Showcasing innovative tech for building sector

Robots seem to be able to do almost everything these days, so it is no great surprise that they are building cities.

Singapore-based Japanese construction firm Kajima is at the forefront of this revolution, using its "Mighty Hand" robot to lift heavy elements such as concrete and glass to assemble walls in Japan, under human supervision.

South Korean company Roboprint, which has a subsidiary here, makes robots that can paint the walls of high-rise buildings, a dangerous job for human workers.

Innovative technologies like these in the building trade were on display yesterday at BuildTech Asia. The trade exhibition, which opened yesterday and ends tomorrow at the Singapore Expo, drew a record 10,000 local and overseas visitors on its first day.

It has attracted more than 200 brands from 14 countries exhibiting the latest in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, drones, smart solutions and other productive technologies.

This is in addition to staple exhibits such as on-site construction machinery and equipment, building material and architectural solutions, quality finishes and facilities management.

"BuildTech Asia offers firms in our built-environment sector a common space to find opportunities for collaboration and leverage each other's expertise and innovations for business growth," said Mr Hugh Lim, chief executive of the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), which is backing the event.

"This is especially important as we continue to drive the adoption of advanced construction methods, like design for manufacturing and assembly."

The Singapore Contractors Association Limited (Scal) organised the Built Environment Summit, one of the three co-located conferences held in conjunction with BuildTech Asia.

Scal president Kenneth Loo dispelled the perception that the sector's industry transformation map (ITM) is "confined only to big firms that have strong internal capabilities and financial muscle".

A recent survey by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry showed that fewer than half of the construction firms polled had heard of the ITM.

Among those that are aware, more than 60 per cent are unsure about how they can benefit from it.

"But SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) are an important part of the ecosystem of the construction industry, with many acting as sub-contractors, suppliers or service providers," said Mr Loo in his opening address at the summit. "Just as a convoy is as fast as the slowest ship, it is important, therefore, that we bring our SMEs on board in order to achieve the transformation under the ITM."

Scal will work with the BCA on specific programmes to reach these companies.

One such activity is productivity clinics the organisation has been running with the BCA over the past seven to eight years.

Scal will revamp these sessions to be better tailored to SME needs, and open them up to all SMEs, and not just its members, said Mr Loo.

BuildTech Asia is organised by Sphere Exhibits, a subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2018, with the headline 'Showcasing innovative tech for building sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe