Barriers to automation and robotics in construction


Many industries have widely adopted automation and robotics, but the construction industry has not reached the same level of adoption.

Construction is a critical global industry that must address productivity, safety, quality, and profitability issues. Automation and robotics have the potential to have a huge impact on all of these fronts, improving the efficiency and performance of construction projects.

Even though construction robotics technologies can improve productivity, there are many implementation challenges. This article aims to identify some of the key barriers to adopting automation and robotics in the construction industry.

1. Cost

The high cost of acquiring and maintaining these technologies is one of the challenges to implementing construction robotics. The high cost of the technologies implementation construction robotics where the automation technologies are so expensive. The purchase and implementation of the technologies are costly, and the firm with a good turnover and market competition can only afford these technologies. In addition, the automation technologies need to be updated and maintained, and most of them are expensive to update and maintain. Maintenance cost for the new robotics equipment normally is higher because of the need for a special technician to do the maintenance job.

2. Incompatibility of the technologies

Another bottleneck is the incompatibility of the technologies with existing practices and current construction operations. Workers prefer the former and proven solution instead of innovative methods and technologies due to the volatile and unpredictable nature of the construction environment.

3. Nature of the industry

The problem of fragmentation is the project process, whether conventional or modern construction methods are used. The fragmented nature of the construction industry inhibits the implementation of new technologies. The development of construction robots is technologically difficult because of the nature of the construction work processes. To work in construction where the robots need to be robust, flexible, high mobility, and versatile.

4. Technological usability

Technologies are difficult to use and not easily understood due to the difficulties of the software. The high sophistication of the robot control system becomes a more challenging part for workers in the construction industry who are more low education workers. Robotics technologies are sophisticated to control, especially in the programming procedure, and very difficult introduction in the construction industry.

5. Adoption by workers

Workers do not easily accept technologies in the working places. In some countries, active workers’ unions look upon these technologies as a way to replace the workers. This can show that the implementation of robotics in the building must fully support labor and management at all levels to bring the expected results. For example, In Australia, any attempt to introduce robots to a construction site must be based on a three-way negotiation between the men, management, and the union, where building union representatives must be convinced the use of robots in construction will not threaten their jobs.

6. Re-training of workers

Most of the workers in the construction industry worldwide are foreign, consisting of 93% are low-skilled labor. Hence, re-training construction workers become compulsory to upgrade skills for semi-skilled workers or through seminars and workshops to increase understanding of the technologies in the industry and on the worksites. Training problem provides the employees to interact with the new robotic equipment, which will take time and cost a lot of money in the financial output. Special training for the workers to operate the robots and the contractor must invest heavily in training and educating the workers.

7. Resources

The difficulties of implementation of construction robotics due to the high cost, and only companies with good turnover and market competition can afford these technologies. Limited resources are available to the medium and small-sized firms to adopt these technologies because every construction process is unique, and the same technologies are not appropriate for all conditions. Large companies have enough investments in teaching new technologies compared to small and medium firms.