For a while now there’s been a lot of talk – and concern – about whether or not robots and artificial intelligence (AI) will soon replace human workers. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, it’s estimated that more than 5.1 million jobs will be replaced by robots across all industries by the end of 2020, with half a million of them being construction jobs.
In America, a study by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI) estimated that robots could replace or displace 2.7 million jobs in the construction industry in the country by 2057.
While there are some who have a higher potential for automation, like machinery operators (88%), there are quite a high number of other construction occupations that have a much smaller potential to be replaced/displaced by robots. Part of the reason why roofers (31%), construction labourers (35%) and sheet metal workers (39%) are less likely to be replaced is that it’s not technically feasible to replicate certain tasks using robots.
Because of the rise in awareness and the prominence of modern methods of construction (MMC), it’s worth noting that robots and AIs fall into Category 7 of the MMC definition framework.
Category 7 is intended to encompass approaches utilising innovative site-based construction techniques that harness site process improvements falling outside of the previous categories. It includes factory standard workface encapsulation measures, lean construction techniques, physical and digital worker augmentation, workface robotics, exoskeletons and other wearables, drones, verification tools and adoption of new technology-led plant and machinery.
Self-driving vehicles, computer-controlled manufacturing robots, drones and large-scale 3D printers are just a few of the robots promising to take over traditional construction activities such as materials handling, packing, cutting, bricklaying and rebar tying. Here’s a list of some of them: