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Adopting Automation in Construction: Three Obstacles and How to Overcome Them

Technological advancement has dramatically transformed the way construction companies conduct their businesses in the 21st century. Many years ago, manufacturing and fabrication were done manually, increasing the time taken and inaccuracies.

Today, automation technology can be of great advantage for construction companies as they help improve efficiency and performance on construction projects. They can improve safety at jobsites, and easily and quickly handle complex tasks without making mistakes, which is highly valued by construction managers. Some of these types of automation include:

  • Autonomous machines on the construction site
  • Drones to survey working areas and employees
  • Robotics in concrete works
  • IoT sensors to collect and process data
  • Virtual reality during project planning and training
  • Information technology (IT) used to create, store, retrieve, and disseminate information

In today’s competitive business landscape, construction firms rely on automated technologies to advance their objectives. Innovative technologies like construction bidding software also help contractors successfully win businesses. If you are curious about successfully bidding a construction project, check out this blog post:

However, despite benefits, automation adoption in construction is slow, as many contractors are still beholden to traditional methods fearing challenges in managing change. In this article, we aim to help you overcome three key obstacles on the path of integrating automation technology.

1. Cost

Significant costs are involved in acquiring, installing and maintaining automated technologies. This is one of the biggest obstacles that has resulted in very few construction companies adopting automation technologies. These technologies need to be updated and maintained so as to improve their overall efficiency and productivity. This may require high capital expenditure due to the fact that they need a special technician to do the maintenance job.

2. Automation technologies are unavailable locally or difficult to acquire

In some countries, the technology may not be commercially available or is difficult to acquire due to certain legal restrictions.

Moreover, according to a research study, many managers are reluctant to invest in automation technologies and of those that do usually provide limited strategic planning to ensure its efficient implementation.

The motive behind this hesitation in automation investing may “stem from a lack of perceived return on investment (ROI) on IT expenditure and a project focus that seeks to achieve the full return on process investment from single projects,” the research reveals.

3. Lack of technological knowledge

New technologies are sometimes difficult to use and not easily understood because of the difficulties of the software. Today, about 93% of the workers in the construction industry are unskilled. Due to the lack of knowledge about the use of automation technology, it has become difficult introducing them into the construction industry. “Many project staff may have low IT literacy and fear changing their work practices to embrace innovative IT applications and tools,” wrote R.A. Stewart, one of the researchers.

How to overcome these obstacles?

The solution to the obstacles of adopting automation technologies in construction are as follows:

1. Overcoming automation cost & maintenance

Just as we have previously mentioned, the high cost of acquiring and maintaining automation technologies is a major obstacle to adoption. That being the case, construction companies that greater productivity can apply for a loan from the banks at a low-interest rate. Government incentives should also be given to construction companies, contractors, and builders who want to use innovative methods in construction.

Automation technologies need regular updates and maintenance to function properly. This will result in the increased productivity of machines or in construction projects.

2. Overcoming automation technology unavailability

Construction firms must tap government resources to access automation technology. Whether through overseas partnerships or home-bred R&D, firms must lobby government support to build grounds for automation technology to thrive.

What is more, when it comes to acquiring automation technologies, the available resources or funds for small and medium-sized companies are reduced when compared with big construction firms. Large construction companies have sufficient investments to afford these technologies, unlike small and medium firms.

Hence, to overcome this obstacle of improper funding, construction companies should tie up with others so they can easily adopt automation technologies. They should collaborate in order to purchase these robotic technologies and use them together.

3. The solution to low technological knowledge

Automation technologies are not as easily accepted by field workers since they have little to no operating knowledge. Therefore, consideration should be given to training and re-training of construction workers to improve the rate of adopting automation in construction.

Special training for workers to operate these robots will also increase their understanding of the technologies in the construction industry and on jobsites.

Regularly providing workshops and seminars to educate and train construction workers on how to operate these robots will also increase their understanding of these technologies in the construction industry and on the jobsites.