The Role of AI in Construction Sector
If you talk to construction industry experts, they always say that the sector is chaotic and these chaotic conditions increase the role of individuals in the production. You can find a lot of hero on a construction site, they solve critical problems and make predictions based on their experience.
What about Technology?
There are a lot of technology solutions for the construction sector. But the right question is why the productivity in the sector is quite low. We should find the real problem.
Yes, there are problems in labor quality, temporary conditions, multidisciplinary coordination and so on but those aren’t sufficient to explain the above graph.
Unfortunately, existing technology solutions can’t make the expected effects on the production. Technologies like BIM and advanced planning tools have an important impact on the sector but on the construction site, PMs trust their own experience more than the technology. Furthermore, subcontractors and supervisors generally see those technologies as obstacles to finish their work.
If you don’t focus on “I” (Information) in BIM approach, you can’t create an expected impact on site because people on site need to reach data on time. Moreover, planning tools are used for reporting purposes, but the critical point should be data management, not data reporting.
Data should be used as a tool to support site teams. If you don’t provide this support, you need heroes to survive your project. I am not against heroes but you can’t win a modern time war with a knight.
Technology can help!
Technology can handle a chaotic situation. First of all, nowadays success is about the data and interpretation of it. So data should be collected, stored and used proactively.
What are the data sources in a construction project? Design, BIM, Planning Tools, Specifications, Technical Reports, Contracts, Machines, Employees, Photos, Videos, Environmental Information (weather, social, political issues). At the moment, 90% of those data are available as a soft copy.
The problem is that this data should be reachable. The solution to that is all project data should be in a central cloud with a versioning system to create a single source of the truth.
Data Collection without proper usage
Yes, you are collecting data and you have a central database. Those are perfect but it doesn’t mean your productivity is increasing. The new problem with the collected data is, not using it properly.
If data used after the problem occurs, it means data only works as a supportive statistic for the reports. Sometimes an experienced engineer just uses a small portion of the data before deciding an action on the site because he feels that it should be quick so he uses its own experience with some rule of thumbs. Sometimes this approach works well but the problem is, it can’t create a smooth business process without recording all the problems and solutions. High productivity needs continuous improvement in all aspects.
From Reporting to Managing
Of course, reporting is critical and contractors can take their money with regular reporting. However, if you work on a construction project, you feel like you are working only to create reports. This approach changes the focus of the project from production planning to reporting. This shift causes unexpected problems. For example, if the contractor pours concrete to in wrong quality, they try to find a way to take their money by working on specifications and contracts. Instead of finding the root of the problem, they blame employees. Although we have related data for concrete quality in the main server, the technical team can’t reach data whenever needed. We should find a solution to make them use the data whenever needed. Otherwise, blaming each other just creates new problems.
We should focus on how we can use data more proactively.
R&D is the Key…
Construction companies should spend money on R&D to create competitive advantage. Otherwise, they may lose their position to a new player.
Using different technologies and creating value isn’t an easy process for a company. Hence, companies should create R&D culture and differentiate itself from competitors.
Just using package software without a technology strategy won’t make production better. Or without coordination and BIM plan, BIM will be just a fancy reporting tool and at the end of the project we can’t feel the difference.
You can hear voices in a construction site like;
- Primavera is useless!
- BIM is increasing our workload.
- I don’t like to use this mobile app!
- Where is the spec!
- Did you read the contract?
- Where is the subcontractor?
- New engineers make huge mistakes!
- My plan is in my mind!
- Tonight we should finish the report.
Technology should eliminate all those voices from the site. Otherwise, chaotic and temporary working conditions give an excuse for site teams to use that kind of arguments. We should note that site teams want to make their work better. But first of all, technology should make their life easier.
Where is AI in this picture?
We generally define a construction project as chaotic and chaotic conditions are best places for Artificial Intelligence implementations. Because we are not successful in prediction on a chaotic system. AI system can use and evaluate the complex data and create unsupervised learning system.
You can think of AI as a person which has more processing power. In this point of view, AI has the capability to use ML functions to make data evaluation and natural language understanding.
In a construction project, a technical team takes a lot of picture and video on daily basis. But tagging and classification of those visuals are insufficient. Hence they generally used for reporting purposes. At that point, AI can be your assistant. An AI system can learn different objects and locations in a construction site and it can evaluate them. AI can tag the visuals and make some evaluations from different aspects such as safety, activity and resource management.
AI easily convert your images to meaningful and searchable data. And this visual data can be used in real-time decision support in a construction site.
NLP Technologies / Digital Assistants
Technical teams on site have short time to enter data to systems. Natural Language Programming provides an advantage to create a smooth data flow. Digital Assistants can be a practical interface for construction site teams to collect data.
IoT Data Flow
As we mentioned before, we need more data to use the power of AI. Hence we should use sensors to collect data from the site. Machine, equipment, location tagging can be the first source of IoT data flow. Furthermore, we can measure speed, position, temperature and pressure to use in ML algorithms.
AI Powered Expert Systems
If you have data flow from IoT, employees, BIM, ERP and planning software, you can start to use AI to manage the construction site. ML algorithms try to catch a correlation between different data groups. And using this relationship, AI start to make suggestions. Those suggestions can be true or wrong, but with the help of feedback system AI continue to learn and adjust the decision system.
You should have a solid AI strategy for your company. Complex problems in construction site can be solved by data powered AI systems. If you create a competitive advantage with AI, it differentiates your company from your competitors.
Who We are?
I am the founder of Botmore Technology and we are working on AI technologies. We developed AI-powered digital assistant for the construction sector. Please reach us to talk more.
You can see details from our web site.