How Automation in the Construction Industry Cuts Time, Money, and Waste
The construction industry has remained unchanged for decades, despite unprecedented labor shortages, rising costs, and a desperate demand for safe, affordable housing. Buildings are still primarily created piece-by-piece by hand, using costly, unsustainable, and inconsistent materials like wood, nails, concrete, drywall, and paint. But now, automated construction is changing how we design, manufacture, and assemble the components of buildings to improve speed and safety while reducing costs and waste. Let’s look at some of the unexpected benefits of automated construction and how automation in construction may solve the major issues in today’s construction industry.
What is Automated Construction?
Automated construction uses advanced technologies and robotics to streamline and automate many of the processes in the construction industry. But robots aren’t zipping around, building houses. Not yet, anyway.
Instead, picture a modern automotive factory. Parts are fabricated rapidly at scale. Each part must be precise every time, down to the smallest component, or it won’t correctly assemble into the larger product. Human error is removed and replaced with advanced software, lasers, machines, and robotic assembly.
These same automation methods are now being applied to the construction industry. Instead of individual measuring, cutting, and assembly, a building’s components can be created in a fraction of the time, with less error and waste using technology and robotics.
Companies like Quantum Assembly are using automation in construction to:
- Save time and money
- Reduce waste and environmental impact
- Increase quality and consistency
- Improve safety
- Decrease reliance on manual labor
- Create buildings and entire city blocks at scale
Because of the degree of automation being utilized, Quantum Assembly is able to produce and ship buildings that arrive onsite 95% complete.
But what does all this mean for the construction industry as a whole? How can the benefits of automated construction improve an industry at its breaking point?
Here are the five most significant (and unexpected) benefits of automated construction:
1. Faster Builds and Shorter Time-to-Occupancy
In 2022, 72% of contractors reported that construction projects took longer than anticipated. Automated construction results in an overall faster build (compared to traditional hand-built construction methods) for many reasons, but here are just a few:
Elimination of human errors and rework.
We’re human. Robots… aren’t. Leveraging software and high-precision automated manufacturing methods means there’s less likelihood of building components that are ever-so-slightly off, saving you time, money, materials, and frustration.
Faster manufacturing and assembly.
Advanced automation means the building’s components can be rapidly produced at scale. Much of the building’s assembly is completed within the factory using a combined effort between people and robots, and the building can then be shipped to the prepared site already 95% complete.
Rapid on-site installation.
Because the building arrives on-site almost fully complete due to the in-factory automated assembly, the on-site installation takes about 48 hours. Compare this to a site-built, hand-constructed building, which can easily consume the better part of a year.
All this (and more) results in residents being able to move into a building in a fraction of the time it’d take to get a traditionally constructed building ready for move-in day.
2. Improved Safety and Decreased Reliance on Manual Labor
The labor shortage has affected everyone in the traditional construction industry, all the way down to potential homeowners. It’s understandably difficult to find high-quality employees willing to risk their health and safety performing difficult, labor-intensive tasks in the elements. Here’s how automated construction eliminates the construction labor shortage and benefits everyone involved:
Reduced need for spikes of seasonal labor.
Unlike on-site construction and most modular builds, automated solutions like Quantum Assembly’s pre-fabricated, pre-assembled buildings aren’t susceptible to weather damage. So on-site assembly can take place without seasonal concerns. This eliminates the inconsistent, seasonal demands for labor and replaces it with a consistent, year-round workforce of fabricators and on-site assemblers. Staffing is now easier to predict, budget, and retain.
Reallocation of staff to safer, higher-paying jobs.
While one of the benefits of automated construction is the elimination of labor shortages, this raises a concern that automation could completely eliminate jobs that people rely on. But many jobs will be reallocated, not removed. Instead of construction workers retiring early due to the job’s physical demands, they can be trained to operate the software and robotics producing the buildings. Developers can now focus on retaining a core ground of valued employees instead of worrying about finding as many hands as possible.
Minimization of on-site accidents and injuries.
In 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.7% of American construction workers missed work due to injury, and about 20% of all American worker fatalities were in construction, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Much of a building’s fabrication, build, and assembly can now be automated in a factory, and machines can handle many of the more dangerous tasks.
Automated construction solutions like Quantum Assembly allow for a decreased reliance on labor in an unprecedented shortage while reallocating existing employees’ skills to safer jobs.
3. Cost Savings
One of the most significant benefits of automated construction is the cost savings, which companies like Quantum Assembly want to be passed on to residents. The total build cost is reduced by:
Decreased labor costs.
Again, because increased automation reduces the need for large construction crews, labor costs decrease. Companies can instead focus on retaining a consistent core staff to oversee building manufacturing, assembly, and installation.
Reduction in material waste.
Only advanced technology and automation can yield this level of precision, resulting in a noticeable decrease in waste. Reducing human errors and material waste isn’t just saving money; it also cuts back on total build time and environmental harm.
Improved project budgeting and financial management.
High-level building automation has enabled companies like Quantum Assembly to produce entire buildings at a fixed price. The process is now so consistent and repeatable that everyone knows exactly what to expect and how to budget, with minimal fluctuation in total costs. No more projects coming in over budget.
Housing has become more costly than ever. With increased automation, affordable housing can be produced at scale, ensuring everyone can afford a safe, comfortable home.
4. Improved Quality and Precision
Many organizations have sought to rapidly produce affordable housing, often in wooden modular builds or “tiny homes.” These rushed communities often encounter disastrous living conditions after only a few months or years, like leaky roofs and cracking walls, mainly due to poor quality materials and construction methods. Automation allows for:
Adoption of superior materials for advanced technologies.
Unlike other companies, Quantum Assembly uses high-quality materials specifically designed for automated fabrication and assembly, solving the issues plaguing prefabricated buildings made from wood and drywall and improving the overall quality and longevity of the building.
Consistency in construction processes and fabrication.
Advanced technology, precision lasers, and factories designed for automation and efficiency have resulted in incredibly consistent manufactured components and assembled products. Hand-built homes of wood and nails are each one-of-a-kind, with one-of-a-kind flaws. Buildings that are mass-produced by robotics in a factory have eliminated this problem.
Enhanced accuracy in measurements and alignments.
Like in a tech or automotive factory, everything must be precise, or the product won’t work as intended. Automated construction has applied this same methodology to buildings. This increased precision results in faster, smoother on-site assembly, which can be completed within a matter of days.
Everyone deserves a safe, high-quality home at an affordable price. Our underserved communities deserve better than a leaky, modularly constructed “tiny home.” Automated construction is the only way to provide this. While plenty of companies attempt to produce affordable housing solutions, only Quantum Assembly has created affordable buildings at this scale and the highest quality standard.
5. Sustainability and Environmental Benefits of Automated Construction
Estimates indicate that the construction industry accounts for more particulate air pollution, water pollution, and noise complaints than any other industry. Automated construction demands different materials and production practices, which offer environmental benefits, including:
Reduced carbon footprint.
Unlike traditionally constructed buildings that rely on excessive amounts of finite materials like wood, drywall, paint, concrete, and fuel, automated construction requires more sustainable materials like recycled steel. Products like Quantum Assembly’s buildings never even require paint and provide a lower-maintenance home that produces less waste throughout its lifetime.
Efficient use of materials and resources.
Because of the precise nature of automated fabrication, fewer materials are required, and less waste is generated. Quantum Assembly produces steel-framed buildings with walls of patented panels — eliminating fragile and wasteful materials like roofing shingles, drywall, wood, and paint.
Integration of green technologies in automated construction.
The advanced machines and robotics utilized in the automated fabrication and construction of buildings are more energy efficient than traditional construction methods and produce a lower total carbon footprint.
One of the benefits of automated construction, as a whole, is reduced impact on the environment. Companies like Quantum Assembly are taking it a step further by equipping all buildings with high-efficiency appliances and ultra-efficient insulation methods to minimize the harmful effects of the modern construction industry.
Challenges and Limitations of Automated Construction
Any new advancement is going to encounter early-stage drawbacks and limitations. Automated construction is no exception. However, the problems of automated construction are minuscule compared to the benefits, and will likely find solutions soon. Some of the current challenges include:
Initial high investment and implementation costs.
Equipping factories with the necessary technologies to rapidly produce buildings at scale will have a high overhead cost. Fortunately, the cost to operate and maintain the equipment and robotics has been relatively low and is more cost-efficient than hand-built construction and heavy labor demands.
Need for skilled technicians and operators.
Staff must be trained in new manufacturing, assembly, and installation methods and the software that the automated technology requires. But like the operation of any large-scale factory, the processes are designed to be simple to learn and replicate. This also opens new career paths and skills for existing crews.
Potential limitations in complex or unique construction projects.
Construction automation is designed to be as streamlined, replicable, and efficient as possible. These buildings (and their components) are pre-designed and pre-fabricated, which offers a wealth of benefits. However, that also means automation is not a good match for complex, one-off architectural designs.
The current limitations of any technology should be acknowledged before the industry can find solutions to potential issues. Fortunately, the possibilities of construction automation far outweigh the limitations, and the benefits are already seen whenever the processes are implemented.
Quantum Assembly is on the Cutting Edge of Construction Automation
We’re just now beginning to understand the full scope of automated construction benefits, which will likely be felt for generations. But at present, the most striking benefits of automated construction are the significant reductions in:
The future adoption of automation in construction can benefit countless people, from construction industry professionals to the building’s residents and surrounding communities. In the AGC and ABB Robotics, 81% of general contractors said they’ll implement automation in their business in the next decade. Quantum Assembly is doing it right now.
More than anyone, Quantum Assembly understands that thoughtful, automated construction is the only solution to the critical issues of labor shortages, housing inequality, and climate change. And more than anyone, Quantum Assembly has developed unique innovations to deploy construction automation successfully at scale.
Contact a Quantum Assembly representative now to learn how they’re using the benefits of automated construction to benefit people and the planet.