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The complete robot? The human-machine interface in temporary off-site construction work

Dowsett, R., Harty, C. and Davies, R. (2017) The complete robot? The human-machine interface in temporary off-site construction work. In: 9th Nordic Conference on Construction Economics and Organization, 13-14 June, 2017, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, SWEDEN, pp. 93-103.

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Increasing prefabrication has long been a holy grail for construction work. The potential of small-scale robots for performing tasks alongside the increasing digitisation of construction information offers new possibilities for exploiting off-site construction more flexibly and at more modest scales than previous visions of total automation. Previous task-specific methods of system design have typically involved a limited range of standardised operations, with cutting, drilling and fixing being foremost. However, more adaptable and configurable processes, utilising these emerging technologies and oriented to short production runs may offer a more viable approach. However, innovation brings challenges, not least in reconfiguring the socio-technical relations and expectations around existing work processes. Automation requires defining new human- machine interactions, and rehearsing organisational, cultural and skills changes necessary to facilitate this. This paper presents and describes research currently underway at the University of Reading examining the challenges associated with this. The empirical focus is on the pilot stage of a project that is developing the concept of ‘Flexible Robotic Assembly Modules in the Built Environment’ (FRAMBE). Drawing on theory from the Information Systems (IS) field and concepts relating to the interface between humans and robots a review of the current practice and implementation approaches of robotics and automation in the construction industry is presented along with the proposed research approach and analytical framework adopted to systematically capture skills needs and culture change throughout the pilot project.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions:Science > School of the Built Environment > Organisation, People and Technology group
ID Code:74719

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