Robots in Construction: A Changing Workforce

June 30

Even though you frequently hear about robots taking jobs from humans, this dystopian warning has been more speculated than practiced. By 2018, slightly under 10 percent of manufacturers were using industrial robots. But prototypes for construction robots have come a long way since they were introduced in 1979. Here’s a look at where robots in construction are today.

Read on: How IoT Is Transforming Civil Engineering

Automating Construction Work

Even though the real world has a lot of catching up to do with the science fiction world when it comes to robots in construction, amazing developments have been achieved. A 2017 McKinsey report has assessed that 47% of work involved with construction can be automated. At the same time, many of the areas where robots would be the most effective are uncontrolled outdoor environments, where robots can experience operating difficulties.

Industrial robots can be used in construction to do much more than physically assist with building structures. They can also be used to provide visibility, identify and help solve construction issues, as well as track performance. The McKinsey report suggested it will take decades before industrial robots reach their full capacity at construction sites. Some of the ways in which robots are currently useful include the following:

Overcoming shortage of skilled workers – When the labor market experiences gaps for certain skills, robots are the perfect solution to maintain business continuity and efficiency.
Reducing workplace injuries – Humans can avoid dangerous assignments or physically repetitive tasks that can be performed by robots. Not only can robots lift heavy objects, but they can also operate remotely in areas where dangerous chemicals are present.
Cutting operational costs and waste – Robots can do assignments faster and with more precision than humans. They also don’t get sick or fatigued from monotonous work.

Keep on reading: How IoT is Changing the Construction Industry

Uses for Robots in Construction

Robots are capable of helping construction projects in numerous ways from bricklaying to climbing tall structures. They are particularly useful for moving heavy equipment in disaster relief scenarios. Here are some other ways robots are solidifying their positions in workforce:

Factory-built Prefabrication – Various construction elements can be built as modules off-site by robots in factories before being transported and assembled on-site.
On-site 3D Printing – Several structures including bridges are now being built with 3D printers which themselves can be considered robots. They can handle various tasks from installing components to applying finishes.
Scanning Duties – Robots are effective at scanning processes that track construction performance, especially when integrated with AI technology. Scanning helps pinpoint project details to ensure proper installation.

Preparing for Robot Infiltration

Before rushing into purchasing a team of robots, it’s important to plan your application of robotics strategically. First, you need to assess your operation to identify areas where an automated robot can be useful – which usually means tasks that are too dangerous or boring for humans. You must further assess the consequences of deploying robots over humans to ensure you’re not weakening another part of your organization.

Your planning should examine how well robotics improves efficiency for your specific operation. Don’t forget robots can be useful for automated scheduling and verifying tasks have been completed.

An emerging dimension of robotics is called Building Information Modeling (BIM), in which robots are able to capture data through scanning. The robot can then send data to the cloud and draw information from multiple sources to arrive at recommendations driven by machine learning software. This ability contributes to project planning and making structural modifications.

Read more: How IoT Sensors Are Paving the Way Toward Smart Cities

Another algorithmic technology contributing to robotics is Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM), which allows mobile robots to map their positioning in a complex environment.


The rise of robots in construction will continue in the coming years to make construction projects more safe and efficient. Advancements in automation and AI for indoor and outdoor robots will be crucial to this evolution for accelerating projects. Ultimately, with the help of robots, construction companies will maximize production efficiency and improve product quality.

Johannes Beekman

About the author

After 25 years in engineering, Johannes Beekman founded IoT Marketing with the goal of helping companies bring wide-scale awareness to their inventions. He received a Master of Science in Physics degree from the Eindhoven University of Technology, and a Master in Business Administration degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and started his career in the semiconductor field. Johannes pioneered two successful wafer fab startups for Philips Electronics; one in Europe and the second one in Asia. And served as Senior Program Manager for Sematech, where he provided solutions for semiconductor industry-wide product improvement and cost reduction challenges. Johannes has also published articles on several trade-focused websites.


AI, construction automation, construction management, robots, smart construction

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