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Sisk uses block-lifting robots in European first

29 August 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

The robot has a specially designed 'gripper'.

John Sisk & Son claims to have become the first contractor in Europe to introduce robotics to construction projects after investing €150,000 (£136,000) in a new type of lifting robot – but has insisted that it won’t replace human workers.

The robot, known as a Material Unit Lift Enhancer (“MULE”), was developed by the New York-based company Construction Robotics. It is now operational at Sisk’s residential Wembley Park E05 site in London.

A trained construction worker can manually handle the blocks into place using the MULE’s specially designed gripper, also created by Construction Robotics. The lift assist device can handle material weighing up to 61kg, reducing fatigue and injuries among workers.

Sisk also claimed that it increases productivity by between 50-400%. But it added that the robot would not replace bricklayers or masons, instead improving their working conditions and enabling them to focus on other aspects such as the pointing of brickwork.

Meanwhile, Sisk has partnered with building materials firm Tarmac to develop special oversize blocks, which are 890mm long - twice as large as a standard 100mm thick concrete block. The new larger, heavier block can be safely manoeuvred into place thanks to the lifting capacity of the MULE and Sisk claimed it has a significant effect on increasing build productivity and efficiency.

The lift assist device can handle material weighing up to 61kg

The machine is being used in the construction of a multi-storey car park comprising 140 car bays, 650 bicycle spaces, 77 coach bays and 202 accessible parking bays. The car park will form the base of a new residential development next to Wembley Stadium, offering 458 Build to Rent apartments.

Sisk said it would also start using the MULE on its other construction projects in Ireland and the UK in the coming months.

Sisk CEO, Steve Bowcott, said: “I am delighted to announce that Sisk now has a fully operational Material Unit Lift Enhancer at our Wembley Park site. At Sisk, we are always looking at new, innovative ways to enhance productivity and make conditions safer for our workforce.

"This development further demonstrates that Sisk is leading the way in terms of the introduction of innovative construction solutions to construction projects and we look forward to utilising this tool across our other sites in Ireland and the UK very soon.”

Scott Peters, president and co-founder of Construction-Robotics said: “Construction Robotics is excited to be working with John Sisk & Son to bring the MULE (Material Unit Lift Enhancer) technology to the UK to benefit the health of the worker and to add to the construction markets through new methods to improve productivity for installing block materials.

"Sisk’s leadership to search out and their investment to adapt innovative technologies has led to a 12-month partnership to get the first Construction Robotics MULE technology outside of North America for application on the Wembley Park E05 project.  Their team of experts worked with our engineers to develop a new larger block format and a custom MULE gripper to take advantage of the MULE lifting capacity. This system can be used across many types of construction in the UK. We are excited to be a part of the Sisk Team and see great opportunities to advance construction with technology.” 

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