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Mortenson Announces Automated Equipment Deal

Thursday, June 13, 2019

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In response to construction labor shortages, Mortenson (Minneapolis) recently announced a partnership with tech startup Built Robotics (San Francisco) to automate some of the construction company’s equipment.

Eric Sellman, vice president and general manager for heavy civil construction, noted that Mortenson specifically faces labor shortages in its renewable energy division.

Business Partnership

According to the Engineering News-Record, plans for the equipment include autonomous retrofits for dozers, skid steer loaders and excavators. Sellman also noted that the agreement is long term, a move to continue to expand the deployment of such machines in renewable energy work.

“We’ve identified wind projects in remote areas with lot of repetitive work far from workforce center. Autonomous equipment could be a good fit for those,” Sellman said.

Since some foundation work is repetitive, it makes for good labor for autonomous machines. The company has seen both efficiency and speed increase with the use of the machines on wind turbine projects.

This year, the companies are starting with around 10 machines on three wind projects, specifically focusing on excavations for turbine foundations. Plans will continue to expand accordingly.

Gaurav Kikani, vice president of Built Robotics, noted that the company has a clean safety record. Robotics software has accident-preventing measures, includes on-board sensors, and the machines are constrained by a geofence set by a user abling the equipment to be shut down remotely.

“So far just been single, but vision for future is fleet operation,” said Kikani. “We’ve done test runs with 24-hour operation. The machine doesn’t need the lights to work, but for safety concerns we light it up.”

Mortenson’s first project, working on wind farms in Kansas, occurred with Built in August of last year. The partnership announcement was made at the ENR FutureTech conference on June 4.


Tagged categories: Business operations; Construction; Equipment manufacturers; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Robotics

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