Automation and robotics are disrupting all industries. However, their impact is being felt most particularly in construction these days, considering the technology has not had much penetration into the sector yet. Construction sites present tougher challenges, because of their unpredictable environments and the presence of humans, which is why automation efforts have been limited to the periphery, such as using drones to keep track of building materials. While productivity in U.S. manufacturing, retail and agriculture has increased as much as 15 fold since 1945, the construction industry has remained flat. Rates of productivity for building single-family homes, for instance, had only increased at a rate of 1.1% per year between 1987 and 2015, compared to an average of 2.2% a year for other industries.
In a similar show of lacking efficiency, it takes about half a million work days to erect a 30-story office tower, a number that hasn’t changed much over the years. With at least a million workers set to leave or retire from the construction business over the next decade, a massive labor shortage threatens the already problematic situation . . .