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Construction turning to technology

Swiss giant, ABB, has said that it is looking to tap into a skilled labour shortage in the fast-growing construction sector to help drive the post-pandemic recovery of its robotics business as it looks to diversify away from the automotive industry.

Hit by the downturn in the auto sector, the company is looking around for new opportunities and has focused in on construction.

According to ABB, construction offers new opportunities with a vast number of infrastructure programmes planned as governments look to chart a route out of the pandemic.

According to Sami Atiya, president of Robotics & Discrete Automation at ABB, "There is huge demand for affordable housing and more sustainable solutions, and a shortage of skilled labour.”

The company has said that it’s seen a huge interest in automation from the construction industry which suggests a significant change in attitude and approach from the sector.

The construction industry has been slow at adapting to and implementing new technologies and is described as being ‘somewhat behind the curve’ in the adoption of technology.

The news from ABB suggests that this is beginning to change. Not only are robotics and automation becoming more attractive but the use of technology from artificial intelligence through to UAVs and wearable devices is also accelerating, as the industry grapples not only with labour and skills shortages but with supply chain disruption and stricter health & safety and environmental regulations.

As with many other industries technology is going to play a central role in boosting the sector’s productivity and performance, but it’s fair to say that the construction market has been hampered by technical challenges. Projects can be large, complex and geographically dispersed and investing in technology can be hampered by subcontractors being at different stages of the digitalisation process.

According to market research by ABB, some 81% of companies have said they will start using or increase their use of construction robots in the next 10 years.

ABB expects sales of robots into construction to jump by around 20-30 per cent per year, that compares with growth of 3-5 per cent in the automotive market.

Construction is fast becoming a key market for robotics and other technologies and while it’s where automotive was around 50 years ago, it looks like it’ll become a major market for technology companies.

Neil Tyler

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