The Future of Building: the Robot Bricklayer

Western Australian innovation set to change the building sector on a global scale.

Charlotta Kemp by Charlotta Kemp,

We spoke to Mike Pivac, Chief Executive Officer of Fastbrick Robotics – winner of the ‘2016 WA Innovator of the Year,’ about disruption and the future of building.

How does the term ‘disruption’ apply to your innovation and the bricklaying industry?

The term “Disruptive” has a different context to different audiences. For instance, in this day and age, if your project or Technology is not considered disruptive it is very hard to raise interest and funding as things that successfully disrupt an industry have huge value creation potential. On the other hand, in industrial relations circles, the term disruptive means change and displacement of people, which is the downside to anything new and innovative. As a blue collar person at heart, I have and will continue to try and implement this new and exciting technology as responsibly as possible given its disruptive nature and the impact that it may have on some people. I also want this disruption to improve and lengthen the careers of people in the construction sector, and reduce the cost to companies and home buyers, so there is plenty of positive upside to what we are striving to do.

Describe your creation in two sentences.

A machine and system that will produce efficiency gains and improvements in the areas of speed, accuracy, safety, waste and cost. It will also allow builders and construction companies to better plan and forecast delivery times, better use available funds, improve the overall customer experience with their clients, and move the bricklaying component of construction into the 21st century.

Can you provide a brief technical rundown on the robot?

The Hadrian machines will be manufactured and supported to operate in accordance with construction customer expectations. The cost of the machines and the business model will be communicated to the industry in due course. We expect a relatively short return on investment with a strong business case to encourage companies to transition to automated brick laying.

Fast forward five years in time: how would you describe Fastbrick Robotics?

I believe that in five years’ time we will be on an amazing growth path implementing the machines into all parts of the globe. We will have other interesting and unique robotic construction machines and tools either under development or being commercialized, and we will be a reputable global brand in the digital construction arena

Will there still be a human factor to the work carried out by the robot?

We anticipate a three person crew.  At least one of these will be a qualified bricklayer to ensure quality assurance and to supervise the overall building site activities.  Importantly, we have eliminated repetitive and heavy lifting, mixing of cement, planks, drums and hoses from the site. The machine operator and site labourer will conduct their roles mostly in an air-conditioned cabin environment

Which markets are Fastbrick Robotics currently looking at?

We are currently scoping our preferred first adopters in each country or region. There has been much interest from all parts of the globe, even in low labour cost countries which is very encouraging and has broadened our views on the potential reach of this technology.

Do you have any advice to other Western Australian start-up companies wanting to make it overseas?

Persistence, perspiration and patience are the three main ingredients to any successful venture. Think and move fast, sacrifice precious equity to raise funds and remember it is better to own a small part of something big, than a big part of something small.