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Construction companies turn to robots as they face worker shortage

Posted: 11:05 AM, Oct 05, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-05 15:05:28Z

Robot technology has been used in recent years across all kinds of industries. Now, construction companies are giving it a go.

Blueprint Robotics—based in Baltimore, Maryland—is finding robots especially beneficial right now, as the nation faces a critical construction worker shortage.

“There are four robots on this machine,” says CEO Jerry Smalley. “It cuts it nails it screws it trims, it drills.”

In other words, these machines do what people used to.

"Every other industry has brought automation to the solution. This is just an industry that's time is now to bring automation,” says Smalley. “We're no different than automotive, or aerospace, or medical, this is just our moment to bring automation."

Blueprint Robotics is one of a handful of robotic construction firms to enter the fray in the last couple years. The company is taking the concept of modular home construction to the next level, but they believe this method of construction can cut the time it takes to finish a job by 20 to 40 percent.

“It’s more precise, higher quality, less cost, less risk,” explains Smalley. “You know the cost of our product before we commence, a more predictable schedule, and at the end of the day a better just a totally better product.”

At Blueprint Robotics, there are still dozens of employees on the floor on any given day. They’re still needed. For example, once a robot builds a wall, an electrician will still need to install the wiring. Other workers on the floor are there for quality control.

Worker Roy Collins use to work at traditional job sites, but now, machines are doing what he did. He says it’s weird to see.

“Being in the industry 20 years I never thought this would be capable of happening,” Collins says.

Since there's such a shortage of construction workers as it is, industry experts say they have no concerns this method could take jobs away from skilled laborers, and in fact it could be good in the long run.

“As far as increasing productivity and holding down costs, it’s absolutely a good thing,” says Jeff Gwinn, with the National Construction Trade Association. “It’s not gonna hurt the industry at all.”

So, will places like Blueprint Robotics only continue to become more commonplace?

“Yes, It has to,” says Collins. “It’s quicker, better; you get a better product, material is better. It's a better way to build.”