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Robotic process automation (RPA) is a cutting-edge software technology that is automating construction processes, making tedious tasks simpler and manageable. The goal of this technology is not to fully replace human labor in construction; rather, it's to make construction tasks more viable.
Robotic process automation is the use of contemporary technologies such as software or programming to automate construction tasks that need a significant number of human resources.
In the construction industry, RPA is often used to execute repetitive and rule-based activities. RPA is a powerful tool for automating complex building activities and reducing project costs and duration.
Most construction companies are preferring RPA due to its versatility that makes it suitable for use on a construction site as well as in an office setting.
The following section would discuss some of the applications of RPA that make it an effective tool in construction.
Applications of RPA
Although RPA is more valuable and effective in office management, it doesn’t imply that it is not effective in on-site activities. RPA can increase efficiency by doing the following tasks on site:
1. RPA can be used for precise and accurate layout surveys. It can be used to lay bricks, with accuracy, according to pre-defined patterns.
2. RPA would help in strategizing and planning for cutting of raw material. This can reduce waste produced during the application of materials.
3. It can be used for manufacturing high-quality raw materials on construction sites. It is largely effective where raw materials are not procured but prepared on site.
4. 3D printing building supplies.
5. RPA can be used during the demolition process to avoid any safety hazard i.e., robotics for razing buildings.
6. RPA can help with the storage of construction materials. It can assist with the safe and efficient packing of material without compromising on its inherent traits.
A lot of construction firms suffer from cash flow problems caused by inefficiency in the generation of accurate invoices. Generation of invoices is quite a rigorous process and requires a lot of backup data, time, and human effort. A single invoice consists of several supporting documents. Compiling these auxiliary documents requires 8-12 hours of manual human effort.
Here, RPA can be used to streamline different activities and compile documents using simultaneous operations. However, there is a need for a certain RPA design that would include information on tasks needed to perform for generating invoices. Once this RPA design is implemented, this process of invoice generation can be reduced to minutes from hours.
Thus, RPA would save human resources and decrease the time required for the process. This would also eradicate any issues related to cash flow for construction companies.
2. Document Management
Construction companies store documents, plans, and drawings in the form of an outdated folder system. This document management system has several inefficiencies including misplacement, errors, and loss of documents. This, in turn, has a detrimental impact on overall construction activities. Moreover, finding the precise placement of folders is difficult and time-consuming.
The RPA process can be beneficial in this regard too. All documents are scanned in high quality and users don't need to locate folders each time. RPA tool would automatically find the exact location of the required folder and save the documents in it. RPA enhances the management results to improve construction costs, time, and quality.
Construction companies need to hire employees that have skills and knowledge about construction activities. The manual recruiting process requires face-to-face interviews even for basic information. This process of recruiting is time-consuming and there is room for errors too.
RPA can scan various employment sources like Linkedin to hire recruits with desired credentials and skills. RPA design would require basic information like education, experience, skills, and certification. RPA will help to find suitable recruits based on that information.
4. Cost Monitoring and Control
RPA also helps in establishing a cost baseline based on an accurately generated estimate report. Cost estimation is a rigorous process if done manually and there are great chances of errors in it. RPA tools offer software or programming which needs basic information related to suppliers, materials, contractors, and drawings to generate estimated reports automatically. RPA would perform all the calculations with accuracy which is quite an impossible task for a large-scale, complex project if done manually.
Based on these estimates, daily, weekly, or monthly, cost reports can be produced for understanding the demands of a project.
Challenges of RPA
Although RPA offers plenty of inventive tools and methods, there is still a lack of its application in the construction field. Most of the construction companies' employees are not familiar with RPA and they need proper training for its effective use. The lack of knowledge can lead to inaccuracies in several construction operations. This can compromise the quality of projects resulting in delays as well as an increase in costs.
Furthermore, these RPA tools are costly to maintain because there is a regular need for upgrades and hardware.
RPA is a beneficial concept for the construction industry, but all the positive effects are directly related to its implementation. The core purpose of RPA is to increase the efficiency and value of the finished product. The construction industry can achieve its major objectives (time, cost, quality) with little training of staff through this modern tool.