Scaffolding robot buttresses tipping construction industry

Like few other sectors, construction is being inundated with robots and technology.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

Did you know there's a $50 billion global scaffolding industry? Nearly all of it is put up manually.

That makes scaffolding, the exterior structure used during building and maintenance, a prime target for automation. A company called Kewazo is finding success with a material-handling robot aimed at scaffolding installation called Liftbot. The company just closed $5 million in Series A funding and joins a growing pack of robotics developers taking aim at construction.

"So many aspects of the construction industry stand to benefit immensely from robotic intelligence and RaaS offerings," said Puneet Agarwal, partner at True Ventures, which participated in the round. "The Kewazo team has a strong track record and proven solution that addresses a significant need in a critical part of the industry. We're excited to fund this team and help them expand to new verticals in construction and other markets."

Construction is a hot area for robotics development because it's inefficient and hasn't had a technology makeover in decades. The sector has not kept pace with innovation or productivity. As a result, there are massive inefficiencies in the industry. According to KPMG's Global Construction Survey, just 25% of projects came within 10% of their original deadlines. When it comes to megaprojects, like large infrastructure projects, McKinsey found that 98% are delayed or over budget. 77% are more than 40% behind schedule.

Robots, drones, and big data are considered key technology categories to address these inefficiencies. Companies like Rugged Robotics, which makes a line marking robot for the grid chalk lines used in every construction project, and Kewazo are keying in on this opportunity while wisely staying hyper-focused on a particular need area. If automation in sectors like inspection and logistics serves as any guide, robots will find toeholds in the sector via extremely niche jobs that site managers see value in automating. Automation firms often stumble by developing robots for multiple use scenarios, which tends to increase price and complexity and raise the adoption threshold.

Liftbot makes assembly more efficient by automating manual material transport. With minor adjustments, the technology can be applied to additional tasks such as insulation, painting and other on-site material transport. Data, of course, is behind much of the technology revolution in construction. Liftbot collects operational data and provides it to customers in the form of a data analytics platform. Those insights aid planning and improve profitability, and customers benefit from faster, more predictable projects. 

"Since our Seed-Investment in 2018, Kewazo has come a long way from prototype to the marketable and robust Liftbot system. Having True Ventures now leading the Series A round takes the company to the next level and we are proud to further support Kewazo's international development", states Matthias Guth, MIG Venture Partner and Kewazo Board member.

According to the company, the first batch of Liftbots has been successfully delivered to key customers in the EU markets. Prospective projects worldwide include scaffolding assembly at greenfield projects and maintenance jobs at construction sites, oil and gas refineries, power plants, and shipbuilding yards.

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