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Japan turns to 'building robots' as workforce dwindles


A robotic lifting arm and remote-controlled bulldozers are some of the innovations being rolled out on Japanese construction sites as the country’s workforce shrinks and gets older, said a report.

The move to automation comes as trade body the Japan Federation of Construction Contractors estimates that there will be 1.28 million fewer construction workers by 2025 compared with 2014, reported GCR.

It shows that a government push to integrate high technology into the construction sector, called “i-Construct”, may be bearing fruit after its launch in 2015. Ministers are concerned that productivity in Japanese construction has lagged far behind other sectors.

In 2015, some 30 per cent of all construction workers were aged 55 or over, while those below 29 accounted for only about 10 per cent, according to official figures, stated the report citing the Kyodo New agency.

“When we think about the shortage of workers 10 years from now, this is the last chance for the government to invest and conduct radical reform in the construction industry”

Construction giant Kajima has started using unmanned, automated dump trucks, bulldozers and vibrating rollers with GPS systems at its building sites. A single worker can direct the preprogrammed machinery using a tablet computer, it added.

Another major construction firm, Shimizu Corp., has developed an arm-shaped robot that lifts heavy reinforcing rods (pictured).

While it normally takes up to seven people to manoeuvre one 200-kg rod, this machine needs only three workers to direct the robot and place the rod. The robot is now being leased out to construction sites, it added.

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