What do robots have to do with humanity?

Autovol Solutioneer fist bump with ABB Robot

by Rick Murdock, Autovol CEO and Co-founder

When some people think of robotics in a workplace, what might come to mind is a cold, mechanical, lifeless operation replacing humans. Yet, as we’ve worked to advance technology in construction, we’ve found just the opposite. Robotics and automation help bring out what’s great about people and the work they do. They raise the bar of humanity in construction.

Let’s start with the definition of humanity. In Webster’s dictionary, the top definition is “compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior.” Robots in construction today are far from a human replacement. What they are is human tools that free up people to thrive at work. In our industry, that’s never been more important.

In construction, we are facing a perfect storm of challenges. The average age of a construction worker is 48. As workers age out of their careers, tribal knowledge of skilled trades risks being lost. Young people entering the workforce may love the idea of building housing. But few are interested in trudging through mud on a cold, wet construction site wearing out their bodies doing back-breaking labor.

Back when I was onsite slinging hammers, heaving lumber, and climbing ladders, I always thought, “there’s got to be a smarter way than this.” That thought led to a career in offsite construction, and more recently, to augmenting modular plants with robotics.

When we started Autovol, we had a unique opportunity. We had a clean slate, and a lot of experience in the trenches. We had a vision for using robotics. We gathered all that experience and looked at all the things in our industry that we had wished could be improved.

On the operations side, we set about finding the things hardest and most mundane for people, and developed robotics systems to do those things. Developing robots as our new set of tools, we’ve made the work more accurate, productive, and humane. With robots and company leaders serving the people, we empowered the people closest to their tasks to find smarter ways to do them.

A system of robotic automation has freed us up to focus on building the kind of work environment and culture we’d always craved. We identified ourselves as a family of game changers, owners, innovators, and builders. A family this special should have its own name, and we gave it one: Solutioneer.

All of this work has paid off. In just a few short years, our Solutioneers have built America’s highest-producing volumetric operation for multifamily housing. Just as important, we’ve enjoyed a culture that has been recognized as a Top Workplace for three years running, and our home state’s #1 workplace. With a huge shortage of housing and people to build it—and an industry where everyone longs to go home with a smile and a joyful heart—we think we’re on to something.

Rick will be speaking on this topic at World of Modular on March 20. Hope to see you there!