How smart automation enables precast concrete plants to specialize and adapt production capacity quickly and flexibly.
Evolving challenges for the construction industry …
The material shortages caused by disrupted supply chains have barely begun to dissipate, but the construction industry is already facing new challenges. Financing and profitability are being squeezed by rising construction interest rates, high realization costs and the economic slowdown. The impact is already being felt in new residential construction. Vonovia recently announced that it was postponing plans to build 60,000 homes.
This does not bode well for building and construction. To be sure, in some of the trades, parts of the freed-up labor and capacity can be used to carry out much-needed maintenance and renovation work on existing buildings. But this is a worrying development not only for renters and those looking to buy, but also for the industry in general. The decline is still confined to residential construction, while commercial and infrastructure construction remains comparatively robust. But until recently, this was also true for the construction of new homes in a country, where the shortfall of housing is estimated to at 700,000+. Moreover, rising costs are already causing the first financing and budget bottlenecks in infrastructure construction, which is often paid by notoriously cash-strapped municipalities.
… and how they affect precast concrete plants.
But what does this mean for an industry that is already under considerable pressure to change – think digitalization and skilled-labor shortages – and whose productivity has been lagging well behind the German industrial average for years? How can companies like precast concrete plants that have little ability to shift production to maintenance and renovation work respond to increasingly volatile markets? And how to diversify production to become more flexible?
The benefits of industrial prefabrication are undisputed: more reliable quality control, increased production, less on-site assembly and, above all, a higher degree of standardization and specialization of the processes are just some of the advantages that also benefit the operators of precast concrete plants. However, when it comes to production flexibility, the classic precast plant faces a dilemma. It takes time and money to retrain and build up the expertise of an already slimmed-down production and quality assurance personnel, the same goes for the design and manufacture of new formwork. Then there are the logistical demands, such as storing old formwork. All of this makes changing over from one system to another time-consuming, costly, and prone to errors.
Robotic 3D printing for flexible production and wide-ranging specialization
Automation in general and, in the case of precast plants, mouldless robotic 3D printing in particular, provide an ideal solution for flexible and extensive production specialization:
- New and optimized part geometries can be easily loaded from a catalog and quickly put into production.
- Once trained on the robot, workers are capable of producing a wide variety of components at a consistently high level of quality.
- From the very first component, extensive sensor technology ensures a high level of process reliability, providing robust data for quality assurance and lifecycle BIM to increase value.
- Mouldless printing eliminates or greatly reduces the time, cost and material intensive production of formwork.
In addition, the Robotic Shotcrete Printing (RSP) technology at the core of our Concrete Aeditor offers further unique advantages:
- Unlike most other printing methods, our standardized shotcrete-based process allows for the integration of any type of reinforcement.
- The spray nozzle moves freely in 3-dimensional space and can thus produce highly optimized component geometries. In this way, the use of concrete can be reduced to what is structurally necessary, resulting in substantial material and weight savings.
It is only through intelligent automation that prefabrication can unleash its full power. In 3D concrete printing, techniques and processes vary widely. Concrete Aeditor offers a unique range of capabilities which not only streamlines the production processes in precast concrete plants, but also provides unprecedented production flexibility combined with wide-ranging specialization. A “squaring of the circle” that could not be achieved in a professional and economically viable way with either traditional production processes or individual, highly specialized automation technologies.
If you want your precast concrete plant to be able to respond quickly and efficiently to economic developments and market trends and to cover a broad product portfolio flexibly and at the highest level of quality, then get in touch!
+++ References (in German)
Hochbauprognose 2023. Renovierung bremst den Rückgang. Studie von EY Parthenon vom Juli 2023.
Ausbaufähig. Wie die Baubranche ihre Potentiale entfalten kann. Studie von EY Parthenon und BayWa AG vom April 2023.