The world is becoming more modernized and populations are growing rapidly without the proper building structures to house them. The builders in the construction industry are experiencing a labor shortage resulting in a harder time keeping up with the growing housing demands due to population. 

The Rising Labor Shortage

According to The McKinsey Global Institute, the productivity in construction has decreased by more than half since the 1960s. One of the biggest factors playing into this is the shortage of educated and properly trained workers in the construction industry. 

When the recession in 2008, over 600,000 construction workers left their jobs. Construction has created a reputation for itself of being dangerous, difficult and hard work, and dirty. Because of this reputation, more job seeking individuals are turning away the opportunities of construction jobs. Millennials are striving to get a four year college degree and enter the workforce when in reality they don’t always need a college degree. They can get a high paying job in construction and rest assured with job security. 

As of April this year, there are 434,000 vacant jobs in construction that are open for potential candidates. This is threatening the ability for construction teams to build structures at the same rate that the population is growing. Because of this shortage, contractors are having to subcontract other workers in order to get certain aspects of the job completed on time. 

There are many corporations that are working to fill the gap in labor and startup construction again. VC’s put over $3.1 billion into construction technology in hopes that the tech would take the place of physical humans. Most of the money that was put into this plan was for home builders to optimize the overall productivity within project management and communication on the job. As of now, none of these softwares and platforms have filled the gaps in labor as much as developers hoped it would. Now the research is being done to see if using robots in place of the actual software and applications would be the saving grace in the construction industry. 

With this research taking place, there are many questions being asked by developers like what tasks will they be able to accomplish? Can we program the robot to complete basic duties that a physical human could? Are robots really the answer when it comes to filling a gap in labor workers?

Currently, the robotics are created to take the place of subcontractors and their duties on job sites. The use of robotics has been implemented in excavation, drywall installs, painting, roofing, and much more. Many companies are using this in place of existing machinery while other startup companies are using robotics for self-operating machinery, similar to self-driving cars. 

There are three hurdles and issues that have been identified with using robotics:

  1. Integrating robotic machinery into an already functioning jobsite
  2. Working off of plans and maps that are already in use and adjusting them as the job is completed 
  3. Being able to execute a job and complete it at the same standard as a contractor

Risk and Cost

The question that is being asked in regards to this situation is if we didn’t take on robotics in construction before, why would we now? While the use of robotics is thought to be cost-effective and would increase productivity, there are many concerns that are still being discussed. 

The risk and the cost of using robotics on construction sites is a concern among everyone involved. The ability to get data on the costs of materials and overall operations is very hard due to the fact that every jobsite is different. This is the average cost of materials on job sites:

  • Painting – 1.0% 
  • Roofing – 2.5% 
  • Drywall – 2.5% 
  • Mixed Metals – 2.5%
  • Excavation Support – 4.0%
  • Orn Metal – 2.5%
  • Earthwork – 3.0%
  • Tile – 1.0%
  • Carpet – 0.5%j
  • Demolition – 4.0%
  • Elevator – 5.0%
  • Electrical – 5.2%
  • Mechanics and Plumbing – 15.0%
  • Façade – 22.0%
  • Structure – 28.0%

This data is on a scale of 0% to 30% of the overall costs on a construction job site. The maturing of construction robotics is continuing to evolve. Alongside this research and data is more research to show whether or not the use of robotics helps or hurts the overall cost and budget of a construction job site. 

Do you think construction robotics will fill the labor gap? Or do you think they will be a risk to the industry?