Built transforms heavy machinery into fully autonomous trenching robots with the world’s first autonomy solution for excavators: the Exosystem™.

Interview with Erol Ahmed, Director of Communications at Built Robotics.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

Erol Ahmed: The Exosystem enables accurate, safe, and fast autonomous trenching. Exosystems are deployed today across the $1 trillion earthmoving industry, building critical infrastructure in energy, telecom, and more. 

E.E: What’s the news about new products?

E.A: The Exosystem is the best solution for trenching and delivers products that work for the construction industry:

Made for contractors. With rugged hardware and powerful computing, the Exosystem is the best way to dig a trench. The Exosystem can dig long stretches of trench without interruption in various soils, elevations, and conditions while seamlessly integrating into critical-path workflows. By using the Exosystem, contractors can assign the dangerous, repetitive tasks to the robots and let their most skilled labor focus on higher-level work — all while helping people to work in safer environments. The Exosystem is becoming the most popular choice for contractors when deciding how to do trench work.

Affordable to rent. Affordable pricing ensures that all contractors, including small to medium-sized companies, have access to the same modern tools. The “Robots as a Service” model gives contractors opportunities to grow their business, realize savings, and access the best technology with little to no risk. Contractors pay an hourly fee to license the autonomous software, and — depending on utilization — they can realize cost savings of 20% or better versus traditional methods.

E.E: What are the ranges of products?

E.A: The Exosystem is Built’s upgrade for excavators that enables fully autonomous trenching. The Exosystem™ is installed on excavators to enable the machines to operate autonomously. It includes an all-weather enclosure, proximity radar, 360° cameras, GPS, and a powerful liquid-cooled computer. 

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

E.A: About $100 billion is spent on heavy equipment operations each year in the United States alone. Worldwide, that figure is over $1 trillion. A large number of sectors use heavy-equipment on construction job sites: energy, renewables, civil, infrastructure, mining, governmental, residential, industrial, and commercial. Construction is a mature market, yet, it hasn’t changed its methods for decades. Construction projects today take more time and money than they did over fifty years ago. We’ve fallen behind. Built’s autonomous technologies promise to bring the same productivity gains experienced in other industries to construction.

Infrastructure spending in the United States will reach $1 trillion in the next five years. This spending is needed to keep the roads connected, power plants operating, dams generating electricity, and transportation hubs operating. Market demand is high for automation because of the large backlog of construction work and persistent labor shortages that affect the industry. 

The Exosystem is the only commercially available autonomy solution in construction for trenching.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

E.A: Construction is the only major sector of the United States economy where labor productivity has actually fallen over the last forty years. For comparison, agriculture has grown nearly four times in that same period of time, and the overall economy has nearly doubled in terms of labor productivity.

In 2017, McKinsey Global Institute published a startling report — labor productivity in construction has fallen 50% since 1970. While other industries have been transformed, construction has stagnated. The effect is that, adjusting for inflation, a building today costs twice as much as it did 40 years ago.

The methodologies in construction have remained unchanged. A dramatic new technology solution — like autonomy — is needed to close the gap and help productivity return to healthy growth levels throughout the industry.

Construction is poised to undergo a revolution in how it gets work done that will enable skilled workers to accomplish a greater variety of tasks outside of their existing skills.

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?

E.A: Heavy equipment robotics presents the next major leap in construction technology since hydraulics. The Exosystem from Built is the only commercially available solution for autonomous trenching available in the market today. With a waitlist lasting through early 2023, market demand is high for the Exosystem. 

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2022?

E.A: Our focus in the next few years will be on energy (natural gas, oil), renewables (wind, solar), and infrastructure (highways, roads, levees, data centers, and weather safety systems). In the long-term, as a technology company, we believe in creating solutions that aren’t tied to particular industries but can be used across verticals. For example, excavation work applies as much to building homes as it does to building renewable energy.

We believe heavy equipment automation will help us meet goals in environmental change, resource access, work equity, economic growth, and infrastructure innovation:

Build greener. Robots reduce carbon emissions, minimize waste produced by projects, and shrink project timelines. A force multiplier on jobsites, the Exosystem allows a single operator to supervise a fleet of equipment instead of being tied to one machine. Robots typically work with less fuel, fewer errors, and less wear and tear on equipment, which means an operator can achieve the same production with fewer pieces of heavy equipment while increasing the longevity of machinery. 

Build critical infrastructure faster. When excavation activities are completed more quickly, contractors can get ahead of the infrastructure project backlog. The twenty-first century needs this critical infrastructure to tackle challenges in climate change, clean energy, and resource access. By building smarter and more quickly with the Exosystem, we can make these resources accessible to communities across the globe. 

Pave the way for a new class of worker. In a partnership with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) — one of the largest construction unions in North America — Built developed a first-of-its-kind program to train operators as Robotic Equipment Operators (REO). Training in robotics opens up jobs for historically underrepresented groups while growing the workforce during a time of historic labor shortages in construction.