There is little workforce and what there is, in general, is old. They are the main reasons given by the Obayashi company (one of the five most important construction companies in Japan) to start a trial, which consists of a dam that is being built by robots.
With a structure 84 meters high and 334 meters wide , the goal is for it to be completed by March 2023.
To carry it out, the company has developed automated equipment that is responsible for stacking layers of concrete. In addition, it has built an outbuilding where sand and gravel are mixed to create the concrete. The chosen place has been the prefecture of Mie, on the southeast coast of the main island of Japan.
The information, published in Nikkei Asian Review , highlights that building an infrastructure of this type requires knowledge and skills that people have been acquiring for years. What they have done, says Akira Naito, head of the Dam Technology Unit in Obayashi, “has been transferring expert techniques to the machines.”
A dam built by robots, but with humans operating the cranes
The body of the dam that is being built by robots in Japan is made – always according to information from the aforementioned media – by pouring concrete into 15-meter square partitions . The cranes that release the concrete are operated by computers , which, in turn – for safety reasons – are controlled by humans.
Machines are also responsible for brushing uneven layers, a task of the utmost importance in the construction of a dam, since there cannot be the slightest crack.
Despite the fact that Obayashi has made a strong bet on this dam built by robots, the company acknowledges that productivity has only grown by 10% , since they still need to have humans in place, who are alert to act in case of something goes wrong. Naito, however, points out that, in the future, “it is possible that we can reduce construction time by 30%”.
Autonomous excavators and dump trucks so construction doesn’t stop 24 hours a day
Obayashi is not the only Japanese construction company to replace humans with machines . Kajima, one of Japan’s oldest construction companies, has developed autonomous excavators and dump trucks so that construction doesn’t stop 24 hours a day.
This automation process responds to the progressive aging of the workforce in Japan : according to the Japanese Federation of Construction Contractors, 35% of workers are 55 years or older. Also, they explain in Nikkei, the strict regulations on overtime – which will come into force in 2024 – are helping to drive this trend.