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 struggling to reign in their projects 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 slow 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 ineffective project management and execution, inadequate skills, and poor design processes. Projects are only getting bigger and more complex. The demand for accountability and efficiency, both economically and financially.
Artificial Intelligence is set to counteract many of these problems and change the construction industry from its very foundations. From the minor 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. 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.
AI will significantly mitigate risk and improve onsite safety on construction projects
Construction is an inherently dangerous industry with 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. AI will act acts the critical bridge that balance intuition and context with predictive data. It always helps to identify and prioritize potential risks by analysing historic data on previously completed projects as well as perform accurate risk modelling 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 analyse photos and videos through wearable sensors and proximity sensor to help 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) and predictive analysis. By leveraging historic data, AI can make better estimations and calculations and provide real-time reports. In fact, the overall productivity and insight gained from high quality data and estimations will not only bring efficiencies in cost management, but across the entirety of the construction project.
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. AI is particularly useful in regards to predictive analysis, scenario building and contingency planning by pulling from extensive historic data to give planners all the tools they need to build plans and adapt them quickly if needed. 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 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 resulting in greater resource utilization.
Through assistant bots and other forms of sensors and trackers, 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. By collecting information about the construction through sensors, drones, and other technologies, AI-assisted Build Information Modelling (BIM) software will be able to tap into the power of machine learning to gain comprehensive knowledge of the operation and performance of the finished product in real-time. This not only significantly streamlines maintenance activities but also reduces the risk of human errors leading to an overall improvement on on-site 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!