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Henning Roedel, head of robotics at DPR, is an advocate for the use of technology on construction sites.
Through his studies at Stanford University, Roedel became involved with Scandinavian general contractor Veidekke Entreprenad AB, via the university’s Center for Integrated Facilities Engineering.
Now, Roedel is playing a major role in the adoption of contractor technology in Redwood City, California. As the company’s main proponent of using robots in their jobs, Roedel likes to be selective about their requests, and to make sure the company has a good reason to include them in projects.
Here, Roedel talks with Construction Dive about his experience, his advice for young people, and DPR’s plans to roll out the technology in the future.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Structural Diving: What do you think are the most exciting technologies available on the market for contractors at the moment?
Henning Rudel: Given the focus of my work, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention robotics; I think it has a lot of potential and it gets a lot of attention because of the potential. It’s very exciting, and in fact, we’re at the beginning of what it could ultimately achieve for the industry.
Right now, and on a larger scale, we’re seeing a convergence of technology – from self-driving cars to battery technology – hitting the market; And construction robots take advantage of all of this to generate amazing tools. The industry is also ripe and ready to make everyday life safer and more productive. It’s something all construction companies need right now.
How do you push for more technology adoption, especially if people are resistant to it?
It’s a fine balance – but at DPR, we’re fortunate to have a core value of Ever Forward, helping to remove many barriers to trying and introducing new technologies. It encourages innovation and adoption to become a pillar within the company, as opposed to a one-off or something in the background. It’s part of the culture here.
Also, we have a lot of respect for our employees’ time at work sites. Always ask first before pursuing a pilot.
Do you find that people have problems with adoption? If so why?
Making change is difficult, especially in construction, where your attention is divided in so many directions.
But our primary goal with technology is to make sure it solves problems, versus creating new ones; And generally in DPR, everyone understands and appreciates that.
Since we have a strong history of embracing technology, we know how to tackle many of the challenges that come with it.
It also gets easier over time. As technology becomes more advanced, certification becomes easier.
How are bots analyzed in DPR? What are some of the new tech pieces you’re using?
We’ve had two new deployments with drywall bot Canvas and Hilti Robotics. We’re also continuing to follow more conversations – and I think revealing my new role more broadly has helped entrepreneurs go directly to me.
Right now we have a pilot in the works surrounding the crane payload stabilization technology which I think holds a lot of hope, particularly in terms of on-site safety.
What would you say to young people looking to enter the industry? What about your contex specifically?
In the past five to eight years, we’ve seen a whole new area of R&D hit our industry; It was the biggest revolution and opportunity for growth in construction since I was alive. I think it’s a very exciting time for young people to get involved – whether it’s directly within operations, or indirectly through the technologies that serve our industry.
For those interested in or who would like to join the construction workforce, my advice is to ask yourself a few basic questions in order to figure out which path you want to be in: Do you like working indoors or outdoors? Do you like hands-on work or would you rather be in front of a screen?
Answering these questions will first get you to the place that is best for you; There are spaces for everyone in this industry.
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