Construction is as far from a Silicon Valley darling as you can get—and that’s why it’s ready for automation

Construction is as far from a Silicon Valley darling as you can get—and that’s why it’s ready for automation
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Construction technology may seem like the opposite of a traditional Silicon Valley sweetheart, but a new startup views it as untapped potential.

Built Robotics, which dubs itself “a new kind of construction company,” is using automation to add efficiency and safety to increasingly dangerous construction sites. The company, which announced its first project today (Oct. 18), is launching with a focus on excavation—an area of construction that is already suffering a lack of skilled workers in the US. Built Robotics’ automated track loader, a small construction vehicle for digging and loading materials can be seen above excavating a portion of land at the touch of a tablet button.

Built is one of the first in the space, but it isn’t the only company to recognize the opportunity. It has already drawn the attention of sector-building investors like Aaron Jacobson and Founders Fund.  Construction Robotics, which uses a robotic arm to lay bricks was also an early entrant to the field.

While automation is seen as a job-killing force in transportation and retail, construction faces a a shortage in skilled workers. Eighty percent of construction businesses in the US had troubling finding qualified skilled labor, according to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America. The National Association of Home Builders reports slightly less bleak numbers, but points to a similar trend.

Shortages aren’t quite as high for excavation jobs, but construction businesses still report trouble finding qualified workers. Forty-four percent of business owners reported some or serious shortages when trying to find excavation labor, according to the NAHB.

Automation also makes sense specifically in the construction industry due to the controlled, highly virtualized environment. Nearly all modern construction jobs are mapped in four-dimensional digital models (the fourth dimension being time), which means the automated equipment already has a detailed plan of the required task.

Other industries have started to automate the process of moving materials as well. The mining industry has been particularly proactive in trusting automated trucks to transport raw materials from job sites. Made by Japanese construction equipment manufacturer Komatsu, the trucks have already hauled one billion tons of material in Australia and Chile.

Built Robotics has raised $15 million in a Series A to scale production and get to market.