German construction companies are suffering from a growing shortage of skilled workers. One possible solution: automation. The use of robotics on construction sites can relieve craftsmen, simplify processes and change the image of the construction industry in the long term.
Solution for the shortage of skilled workers
The German construction industry is booming. In 2018, companies received orders worth 79.5 billion euros – the last time such a result was achieved was in 1994. But construction companies are lacking in new talent: 60 percent of the training positions in building construction and civil engineering were unfilled in June 2019.
The main reason for the shortage of skilled workers is the negative image of the industry, with work being considered dirty, strenuous and poorly paid. Digital innovation is needed to counteract the shortage of skilled workers and to modernize the construction industry: According to estimates, 80 percent of the work involved in the construction of a building could be carried out by robots in the future – provided the right conditions are created.
The changing world of work
“In automated construction, all processes are optimally coordinated with each other – from the production of individual components to quality assurance and the assembly of the day structures and exterior walls,” says Professor Thomas Bock, head of the Chair for Building Implementation and Building Robotics at the Technical University of Munich, in the TEDx talk Stuttgart. He is convinced that construction robots will revolutionize the working world. In numerous pilot projects, robots are already drilling holes in heavy concrete parts, transporting outer walls or – within just one week – they can lift an entire building.
How robots can revo-lution architecture and wood construction
New job profiles
The advantages are obvious: faster and more efficient implementation, fewer construction errors and lower costs. In addition, in future it will be possible for robots to take on dangerous, monotonous and physically demanding tasks in particular. This will create new job profiles: In the future, craftsmen will cooperate with robotic and computer systems and devote themselves increasingly to administrative and creative tasks, such as planning individual construction projects or the further development of construction processes.
Implementation in medium-sized companies
Companies and universities are currently working hard to make the use of construction robots accessible and affordable for small and medium-sized enterprises. In 2019, for example, a project by the University of Stuttgart in cooperation with KUKA and Müllerblaustein showed how robots are already being used in practice today. Two KUKA KR 500 FORTEC robots produced an innovative lightweight wooden pavilion for the Bundesgartenschau.
And at RWTH Aachen University, an interdisciplinary scientific team is conducting research together with a European industrial consortium on the construction site of the future by means of digitization. Research topics will include many issues from preproduction of construction elements to fully automated construction sites. The reference construction site, a pilot project, will serve as a reality laboratory. New construction processes and products, networked machines, the implementation of robots, software solutions, as well as teaching, working and communication concepts will be tested under real construction site conditions here.