Written by Chris Knight, Global Industry Director, Construction and Engineering.
What kind of impact could Artificial Intelligence (AI) have on an industry as traditional as Construction and Engineering? Initial signs suggest that AI has the potential to revolutionize the industry, introducing increased intelligence and automation, thereby enhancing efficiency and sustainability. In this blog post, we will explore how construction and engineering companies are currently utilizing AI technology and project the direction in which this trend is moving. Additionally, we will make a case for why the industry should seize this opportunity for substantial change, overcoming outdated practices and traditional obstacles through the adoption of advanced technology like AI.
Before delving into these aspects, let’s address a crucial question on every executive’s mind: can AI effectively address our current business needs and challenges, or is it merely a hyped-up concept? The unequivocal answer is yes. Our industry stands to gain from the enhanced performance and efficiency improvements already witnessed in related sectors that have embraced AI. Construction companies, too, can harness AI to tackle significant challenges such as safety concerns, environmental impacts, shortages of skilled labor, and issues related to project cost and delivery delays.
Current Applications of AI in Construction, Engineering, and Infrastructure
Before exploring the present uses of AI, let’s establish its definition. Essentially, AI functions as a tool that emulates human cognitive processes, including pattern recognition, problem-solving, and learning. By augmenting our brain’s computational capabilities, AI enables more precise predictions and improved outcomes.
A pivotal component of AI, machine learning employs statistical techniques to analyze data, identifying patterns and providing insights that aid construction and engineering firms in better assessing risks and planning for success. An illustrative scenario is the application of AI to navigate through construction delays caused by adverse weather conditions, an ongoing challenge in the industry.
The construction industry is currently seeing use of AI in the following areas:
- Design Optimization: Designers and consultants can enhance their designs by incorporating data, considering environmental factors, materials, and costs.
- Equipment and Resource Optimization: AI contributes to efficiency and resource utilization by analyzing data related to performance, maintenance, and scheduling.
- Sustainability: AI plays a crucial role in reducing the environmental impact of construction projects by forecasting and minimizing carbon emissions, promoting the use of eco-friendly materials, and preventing the need for rework.
- Quality Control: AI aids in monitoring the progress and quality of construction projects through the utilization of sensors, drones, and imaging analysis.
- Data Analytics: The application of artificial intelligence to gather, process, and analyze extensive data from diverse sources, including sensors, drones, cameras, documents, and business systems like ERP. This enables the provision of insights and predictions for construction projects, encompassing site conditions, project risks, future project costs, margins, and performance indicators.
- Wearable Technology: These are wearable devices designed to enhance the safety, productivity, and communication of workers, including smart helmets, glasses, vests, and gloves.
Improved Project Management and Asset Performance Optimization
Within the IFS Cloud solution, artificial intelligence (AI) is seamlessly integrated into critical areas tailored for the Construction and Engineering sector. Strategic investments in specific areas have led to the development of new functionalities that enhance project setup, particularly in scenarios involving a complex mix of activities where AI is essential for optimizing resource sequencing—such as people, materials, equipment, and subcontractors. Additionally, AI-driven automation is incorporated into the project forecasting capability of the Estimate at Completion (EAC) workbench, enhancing the speed and accuracy of forecasts at any given point. After the construction phase, the subsequent focus shifts to servicing and maintaining the asset to ensure it operates in alignment with design and operational expectations. IFS Cloud incorporates AI capabilities that generate maintenance checklists, facilitating the creation of an AI-optimized plan that can be translated into an AI-optimized schedule. The IFS Cloud platform adeptly manages the intricacies of project plans, encompassing all necessary tasks for constructing diverse assets, whether it’s a hospital, school, factory, bridge, road, or building.
Regardless of the type of asset under construction, IFS Cloud utilizes AI functionality to automatically analyze generated data, empowering the asset owner or manager to optimize its future performance.
Gartner describes this as: “Asset performance management (APM) encompasses the capabilities of data capture, integration, visualization and analytics tied together for the explicit purpose of improving the reliability and availability of physical assets. APM includes the concepts of condition monitoring, predictive forecasting, and reliability-centered maintenance (RCM)”
AI Building into the Future – Opportunities and Challenges
The construction and engineering industry is set to undergo rapid transformation in the coming years, with a projected growth rate of 20% CAGR between 2023 and 2032. AI and automation present promising technologies that can elevate the construction industry and fuel growth. However, the adoption of these technologies faces persistent challenges:
- Traditional Resistance: Some stakeholders in the construction sector may exhibit reluctance or skepticism toward embracing AI and automation, driven by fear of the unknown, lack of trust, or a preference for traditional methods.
- Security Concerns: AI and automation rely on data collection and processing, introducing potential risks of data breaches, cyberattacks, or privacy violations.
- Redundancy: The implementation of AI and automation may lead to the displacement of certain human workers or tasks, potentially resulting in job losses, skill gaps, or social impacts.
- Regulation: The integration of AI and automation may necessitate the establishment of new or updated regulations, standards, or policies to ensure safety, quality, and accountability.
- Data Quality: The effectiveness of AI and automation is contingent on the availability and quality of data, which may be limited, inconsistent, or inaccurate within the construction industry. Addressing this issue requires simplifying the overly complex business system landscape prevalent in many companies by reducing the number of business systems and minimizing the excessive use of Excel spreadsheets.
The construction industry is facing a persistent challenge in the form of a skills gap, hindering its ability to fully embrace AI and automation. A report from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Autodesk reveals that a substantial 80% of construction firms encounter significant difficulty in finding qualified workers for hourly craft positions. This dilemma leads to heightened costs, project delays, and diminished productivity. Nonetheless, by capitalizing on technology and expertise, it is possible to bridge this gap by engaging skilled professionals to mentor and train the next generation of industry experts.
When utilizing IFS Cloud, you can harness the capabilities of AI and automation without being hindered by the industry’s skills gap. IFS offers expert guidance on utilizing AI and automation technology to enhance your construction and engineering projects. You can take advantage of IFS’s proven IFS.ai applications and embedded innovations right from the outset, eliminating the need to hire expensive technical teams or undergo costly proof-of-concept processes. With a dedicated R&D team focused on exploring and evaluating AI use cases and applications for each industry, IFS Cloud helps save both time and money.
Embrace the Potential of AI
In the midst of ongoing discussions about AI in both industry and media, construction and engineering firms may be contemplating how to seamlessly integrate these advancements into their operations through IFS Cloud. Choosing a trustworthy and knowledgeable partner for AI implementation is essential. Thankfully, IFS.ai provides the expertise and solutions needed to confidently embark on your AI-driven journey. In an industry known for hesitating to embrace change and invest in technology, incorporating AI can confer a substantial competitive advantage, attracting top talent and clients to drive future growth. Given the proactive steps taken by competitors, inaction is not a viable option.
Explore how IFS can contribute to your business success by reading our latest whitepaper about “Native Agility for Construction & Engineering“.
Additionally, discover how IFS.ai can enhance the efficiency of your people, assets, and workflows by visiting https://www.ifs.com/ifs-ai.