Robots gaining ground on construction sites

With high investment costs and variable work locations, innovation in the construction sector has proven to be challenging. But as new technologies threaten to disrupt the industry and push traditional businesses out of the supply chain, many firms are taking action, and Europe is leading the way.

According to a report published by ING, there are 1.2 robots per 10,000 workers in the construction sector in Europe – higher than the US, which has 0.2, and China, with 0.1 robots per 10,000 workers.

“European builders are frontrunners when it comes to robotisation,” said Maurice van Sante, senior economist at ING. “However, there is still variation between European countries. The Netherlands and Belgium score highly compared to the UK and Germany. High wage costs in these countries mean that robotisation is more likely to be financially attractive. In the last few years, building production has also grown faster in the Netherlands and Belgium, which meant there was room for new investments, including robots.”

Despite European construction companies leading the way, construction continues to lag behind the manufacturing sector. There are approximately 160 robots (per 10,000 workers) in EU manufacturing compared to 1.2 in construction.

“Robots may be able to perform various activities in construction, but high investment costs are an issue,” said Van Sante. “Compared to manufacturing, not all construction activities can be carried out in a factory building, which means that the transport of robots from one construction site to another continues to be a challenge.”