Housing is trying to keep up with demand at a time when there is a labor shortage. Automating certain processes with robots is an attractive solution, not only for the productivity, but also to take away dangerous, monotonous jobs and let humans focus on skilled work.
As a teenager working for his dad’s construction business, Noah Ready-Campbell dreamed that robots could take over the dirty, tedious parts of his job, such as digging and leveling soil for building projects.
Now the former Google engineer is turning that dream into a reality with Built Robotics, a startup that’s developing technology to allow bulldozers, excavators and other construction vehicles to operate themselves.
“The idea behind Built Robotics is to use automation technology to make construction safer, faster and cheaper,” said Ready-Campbell, standing in a dirt lot where a small bulldozer moved mounds of earth without a human operator.
The San Francisco startup is part of a wave of automation that’s transforming the construction industry, which has lagged behind other sectors in technological innovation.
Backed by venture capital, tech startups are developing robots, drones, software and other technologies to help the construction industry to boost speed, safety and productivity.
Autonomous machines are changing the nature of construction work in an industry that’s struggling to find enough skilled workers while facing a backlog of building projects.
“We need all of the robots we can get, plus all of the workers working, in order to have economic growth,” said Michael Chui, a partner at McKinsey Global Institute in San Francisco.
“As machines do some of the work that people used to do, the people have to migrate and transition to other forms of work, which means lots of retraining.”
Workers at Berich Masonry in Englewood, Colo., recently spent several weeks learning how to operate a bricklaying robot known as SAM. That’s short for Semi-Automated Mason, a $400,000 machine that is made by Victor, New York-based Construction Robotics. The machine can lay about 3,000 bricks in an eight-hour shift — several times more than a mason working by hand.Read More