Automation is advancing ahead at a rapid pace.
Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are two areas that are making progress faster than most anticipated. There are still many who dispute the idea of technological unemployment and that automation is going to destroy jobs faster than it can create them. This viewpoint is based upon historic impacts of technology. Unfortunately, we never were in an era where we saw such progress.
Many still believe robots are clumsy and ineffective at replacing humans. While this was the case a few years ago, we are quickly seeing this theory dispelled.
A construction company in Japan is taking this to a new level. Mie Prefecture is a project that is being done by the country's 5th largest construction company. The dam is being built almost exclusively with robots, although there will be humans involved to monitor the robotic operations.
On this project, the efficiency gained will be rather low. It is estimated that it will be only 10%, which is a rather large sum on a multi-million dollar project.
The company hopes to push the efficiency up to the 30% level. This project is lower due to the human intervention that is being used to make sure everything properly.
One of the keys that is going to reduce humans in the process is placing concrete slabs.
Like many dams, this dam will be built up using concrete “forms” or slabs. The raw material for these forms will be poured by robots and the finished, dried, hardened form will be lifted and placed by the robots.
Typically, in order to place concrete forms correctly, a group of human workers would work in a co-ordinated way, along with a human operating a manual crane.
This human labour-intensive process has now been eliminated entirely from the Obayashi dam project.
Quite simply, this is a story that is going to repeat itself over the next few years. I wrote a number of articles detailing how 3D printing is already starting to be seen in the field, building affordable housing. One such project is creating an entire community in Southern Mexico.
Construction is moving towards another area of manufacturing. While both produce products, manufacturing is decades ahead of construction when it comes to automation. The fact that the environment is controlled in plants. Construction has a lot more variables on site. This makes automation a lot more difficult.
Technological breakthroughs in this area would seriously start to push down prices. Construction ends up consuming a lot of money since it deals with large ticket items. A 40% reduction would have a serious impact across the board on prices.
The real estate market amounts to trillions of dollars. When we are looking at such a large part of the total economy, reducing costs adds up.
That is the power of automation, especially if the human element gets removed.
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