The construction industry continues to be one of the most important industries today. Unfortunately, it hasn't benefitted from as many technological advances as other industries. However, with the sudden rise in recent innovations in artificial intelligence (AI), the construction industry is ready for a transformation.
In this article, we'll delve into the history of AI, its emergence in construction, and how it can help the industry become safer and more productive.
The Evolution of AI in Construction
AI has been a topic of interest for some time now. From Asimov's sci-fi books in the 1940s to the first conference about AI in 1956, AI has captured our imagination. While AI has recently become a bit of a buzzword, it can unlock massive potential across many industries. By consuming and analyzing millions of data points, AI excels at finding patterns and recognizing trends. It's no replacement for human reasoning, but using AI to inform decision-making will be key to revolutionizing how work is done.
Until recently, however, the construction industry has been largely unaffected by many existing technological advances, much less AI. While other industries have experienced massive productivity increases, construction productivity actually decreased from 2007 - 2019 and has only risen 1.5% since.
But a newfound push in research and innovation means things are about to change. As of 2021, over 60% of AI application research in construction was done in the last decade,. With AI becoming a part of daily life, construction is a hotbed of possibility.
Revolutionizing construction management with AI
As most construction site managers know, the top job costs usually fall into two buckets: people and equipment. So, one of your main responsibilities is ensuring both are used effectively. This is where AI in construction can help. No, it won't replace your people or equipment, but it can help to increase productivity and streamline processes.
For instance, imagine if you had reports throughout the day of what work was done, by who and how long it took. You could then compare those to the planned schedule and decide your next steps based on accurate, up-to-date information. Instead of following the same old schedule because that’s what you’re used to. You're now equipped for peak efficiency and productivity at the job site. As we'll discuss a little later on, construction AI can also help keep up with equipment maintenance, saving you time and costs from unexpected downtime and breakdowns.
With all this information, you can improve other job sites and streamline your processes and future projects. Other potential uses of construction AI include recording site traffic to determine if a job is under or overstaffed, helping you even out workloads. Or, you could venture into robotics and scan construction sites, to determine if the work was done correctly and identify risks from inaccuracies or mistakes.
AI is also revolutionizing construction from the very beginning in the design phase. If your architects and planning managers know how a site is to be used, they can create smarter designs that maximize efficiency for the client before ever beginning construction. For example, WeWork uses 3D scans and AI-powered models to design spaces to fit the customers request, and increase the accuracy of estimates and bids.
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AI in Construction Management: Next-Level Optimization
Regardless of which stage your projects are, construction AI can help you optimize them. Especially with larger jobs, it's easy to go over time and over budget, even with the best field staff. After all, there’s always a risk of unexpected delays from things both in and out of your control.
With AI in construction project management, you can turn timelines from best guesses to realistic estimates by using historical data from all your past jobs. Because AI can easily analyze millions of data points to find trends and patterns, it can more accurately predict and plot project timelines much faster than humans.
AI is also being used in education and training across many industries, to help all types of learners get the material they need to become more proficient across a wide range of skills. With the right learning platforms, you can train your employees in a way that suits them to increase the types of jobs they take on as well as their proficiency on existing ones.
Realizing the full potential of construction AI
By implementing AI across all parts of your construction business, from optimizing project management processes and employee proficiencies, to on-site analytics, equipment maintenance and training, you can truly revolutionize how you do business.
The key to realizing the full potential of AI in construction will be in how you approach it. Rather than try to re-invent the wheel and start implementing AI everywhere, start with things you can easily control. Implementing a field service management platform, for instance, can help you centralize and streamline your current processes. Pro tip: get your back office in shape before you start venturing into the "bleeding edge" territory with things like robots and on-site scanning.
Predictive Maintenance AI: A Game Changer
One of the best applications of AI is using it to find what's missing. Because it's so good at analyzing data and recognizing patterns, AI can tell when something hasn't been done correctly a lot more easily than a human can. For instance, if you get regular shipments from a certain supplier, but it's been a while since their latest delivery, an AI that has tracked your order history and fulfillment can detect that and notify your team to follow up. For many years, preventative maintenance has been the chosen path for avoiding breakdowns. After all, if you regularly keep up with your equipment, it’s less likely to need repairs. But as we all know, equipment doesn't always like to follow the rules.
One of the best applications of AI is using it to find what's missing. Because it's so good at analyzing data and recognizing patterns, AI can tell when something hasn't been done correctly a lot more easily than a human can.
How AI is advancing maintenance
Instead of having regular maintenance on an unpredictable schedule, imagine if you were alerted that an excavator needed engine repair based on its history. Identifying the more well-behaved machines with fewer issues means you don't have to visit them as often. But the more temperamental ones that always seem to break down can get a more aggressive maintenance schedule. This is what predictive maintenance is all about. Predictive maintenance uses data to forecast when your equipment may have issues, and schedule maintenance ahead of time to prevent them. This helps reduce risk and avoid breakdowns and delays before they happen, saving you time and money.
With AI, you can take all the data from previous maintenance cycles, as well as issues and breakdowns, and more accurately predict when issues may arise and try to mitigate them. On top of that, you can better understand why problems happen to gauge the effectiveness of your current maintenance practices. Then, you can improve or remove processes that aren't working.
With predictive maintenance, you lower your equipment maintenance costs by not only reducing unplanned downtime. But also decreasing the time spent inspecting and repairing equipment, freeing up staff to work on other jobs, increasing productivity. Preventing breakdowns also helps to increase the life of your equipment, leading to fewer equipment costs down the road.
The Impact of AI on Field Management
Good field management takes a careful balancing of available resources and matching them to the available jobs through scheduling, skillset utilization and job prioritization. AI can help you make the right decisions quickly and easily.
For example, if you know residential plumbing rough-ins are your most profitable, you can prioritize them. If you know John spends the least time on rough-ins and has the fewest mistakes, you can prioritize sending him to those jobs (and then train the rest of your team to handle more of those jobs).
Ensuring job profitability is one of the top concerns of any site manager, and AI can help increase your teams' efficiency, accuracy and productivity in the field. Just as UPS trucks almost always only turn right, AI can help you plan better routes and optimize traffic to and from job sites.
AI-Powered solutions for field managers
When embedded in the right tools, AI can give you the insights necessary to improve your field management processes. From better communication and more effective customer service and sales processes, to end-to-end field service management. The right platform will take your business to the next level.
The Best Choice: a Field Service Management Platform
To help your business take advantage of AI, a field service management platform can help with job scheduling, site management and workload balancing to project management, fleet tracking and even inventory management. With a fully-fledged platform, you can automatically create workflows to streamline every part of your business.
Improve Comms: Group Messaging & Chats
Better communication across your team, no matter where they are, can also help improve how your business works. Group messaging and chatting platforms have begun to use AI to help you send messages and communicate more clearly. Many platforms are now using generative AI — models such as ChatGPT that can create text based on prompts — to summarize conversations and suggest what actions to take next.
Increase Sales: CRM
A customer relationship management platform (CRM) is often at the heart of your sales processes. By keeping details on all your customers and leads, a CRM can help your sales team better organize and streamline work. AI is opening the door for new opportunities and offering ways for companies to better understand their customers, which leads to more sales.
AI in construction has many more opportunities than might be available for other industries. Robotics, augmented reality, and specialized software and equipment that can solve the particular needs of construction companies are quickly gaining ground. Depending on what type of construction your company specializes in, it's worth investigating what's available for your niche.
A New Frontier: AI in Construction
We've only yet scratched the surface of what's possible with AI in construction. Even still, the opportunities are limitless for how the industry will advance because of this new tech. If you're looking for an easy way to get started and delve into the work of construction AI, a robust field service management platform is just the ticket.
Discover the future of construction with Simpro. Check out how we can help you innovate and improve your business by requesting a demo today.