By Geoff Woodhead
I stumbled across an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal at the weekend, it detailed construction equipment maker Komatsu’s plans to offer increased efficiencies and ease the shortage of construction employees that is coming about as a result of Japan’s aging population. You can check the article out here.
For the majority of my career I have focused on leveraging technology to ease the daily functions of my job. Over the years the simple use of Excel alongside AutoCAD has saved me hundreds if not thousands of hours of repetitive work that just would not have been feasible had it needed to have been processed manually. This is a lot easier in an office environment than it is in a dynamic setting like a construction site but the concepts being put into practice by Komatsu have the potential to revolutionise both the safety and delivery time aspects of construction, delivering significant improvements to the public.
I have previously seen the Machine Controlled Graders, Excavators and Dozers and must say that I was pretty impressed at the time. They were expertly capable at their intended function, with graders usually achieving the desired grade on the very first pass. However, they did not have the ability to dynamically adapt to changes on the construction site. Instead relying on a pre-programmed instruction set that was generated from the manufacturer’s software. Much like the self-parking cars we are seeing more and more of they also required a person to be in the vehicle to control the forward and backward motion.
This next generation of automation on construction sites will abolish the need for an operative to be in the vehicle, allowing much of the early foundation work to be constructed solely by machines. They will be powered by a real time data stream being captured by drones provided by Skycatch Inc. who will constantly be mapping the site for changes (and swapping their own batteries out when required!!), this will ultimately allow for changes to be taken into account in real time and without the need for user interaction.
There is hope that some of the infrastructure needed for the 2020 Olympics could be constructed using this new technology. Japan have been at the forefront of technology and robotics for as long as I can remember so it is no surprise that they are trialling this first, how long before we start seeing these machines in the UK?
So the question is, are we edging closer to living in a world like the one depicted in Disney Pixar’s WALL-E? Will it happen this century or are we still some way off? Let me know your thought’s or experiences with automation in the comments below.