Maintain Productivity Amid a Skilled Worker Shortage With Hydrodemolition Robots
If you had to guess, what would you say is the number one concern of today’s contractor? Managing tight deadlines? Ensuring worker safety? Keeping up with developments in technology? How about input costs?
According to the Associated General Contractors of America, what keeps contractors up at night is the availability – or more accurately, the lack – of skilled labor. In fact, 80% of firms expect it will remain difficult to hire qualified workers in the coming months due to older workers leaving the profession during recession years and younger workers seeking less labor-intensive jobs. In addition, the world construction market is projected to grow 85% by 2030, adding stress to an industry already struggling to keep up with demand.
The circumstances for concrete repair contractors are particularly challenging. In an October 2019 news release, the Portland Cement Association predicted cement consumption would continue growing over the next 2 year – +1.7% in 2020 and +1.4% in 2021 – all while the skilled labor force continues to dwindle.
To add to the dilemma, contemporary concrete demolition methods are not exactly scalable; the only way to increase output is with more workers. Many concrete repair contractors rely on manual concrete removal methods, such as pneumatic paving breakers or hand lances that use a high-pressure water jet. However, some contractors are finding a productivity boost from another type of equipment: compact hydrodemolition robots. The system allows a project to be completed as much as 10 times faster than with hand lances, reducing fatigue, labor costs, and improving safety and quality of work along the way.
More Work, Fewer Workers
Some manufacturers now provide the same advanced technology of standard hydrodemolition robots in lighter, smaller systems. At a fraction of the cost of standard machines, compact robotic hydrodemolition systems provide a cost-effective mode of entry for concrete repair contractors who want to add hydrodemolition technology to their operation.
The Cost of Being Tired
Hand lances cause workers to fatigue quickly because they must resist back thrust as they operate the water jet. A worker using a 2,000 bar (30,000 psi) hand lance must constantly fight up to 240 N (54 lbf) for normal operation. The physical exhaustion translates to less productivity and greater cost for the business owner.
Remote-controlled compact robotic hydrodemolition systems, however, combat worker fatigue. Ergonomic controls mounted at waist height allow operators to work for hours without tiring, improving productivity and allowing concrete repair contractors to scale their operations without spending more on labor resources.
Productivity from Safety
Compact hydrodemolition systems allow operators to stand back from the area where concrete is being systematically removed, keeping them safe from flying debris and silica dust. And unlike hand lances or handheld pneumatic tools, these compact robots do not require workers’ bodies to absorb any shock from the concrete removal process, preventing injuries to hands, wrists, shoulders and backs that are common with regular operation of handheld tools.
Since compact hydrodemolition robots can be mounted on standard scaffolding and work in tight spaces, including next to ledges, concrete repair contractors also save the time of setting up fall abatement systems. Operators can remain a safe distance from fall risk areas, eliminating the need for time-consuming assembly and tear-down of these systems.
Eliminating the Power Struggle
Achieving a high water flow rate and reaction force is vital for water jetting tools to achieve the depths of removal necessary to complete most concrete structure restoration jobs. The lower flow rate of hand lances makes it difficult to remove concrete beyond a depth of 13 mm. While hand lances can only safely offer 19-23 l/min, compact hydrodemolition robots can safely handle about 100 l/min. These machines can handle up to 1,000 N (225 lbf) of reaction force compared to hand lances.
What does this mean in terms of productivity? Imagine a large parking lot in need of spot work. Bringing a hand lance to the job may get it done, but much slower than robotic alternatives. Compact hydrodemolition robots can remove concrete at rates of 0.3 m3/h, compared to just 0.02 m3/h for a hand lance. That means a job completed over 10 times faster with a compact hydrodemolition robot rather than a hand lance.
The robots can also be programmed to maintain a specific depth of removal, a feat impossible from handheld water jetting tools. Constant depth control eliminates the unknowns in performance, giving concrete repair contractors more control of their projects and assurance that they can meet promised deadlines.
Rest for the Stressed
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