Digitalisation is taking longer but fewer steps

Published 27/9, 2021 at 13:10

I was asked by the European Demolition Association to write a piece for the upcoming Yearbook. The subject was digitalisation which made me start thinking. I realised that though we have been covering the demolition, recycling, remediation, concrete sawing and drilling, concrete floor grinding and polishing industries since the mid-1990s, we have never actually worked in these fields. We work in the magazine publishing industry, which is by its very nature connected to prepress and offset printing.

With regards to digitalisation, publishing has experienced an overwhelming digital change during the last 15 to 20 years. I remember when I worked as sales promotion manager for Electrolux CR in the mid-1980s that at that time I made the layout for the company’s brochures by hand, on a piece of paper. Text was typewritten on paper and the photos were either prints or large positive transparencies. Everything was then sent to the printer’s reprographics department, and in return, I received a blue copy with everything laid out, or I could order a cromalin proof in colour. This went on for a few years until things started to change in the early 1990s. By then I had started my own company and bought my first personal computer, a PC and later on an Apple Macintosh. Using PageMaker software I could start to make the layout myself, but still a prepress department had to do all the mounting of films and so forth before the plates for printing were made. This required a lot of people involved in the process, but then the digital revolution changed everything.

Today everything is transferred directly from my computer, and more or less, directly to the printing plate thanks to ‘smart’ digitalised software. For me, the digitalisation of magazines and publishing was a tremendous step forward, even if it took me some time to learn how to use everything properly. The downside of course was that a whole occupational group of people working within reproduction and prepress had to find new jobs. And all this happened over just a few years, starting with the development of desktop computers.

The digitalisation process involved in the demolition industry is not as dramatic as was experienced by the printing industry where almost everything changed. The digitalisation of the demolition industry actually adds a lot of positive things that directly benefits the industry and the people working in it. As for the printing industry, the new technology eliminated several working steps leaving people without a job so that if they wished to stay in the industry they needed to retrain.

What digitalisation brings to the demolition industry is a safer working environment, more efficient operation of machines and tools, less operational failure and breakdowns, and easier maintenance and repair. There is of course some type of work that due to digitalisation has been eliminated and replaced by mainly safer and more efficient methods. But this is actually a positive development eliminating severe injuries and even deaths caused by dangerous applications.

The ongoing and rapid digitalisation of the demolition industry is strongly refining the daily work cycle for a demolition contractor and its clients. Already, in the planning stage of a demolition project the new digitalisation tools can prevent injuries and improve safety. The right machines and tools, and the right methods, can be chosen using intelligent machines and systems. One example is quick coupling systems for hydraulic attachments where the operator can remain in the machine overlooking operational displays, never needing to step out of the machine to a change tool. Another example is that a bridge deck of concrete can be demolished to the right depth by programming hydrodemolition robots correctly leaving only the fresh concrete. This means there is no more hard labour required in changing tools, or demolishing concrete with jackhammers.

Developments with the new wave of digitalisation in our industry are also already strongly linked to the work being undertaken creating a circular economy. This latter development is undoubtedly for the best for all of us and our planet.

Jan Hermansson

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