It is not new knowledge that automation was assumed to be a great threat to human laborers in the construction industry. A lot of media reports added fuel to the fire stating automation in the construction business will kill jobs and robots will take over the entire scene. And even expert studies were shown as proof to support these statements. Calling the introduction of automation an alarming threat, experts refused to accept automation in the industry that deeply impacted the business for a few decades.
However, everything proved wrong.
Is this an alarming situation for workers? It is not true that automation will take away jobs but instead it enhances productivity and augments worker skills.
Potential for Automation
When we see the construction industry in detail, a few occupations in construction have a higher scope for automation, such as operating engineers which has an 88% potential for automation. A big reason for this scope is because autonomous heavy equipment already exists, using similar technology for self-driving cars and when we automate the field completely, more activities, such as excavation, grading, and site work can be done more efficiently and faster. To ensure this part, equipment manufacturing giants, such as Komatsu, CAT, Volvo CE, and others are in the move to invest heavily in research and development to perfect the technology. More good news is yet to arrive.
There are also occupations where automation can be done but at a low rate. Some sectors include roofers (31%), construction laborers (35%), and sheet metal workers (39%).
Why we cannot completely automate these tasks?
This is because few tasks require human involvement and technically it is not feasible to replicate the physical work done in construction at one go because these tasks are highly unpredictable and ever-changing in nature.
Industry experts opine that automation in construction business is possible only in areas where unpredictable physical work is less than 38%. Otherwise, it is highly challenging and the outcomes can be negative. They also predict that only 5% of all occupations across all industries have the potential to be completely replaced by machines.
Most construction jobs are safe
Is it true that automation in the construction business will rob the jobs? For beginners, there’s already a labor shortage created by the Great Recession that the construction industry still hasn’t recovered from it. Moreover, the construction business is at an all-time high. With older workers aging out and retiring and the younger generation not flocking in droves to careers in construction, there is a high demand for the workforce. That means, there is no alarming situation as feared out.
The construction industry is highly notorious for its reluctance to adopt new technology that impedes growth in business. In addition, technology solutions are also not highly available to freely experiment in construction companies.
Automation will augment the construction work
At present, automation is tried at simple, repetitive tasks and that is the reason we see it implemented in or jobs such as that. Once launched automation helps to work continuously to complete tasks faster than human workers without needing to take breaks or go home for a good night’s sleep. You already know that robots don’t get tired from lifting bricks, applying mortar, and setting them in place, or constantly bending over to tie rebar.
To an extent, it is true that a few jobs may disappear in the future. Automation in the construction business would either eliminate these job profiles or machines may replace humans to perform these tasks. However, human laborers will be needed for tasks that are not repetitive and needs imagination and creativity. That proves, human workers are safer even if automation takes up the construction business completely.