Bricklaying robot to build 55,000 homes as machines take over manual work
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One of Australia’s most famous automation exports, robot bricklayer Fastbrick, is heading to Saudi Arabia, with a deal to build 55,000 homes by 2022.
Under the deal, which is yet to be finalised, Fastbrick (ASX:FBR) would supply up to 100 “Hadrian X” robots to help Saudi Arabia’s goal of building 500,000 new houses over the next five years.
Fastbrick’s shares jumped 43 per cent to 25c after the announcement. Its shares have traded between 3c and 28c over the past year.
One robot could build a house in three days, compared to four to six weeks for a team of four human builders, Fastbricks director Gabriel Chiappini told Stockhead.
“The Hadrian X, working in standard conditions, will be able to lay about 8000 bricks per day,” he said. An average house is about 15,000 to 16,000 bricks.
“The whole digital construction sector around the world wants to be able to [adapt] robots from industrial environments,” Mr Chiappini said.
Fastbrick’s Hadrian X is just one example of the impact of sector-reforming technology in unsuspecting industries.
Machines will unburden the average Australian of two hours of tedious, manual work a week over the next 15 years, according to a new report commissioned by Google.
Most of the change will come from workers switching to different tasks within the same jobs, as machines take over an increasing load of repetitive, routine work, says The Automation Advantage report, prepared for Google by strategic advisor AlphaBeta Advisors.
Automation could deliver a $2.2 trillion productivity boost to Australia’s national income between 2015 and 2030 including $1 trillion from accelerating the rate of automation, and $1.2 trillion from transitioning the workforce.
The report says automation will reduce routine and manual work, making our work safer, more satisfying and more valuable. The report defines automation as the process of using machines to perform tasks that would otherwise be done by humans.
While Fastbrick’s robot will massively reduce the number of man hours required to build a house, Chiappini says it still needs a human to load bricks into the machine and a qualified bricklayer to sign off on the work..
Domino’s Pizza Enterprises’ media splash about drone deliveries in New Zealand last year may have just been good PR, but it’s illustrative of the kinds of jobs companies want to outsource to robots.
Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are the poster companies for automation in the mining sector, rolling out driverless trucks and trains in their Western Australian mines.
Strenuous physical jobs are disappearing on factory floors, and routine administrative jobs can increasingly be done without human workers.
On the flip-side, more jobs are being created in community, personal and business services, and other specialist professionals that rely on uniquely human skills such as thinking creatively and being able to understand people’s emotions, the report reads.
The report cites a number of examples where technology is already changing the nature of human jobs.
Retail workers are spending less time ringing up items at the register and more time helping customers. Teachers are spending less time recording test scores and more time assisting students. Bank employees are spending less time counting notes and more time giving financial advice.
However, Australia lags global leaders in automation, with 50 per cent fewer firms engaged in automation compared to leading countries.
AlphaBeta Advisors director Andrew Charlton says the report uncovers an important issue that affects a lot of Australians.
Australia needs to be bold enough to lead changes, he says. This means embracing technology’s potential to make workplaces more productive. It also needs to take steps to prevent Australia’s most vulnerable workers from sliding into unemployment.
“We set out to understand the opportunity that Australia has on these technologies, and look at the risks of not adopting automation technology.
“We found that 9 per cent of Australian companies are engaged in some automation — many of those are in the mining sectors, but there’s huge scope for much more significant up-take,” he says.
“Automation isn’t a force we can stop. But Australia’s economy has a lot to gain if we manage to avert the employment risks that come with growing machine use.”
AlphaBeta takes macroeconomic analysis and translates in into actionable advice for its clients, enabling them to pre-empt the implications of local trends. It has offices in Sydney and Singapore.