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Sisk becomes ‘first’ construction company in Europe to introduce lifting robotics to site

Construction company John Sisk & Son claims it has become the first contractor in Europe to introduce robotics to building projects.

The company says it is investing €150,000 as part of its “commitment to enhance productivity” on its sites and minimise health and safety risks to its workforce.

The innovative robotic tool 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 Wembley Park E05 site in London, a major residential development. It is being used in the construction of the 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 managed by Tipi.

Sisk also intends to roll the Mule out across its other construction projects in Ireland and the UK in the coming months.

The Mule is a lift assist device designed for handling and articulating material weighing up to 134 lbs on a construction site into place.

The tool allows the material to feel weightless, reduces fatigue and injuries, and increases productivity by between 50-400 per cent.

The Mule will not replace bricklayers or masons; rather it will improve their working conditions and enable them to focus on other aspects such as the pointing of brickwork.

In addition, special oversize blocks have been created for the Wembley trial and developed to increase productivity whilst utilising the Mule.

Commenting on the introduction of the Mule, Sisk CEO Steve Bowcott says: “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.”

Sisk says the benefits of Mule include the following:

  • Eliminates the fatigue and physical wear and tear associated with repetitive heavy lifting and twisting that can result in injuries and shortened careers.
  • Improves wall quality as the mason can take the time to verify a quality block or stone placement with reduced fatigue.
  • Eliminates hazards of lifting heavy loads as the controls and gripper are designed to hold the load if power and air are lost.

While Sisk says it is the first European construction company to use the Mule, there are currently approximately 120 lifting devices in use across the United States.

Scott Peters, president and co-founder of Construction-Robotics, says: “Construction Robotics is excited to be working with John Sisk & Son to bring the 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.”

To leverage the full capabilities of the tool, Sisk has worked with Tarmac, the UK’s leading sustainable building materials and construction solutions business.

Tarmac has worked collaboratively with Sisk and Construction Robotics to develop an innovative aggregate block, 890 mm long, which is twice as large as a standard 100 mm thick concrete block.

The new larger, heavier block can be safely manoeuvred into place thanks to the lifting capacity of the Mule and has a significant effect on increasing build productivity and efficiency.

Andrew Campling, product line director aggregate blocks at Tarmac’s building products business, says: “There are significant opportunities to continue improving the performance of the construction industry through the development of new technologies and innovations and we’re delighted to be part of this pioneering collaborative trial.

“Alongside the opportunity to increase efficiency rates and remove the amount of manual handling required, there are important safety, as well as wellbeing benefits to having heavy lifting carried out by this robotic tool.”

A trained construction worker can manually handle the blocks into place using the Mule’s specially designed gripper, also created by Construction Robotics.