While it may seem as though the construction industry has stuck to the status quo for some time, peering beneath the surface reveals much more is changing than actually meets the eye. Despite an estimated 11 percent increase in commercial construction in the United States, the percentage of young construction workers has declined by 30 percent in the past decade. With more projects and fewer workers, the landscape of the construction industry must adapt if it hopes to advance.
1. Construction Sites Are Prone to Delayed Information
Historically, construction sites have been operating comparably to a game of telephone: inaccurate information travels slowly by word of mouth to each party operating different portions of the jobsite. However, with the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), there is reason to believe a solution is on the horizon. Often, all parties involved in a project have different pieces of information. Fifty-two percent of rework is the result of poor project data or miscommunication, costing more than $31 billion in 2018 alone. Having a common and consistent understanding is crucial to the success of a jobsite to generate more trust and improve decision-making. Tools such as AI establish newfound workplace transparency and are rapidly improving the efficiency of construction and development.
2. Technology and Construction Don’t Usually Blend
Although construction sites are not typically looked to for the most up-to-date technology, statistics indicate that AI will completely reshape the construction industry to the tune of billions of dollars. Due to the manually intensive and isolated procedures in construction, the construction industry will see an estimated 71 percent increase in profitability by 2035 thanks to the increased insights from AI. Construction companies leveraging AI are able to extract actionable insights from gathered data, resulting in a completely streamlined construction process.
3. Too Many Jobs, Not Enough Manpower
A common misconception in construction is that there will always be enough workers to staff projects. However, this is not the case. Eighty percent of construction companies claim to be unable to fully staff projects, with a reported 200,000 construction jobs going unfilled in 2016. More than half of contractors are suffering due to a skilled labor shortage. With an increase in construction jobs and fewer workers to complete them, contractors must look to AI to bridge the gap. Rather than using limited manpower on every task, teams can allow AI-powered robots to handle the small yet time-consuming tasks, and free up human manpower for the more nuanced parts of the project. While the labor shortage is certainly affecting construction teams across the board, AI is softening the blow, allowing jobsites to continue to run smoothly despite the lack of manpower.
4. Can Construction Sites Really Be Much Safer?
There is no arguing that construction sites are dangerous. Construction workers are killed on the job five times more often than workers in any other industry. The reality is that there is no way to completely eliminate risk on a construction site, even with the proper protocols in place—but there are certainly ways to mitigate risks and make jobsites significantly safer. AI has been instrumental in reducing onsite risks and injuries. Real-time, around-the-clock visibility allows site managers to anticipate any potential onsite risks well in advance.
The combination of AI, robotics and prefabricated construction—which allows building elements to be built in a controlled factory and transported to a construction site—contribute to ensure the safest construction sites possible. Due to the improvements in safety, it is widely anticipated that there will be a six percent increase in modular construction by 2022. While there is no way to completely remove risks on a construction site, AI is playing a major role in improving their safety.
5. Delayed Schedules Are Unavoidable
Delayed schedules and timelines are all too common in construction, due to unforeseen incidents and surprises. Statistics indicate that larger projects usually take 20 percent longer to complete than scheduled, and run up to 80 percent over budget. Real-time, AI-based monitoring all but eliminates the concept of surprises, offering parties uninhibited visual access to jobsites. With the improved transparency, stakeholders can easily track any changes and progress. Additionally, AI software tracks and records all workflow processes, and automatically notifies team members of any potential problems. This data gives site managers more control than ever, allowing them to identify and predict any upcoming issues, while saving time and money in the process.
The construction industry is at a critical point, as more infrastructure is needed to keep pace with global growth. However, long-standing problems in the industry continue to limit the potential of construction teams. For the construction industry to advance, it is vital for AI and its capabilities to be welcomed with open arms.
Man, Matt. 2019. Reprinted from Construction Executive. A publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. Used with permission.