Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to fundamentally change the way we work and the construction industry is right in its cross-hairs. Research shows that construction projects are still suffering significantly from mismanagement, with 20% of construction projects running over schedule and up to 80% running over budget. But what exactly are the benefits and impact of AI in construction project management?
About AI and the Construction Industry
The construction industry is one of the oldest and largest industries in the world, hiring 7% of the world’s population and accounting for over $10 trillion in spending for construction-related goods and services. However, the industry is also one of least digitized industries and the second slowest to adopt technology into its practices. A McKinsey report suggests that the loss of productivity means a lost opportunity of $1.6 trillion.
The glacial pace of digital adoption in the construction industry is caused by a range of challenges from its highly fragmented nature, its dependency on public sector demand and its degree of informality. This has lent itself to inept project management and execution, inadequate skills, poor design processes, and underinvestment in skills development running rampant within the industry. But projects are only getting bigger and more complex. The demand for accountability and efficiency, both economically and financially, are adding pressure to construction projects even as the skilled labour pool continues to dwindle.
Artificial Intelligence is set to counteract many of these problems and change the construction industry from its very foundations. From the minute aspects of helping with calculations to full automation of complex tasks, construction managers are eyeing AI technologies to vastly reduce inaccuracies, risks and costs while improving productivity, safety, and efficiency.
However, the field of AI is still very much vague, with most people having a very unrealistic and over-idealistic perspective of its capabilities and potential. Those who will flourish in the near future are the ones that not only adapt, but fully embrace AI for what it can genuinely achieve and invest in its future potential.
Real world impacts of AI in construction project management
We all wish that AI could come in its all-seeing, all-knowing form we see in the movies and handle all project activities for us at a single command. The reality is that AI is nowhere close to there, nor do we know whether it can feasibly achieve that potential. But don’t get too lost in potential talk. Let’s focus on what AI can tangibly accomplish now and in the near future.
AI will enable extensive integration of construction activities, softwares and practices
Research shows that 60% of construction project managers believed that improvement of data exchange capabilities was the most desired improvement in project management software. One of the biggest challenges to effective project management is data discontinuity, inconsistency, and inaccuracy. In a time when making data-based decisions will be more important than ever, AIs ability to integrate, gather, analyse and visualize relevant information in real-time is an extremely valuable asset to construction projects.
Integrations that will be particularly eye-catching to construction project management would be the integration of Building Information Modeling (BIM) software with project activity software to ensure seamless communication and handover between planners and people on the ground.
AI will significantly mitigate risk and improve onsite safety on construction projects
Construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the world and there are a multitude of risks from quality to safety to costs and more that impact the success of a project. With the power of AI and machine learning, construction managers have access to multitudes of information to help identify patterns and analyse the ongoing risks of the projects that may be unseen at a cursory glance.
AI will allow project managers to dig below the surface, identify trends and patterns that can evade cursory glances and give them the ability to make data-based decisions. This does not replace the importance of intuition, contexts, and personal experience when identifying project risks but simply adds another layer of accuracy and depth. It can help identify and prioritize potential risks by analysing historic data on previously complete projects as well as perform accurate risk modeling and analysis in real-time. This means any minute change across the span of the project can be properly accounted for and risks can be mitigated in the most timely manner.
Additionally, AI can help make construction sites safer through monitoring that can analyze photos and videos through wearable sensors to identify potential safety hazards and send alerts in real-time.
AI will streamline cost management
With projects getting bigger, stopping a project from running over budget is becoming increasingly difficult. Like any project, construction projects suffer from inaccurate or delayed reporting and data input, leading to loss of valuable dollars from wasted resources and error.
AI can streamline and automate a majority of cost management activities by taking advantage of robotic process automation (RPA), artificial neural networks and predictive analysis. By leveraging historic data, AI can make accurate estimation and calculations, provide real-time reports, automate approvals and significantly reduce bottlenecks and data entry errors. In fact, the overall productivity gained from the automation of activities not only in cost management, but across the entirety of the construction project will bring massive cost efficiencies to construction projects.
AI will elevate construction project planning
Planning is one of the most critical aspects of project success. From costs to schedules to risks, there are multitudes of layers to a comprehensive project plan and for large scale construction projects, the complexity reaches a new level.
In construction, project start and end dates are not as straightforward as the project duration is determined only by critical activities, not the summation of all activities. Artificial Neural Networks will help make project duration estimates more accurate through sensitivity analysis as well as uncover untouched knowledge through trawling through historic data. Machine learning can also help identify patterns and relationships between moving parts of the projects to recommend the most optimal arrangements to project managers.AI is also particularly useful in regards to predictive analysis, scenario building and contingency planning.
AI addresses labour shortages and optimizes resources
The pairing of resource management and schedule management is one of the most challenging issues of construction project management. A McKinsey report states that onsite productivity could increase by 50% by implementing real-time data analysis.
Through assistant bots, AI can continually evaluate workloads, identify the location of workers and the equipment required for tasks to enable project managers to easily identify and reallocate unused resources to the most optimal activities. This means that every resource is used to its maximum capabilities and minimal wastages are made throughout the construction project. Eventually, AI will be able to go beyond simply identifying gaps and alerting project managers to become fully automated digital assistants that provide valuable recommendations.
AI will simplify post-construction activities
Most construction projects don’t simply end when the building is standing. Buildings require continual maintenance and monitoring to ensure any issues do not lead to catastrophic results. Through collecting information about the construction through sensors, drones, and other technologies, AI algorithms and analytics can gain comprehensive knowledge of the operation and performance of the finished product. This allows for problems to be easily monitored and preventative maintenance to be dispatched appropriately to ensure optimal security and safety.
Get a head start on Artificial Intelligence
When it comes to AI, those who move first and fast will reap the most rewards. But don’t simply follow the hype train of AI and bite off more than you can chew. We want to give you a more realistic perspective on the future of AI in project management, so make sure to read on the 8 real changes AI will bring to project management and how its evolution in project management. Keep in the loop with all the latest project and portfolio management insight from our PPm expert on our blog!