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Construction lags manufacturing sector on uptake of robots

23 June 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Europe is leading a worldwide shift towards greater use of robotics in construction, but some countries, including the UK and Germany, are lagging behind others.

That’s according to new research by economic analysts at bank ING, who found that there are 1.2 robots per 10,000 workers in the construction sector in Europe. But in the UK, that figure falls to 0.3 robots per 10,000 workers, while Germany has 0.8. The Netherlands and Belgium each have 1.5. 

The report, European Builders: Frontrunners in Robotisation, also highlighted that although the use of robots is on the increase, the sector still lags far behind manufacturing. In the EU manufacturing sector, there are around 160 robots per 10,000 workers.

Meanwhile, the construction market in the US has 0.2 robots per 10,000 workers and China has just 0.1.

No of robots per 10,000 workers, 2017. Source: World Robotics, National Bureau of Statistics of China and Oxford Economics, processed by ING economics department

The report found that in Europe, each employee has access to €9,900 (£8,800) worth of machinery, which is just a fifth of the value of machinery available to EU manufacturing workers.

Maurice van Sante, senior economist at ING, said: “European builders are frontrunners when it comes to robotisation. However, there is still variation between European countries. The Netherlands and Belgium score highly compared to the UK and Germany.

“High wage costs in these countries mean that robotisation is more likely to be financially attractive. In the last few years, building production has also grown faster in the Netherlands and Belgium, which meant there was room for new investments, including robots.”

He added: “Robots may be able to perform various activities in construction, but high investment costs are an issue. Compared to manufacturing, not all construction activities can be carried out in a factory building, which means that the transport of robots from one construction site to another continues to be a challenge.” 

To read the full report, click here.

Image: Ekkasit Jokthong/Dreamstime.com