Robotics that have the ability to automate and bring productivity to this vertical are attractive for the following reasons:
- Labor shortage/understaffed
- Low digitization/adoption of technology impeding productivity
- Cost and schedule overruns are normal
- Of the sub-verticals in construction that tend to cost the most
- Lack of funding to address labor shortage
A key trend I’m watching in construction robotics is
the rise of prefab and modular construction. Rather than starting each building from scratch, work is shifted into an assembly plant which leverages a high degree of automation to lower costs, minimize mistakes, increase safety and accelerate project timelines.
I’m also intrigued by
robots pursuing the monotonous, painstaking tasks foundational to construction. These robots deliver value quickly with a clear, measurable ROI for customers.
We are interested in the
full lifecycle of construction, but the design phase offers a lot of opportunities to improve performance, introduce new products, processes and reduce costs, so we will continue
to look at tools that simulate as much as possible in bits before the more expensive processes of moving atoms.
One wrinkle to robotics in construction is the GC-subcontractor relationship. Everyone in a manufacturing plant is employed by the plant owner.
On a construction site, 80%+ of the people do not work for the GC.
Each structure is a one-off, so efficiencies through repeatability and division of processes are the challenges where construction robots can make a real difference in the following ways.
- Bespoke pre-fabrication
- Digital twinning and project management
- Complementing the labor force
The job site is a very idiosyncratic place where things often happen not according to plan. Therefore, our investment thesis focuses on
tasks that are simple and easily replicated. These categories include autonomous grading vehicles, robots that can lay bricks and robots that can accurately measure interior and exterior space.
Construction is an industry that has been
unable to adopt digital transformation due to its unstructured and disconnected nature. Tech companies of the last few decades have largely focused on industries that can easily be networked and analyzed as a bit-stream (media, finance, etc).
With the proliferation of sensors and manipulators, the construction industry is just beginning to see opportunities for automation