Updated: 05/20/2014 22:46

To save on construction costs, consider using robots: Khaw

To save on construction costs, consider using robots: Khaw

In a blogpost today, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan highlighted the use of robots as an example for potential productivity gains and labour cost savings in the construction industry. 

"Robotics is not new, but we hardly see them in our construction sites. The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will be happy to provide some funding support to help change the status quo," Mr Khaw wrote. 

Citing a robotic tiling prototype for automated floor tiling developed by researchers at the Singapore-ETH Centre Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) and ROB Technologies, the minister said the technology - still at a research stage and not commercially available - could reduce the use of manual labour by as much as 75 per cent and lead to "a four-fold jump in productivity". 

"One of the most labour-intensive processes in construction is tiling. Each year, over 40 million tiles are laid in new construction projects here. There is therefore great potential to automate the tiling process and make it more labour-efficient," he wrote. 

"If the robot becomes commercially available, the estimate is that the robotic tiling machine can lay tiles two to three times faster than the human tiler. An added advantage is that robots can deliver high precision and consistent quality. 

"Such a robot will be able to work alongside workers at a construction site and do the menial tasks of laying floor tiles while workers focus on higher-value added work such as refilling and grouting the tiles, and cutting odd-size tiles to fit the corners. 

"The arithmetics are impressive. While it takes two tilers two working days to complete a 3-room HDB flat, the same two tilers in two working days can do four such flats, if they have the help of four robots." 

The technology may have benefits beyond productivity gains, Mr Khaw wrote, citing the possibility of reducing risks of worksite accidents.

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