall well-being.
Robots not only contribute to site safety but also have the potential to enhance productivity significantly. This heightened productivity results in increased construction output and reduced capacity constraints.
At Heathrow Airport, Mace has introduced a robot dog affectionately nicknamed “Dave” by the project team. Dave, based on the Boston Dynamics Spot the Dog, conducts 3D laser scans of the cargo tunnel currently undergoing refurbishment to comply with new regulations.
Dave is equipped with a Trimble X7 scanner, and operators can program missions into its internal computer, allowing it to autonomously traverse the site and complete scans without supervision. After completing a mission, Dave returns to its dock and uploads the captured data.
In the modern construction environment, data plays a pivotal role. This new approach allows the retrieved data to be compared with a 3D model of the site, facilitating accurate tracking of progress on the project.
The Future Workforce in the Industry
Automation is increasingly prevalent in modern life, and whether the industry embrace it or not, robotics and AI are advancing rapidly. This has led many to contemplate the future composition of the workforce in various industries. It’s important to note that robots will never replace humans on construction sites, but the industry’s skill set will need to evolve and expand.
Robots can effectively reduce risks for the workforce and enhance efficiency in construction projects, creating safer and more pleasant working environments. Ultimately, they will contribute to making the industry more appealing.
Furthermore, new and exciting roles will emerge. For every robot deployed on-site, an operator will be required. In the case of Dave, while it can autonomously perform missions, the initial mission input still necessitates human intervention.
For the future workforce, the adoption of robotics translates into a safer and more productive industry, with colleagues possessing diverse skills and mindsets.
What Lies Ahead?
Robotic animals like Dave the Dog exemplify how augmented reality technology’s development can enhance safety and project delivery. As this technology continues to expand, encompassing automated fabrication, robotic welding, and material handling on construction sites, the future of construction sites may undergo significant transformation. This transformation will necessitate the development of new digital skills within the workforce.
The construction industry recognizes the need for continuous improvement in risk management, reporting, training, and activity management. Utilizing data is essential to progress. To keep advancing itself, the industry actively seeks opportunities for enhancement and cultivates a culture of learning.
Construction delivery can be expedited when up-to-date data is employed to streamline workflows and enhance offsite prefabrication.
Heathrow’s cargo tunnel represents one of the pioneering construction sites in the UK to embrace this technology. If successful, the integration of robotics technology may extend not only at Heathrow but also to more conventional construction sites. This promises positive developments in safety, quality, and productivity for the sector.
With modern technology constantly evolving, predicting the exact appearance of future construction sites is challenging. However, if someone draws inspiration from the most advanced contemporary project sites, a futuristic landscape featuring robotic animals, drones, and high-vis-clad workers may not be as far-fetched as it may initially appear.