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Automated equipment in construction

By Simon Willson
March 1, 2024

The Benefits of Automated Equipment in Construction

Automation has been on the agenda across industries for some time now — for better or worse. Practices that might have only been discussed as hypothetical or experimental just a few years ago are now a tangible reality. 

In construction, technologies such as unmanned machinery, intelligent compaction systems and drones are being widely used, radically transforming the way buildings and infrastructure come to life.

Consider drones surveying landscapes from above to capture detailed site data. Remote-control rollers to get more precise compaction results. There’s a range of innovations helping people work in conjunction with high-tech tools to get the job done more efficiently, cost-effectively, and safer than ever before.

While the construction industry’s suitability for automation poses risk for the amount of jobs available, the opportunity to adapt and embrace new automation equipment is huge.

Construction topped the list as the industry most likely to be hardest hit by the coming wave of automation. The construction industry had the highest proportion of routine and manual tasks with high potential for automation.

However, Australia is the most prepared and second least at-risk country from automation, with investment in its future workforce a significant factor.

Benefits of automated construction equipment

Improved efficiency and productivity

Automated equipment, from drones to robotic arms, are revolutionising how construction tasks are performed onsite. Drones, for instance, are used for aerial surveys, providing accurate measurements and real-time data more effectively than traditional methods. 

Bricklaying robots can work continuously, significantly reducing the time and labour required to complete menial tasks.

Source: Realestate.com.au

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) has reported that when operating equipment with machine control, some construction companies have seen productivity improve by 30-50%.

Enhanced safety measures

Worker safety is one of the top priorities in construction — and automated equipment can alleviate many onsite risks. 

Robotics and automation minimise human exposure to hazardous tasks and environments, directly reducing accident rates. Wearable technology and sensors help monitor workers’ health and safety in real-time, preventing potential accidents and injuries.

According to Safe Work Australia, the rate of work-related fatalities has decreased by 30% over the last decade. The most common cause of worker fatality is vehicle incidents, while other causes include roll-over of non-road vehicles, and being trapped by machinery or other mechanisms. Therefore, any automation that can reduce human proximity and operational error can have a huge impact on reducing the number of tragic incidents that occur onsite.

Cost savings

The initial investment in automation technology is offset by considerable cost savings over time. Automated equipment reduces the reliance on manual labour for starters.

In autonomous construction sites, drones conduct site surveys and inspections, while 3D printing creates various building parts. GPS and RFID technologies monitor materials, tools, and staff to streamline logistics and manage stock. 

To ensure accuracy, 3D laser scans or aerial maps assess the ongoing work against digital models, tracking progress in real time. This also helps to flag the need for potential adjustments immediately, reducing the need for corrections later on. This precision results in fewer errors and reworks, saving materials and further reducing expenses. 

A study by the Boston Consulting Group predicted that digitalisation in non-residential construction could lead to annual global cost savings of up to $1.2 trillion (or 21%) in the engineering and construction phases from 2016-2026.

Addressing the labour shortage

The construction industry has been grappling with a labour shortage for over a decade. Automation and artificial intelligence are providing innovative solutions to address this issue. 

Traditional manual data entry, crucial for invoicing, order tracking, credit collections and reconciliations, is now streamlined through AI. This automation allows accounts staff to put their energy towards more strategic tasks, elevating their roles beyond routine data management.

In design, AI can help to fast-track the creative process for architects and engineers. AI tools facilitate the rapid generation of photo-realistic concepts, enabling more informed stakeholder buy-in.

AI’s predictive capabilities are also transforming technical design aspects such as rebar detailing. By analysing previous layouts, AI can recommend efficient rebar configurations, streamlining the design phase and reducing the time spent on manual calculations. While AI doesn’t replace the need for human expertise in construction by any means, it can be integrated into processes to simplify decision-making and workload.

Types of automated equipment used in construction

By improving precision, safety, and productivity, equipment with automated elements such as drones, autonomous vehicles, robotic arm systems and intelligent compaction rollers have made a significant impact on industry practices.


Thanks to their ability to fly over sites quickly and reach areas that are difficult to access, drones are ideal for a range of tasks. 

In surveying, drones collect topographic data with high accuracy, enabling precise planning and groundwork. For building inspections, drones equipped with cameras and sensors can easily identify structural issues, material degradation, or compliance deviations, minimising the need for scaffolding and manual climbing. 

Drones are also used in progress monitoring functions. They provide real-time aerial footage that helps project managers track developments, manage resources effectively, and maintain project timelines.

Autonomous construction vehicles

Autonomous site vehicles, such as self-driving trucks, excavators, and bulldozers, are equipped with GPS sensors and programmed to respond to AI algorithms. These technologies enable them to operate in complex construction environments with minimal human intervention.

Self-driving trucks transport materials across sites, optimising logistics and reducing delays. Autonomous excavators and bulldozers can perform excavation, grading, and site preparation tasks around the clock, improving project speed and reducing labour costs.

A prime example of autonomous construction vehicles are Conplant’s Unmanned Rollers. They operate without the need for a driver on board, reducing risk and preventing possible worksite shutdown.

Robotic arm systems

Robotic arm systems offer unprecedented precision and efficiency in tasks like bricklaying, concrete pouring, and welding. 

Robotic arms can lay bricks much faster than manual methods, with the added advantages of continuous operation and consistent quality. In concrete pouring, robotic arms ensure precise control over the flow and placement of concrete, reducing waste and improving structural integrity. 

For welding tasks, robotic systems provide accurate, high-quality welds, essential for structural strength and durability. These robotic systems not only speed up construction processes but also contribute to worker safety by performing high-risk tasks in place of humans.

Intelligent compaction and automation systems

Intelligent Compaction and Automation Systems leverage real-time data to optimise the compaction process.

Systems like Völkel intelligent compaction and navigation equipment measure, monitor, document and control compaction processes. They ensure smoother and better-quality levelling for both earthworks and asphalt projects, enhancing quality and stability.

By integrating such systems, construction projects can achieve higher standards, reduce the risk of rework, and ensure compliance with stringent specifications — a significant step forward in construction technology.

Looking to improve onsite safety and productivity? Check out our Innovation & Safety automation solutions.

Technical and operational barriers

While automation offers many benefits for construction, it’s not without its own challenges.

Data quality and availability

Automation relies on accurate, timely, and comprehensive data to perform tasks and make decisions. However, data quality and availability can vary depending on the source, format, and standardisation of the data. For example, data from different sensors, devices, and systems may not be compatible or consistent, leading to potential errors or inefficiencies.

Connectivity and interoperability

Automation also depends on secure, reliable connectivity and interoperability among various technologies and stakeholders. Connectivity can be affected by environmental factors such as weather, terrain, or interference, while interoperability can be hindered by technical or regulatory barriers.

Technical limitations and failures

Technical limitations and failures can compromise the performance, quality and safety of construction projects. For example, automated equipment can encounter situations that are beyond their capabilities, such as unexpected events, complex tasks, or human interactions, requiring human intervention or supervision. Automated systems can malfunction or break down due to hardware or software issues, such as bugs or cyberattacks, requiring maintenance or repair.

Legal and security issues

Automation can also create legal uncertainties or conflicts, like who’s liable for the actions of automated technologies? Or how to protect the intellectual property or privacy of the data involved. Lastly, automation can pose security threats, including unauthorised access, manipulation, or sabotage of equipment or data.


To overcome these technical and operational barriers, project and industry leaders need to invest in research and development, while properly engaging with both stakeholders and regulators.

The future of automation in construction

The adoption of automated equipment in construction isn’t a passing trend; it’s a transformative step toward a smarter, more efficient future. As automation continues to evolve, we can anticipate more sophisticated applications of AI, drones and autonomous vehicles, further improving project efficiency, safety and sustainability. 

This evolution requires a focus on workforce training and integration strategies, while addressing initial investment concerns that might be hindering the industry’s full potential. We’re on the brink of a technological revolution, promising a future where automated systems and human expertise collaborate to achieve unprecedented levels of precision and productivity

One thing is certain — construction industry practices will never stand still.

Want to see how you can leverage automation tools on your site? Get in touch with our team.

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