The UK Government initiatives through the Construction Industries Training Board (CITB) and the construction industry in general continues to think in terms of migrating people’s skills.
What has been apparent for a long time is that with the UK’s an ageing population and the crutch of our cheap overseas labour being removed the time is right for the wholesale removal of people from the construction process. Companies like Laing O’Rourke are making the investment, but the rest of the UK construction industry seems oblivious to the tsunami of change about to hit Europe.
China with its ageing workforce is already making huge strides with true OSM and it won’t be long before we see Chinese companies bringing that technology to the UK and the EU. With automated factories and sites running 24 hrs day they will slash delivery times and cost. Soon to be legalised automated driving systems means even the delivery trucks won’t need drivers or be constrained by driving hours.
If the Chinese dont drive OSM the cost of second hand manufacturing robots will. A used robot usually seen in a car factory can now be bought for £10-15k (1/3 of the annual employment cost of a semi-skilled operative) and with 60,000 hours time left in the machine that is less than 25P per hour plus operating cost. It won’t be long before the change in our process is driven from the bottom up.
A look at this advert tells you what you need to know
In many ways UK construction stands on the edge of a new industrial revolution with the cost of automating construction dropping and entry levels cost being within reach of small companies and not just the largest the conditions to disrupt UK construction is well timed. It will soon be possible to create low cost production lines using second equipment manufacturing small construction elements for an investment of less than the cost of a UK house.
The CITB initiatives looks less like progress and more like King Canute. UK construction faces with the exception of maintenance being wiped out as an industry unless it changes rapidly.