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Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Technologies: A Game-Changer for the Construction Industry

Summary

The construction industry is currently facing significant challenges. According to the Financial Times, over 4,000 construction firms have declared bankruptcy this year – the fastest rate in the past ten years. There are several reasons for this. Extreme inflation, the […]

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Technologies: A Game-Changer for the Construction Industry

The construction industry is currently facing significant challenges. According to the Financial Times, over 4,000 construction firms have declared bankruptcy this year – the fastest rate in the past ten years.

There are several reasons for this. Extreme inflation, the slowdown in house building, and delays in government-supported infrastructure projects, such as the HS2 project, are clear drivers of this decline. However, we cannot ignore the rising costs of materials and the increasing scrutiny of quality.

In this challenging economic climate, firms must have the capacity to take on project after project. After all, more projects mean more revenue – and improving financial results will secure companies in the near future. But in order to free up capacity and be agile, these firms must ensure efficient operations and accelerate the construction cycle.

Construction companies cannot become more efficient, productive, and profitable in their current state. They need to embrace new technologies. That’s where artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies come in.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies can enhance the accuracy of structural planning, optimize procurement processes and supply chain management, and significantly reduce construction time. And that’s not all, they can also optimize safety planning and workplace protection, which have been affected by increased fatality rates in recent years.

According to HSE data, there were 45 fatalities in the construction industry in the 2022/23 period, an increase of 16 from the previous year. But artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies can drastically reduce these tragedies and help eliminate them altogether. AI-powered sensors can monitor construction sites, identify risks well in advance, and revolutionize the on-site work environment.

It seems like a complete no-brainer. Construction firms should embrace artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies as if there’s no tomorrow – and they should implement them immediately in their daily operations.

Unfortunately, that seems unlikely.

The industry is hindered by its long-standing conservatism. Processes are mostly the same as they were 30 years ago, with much of the work on construction sites still done manually, and aside from the development of machinery and tools, technology on construction sites is relatively limited.

Of course, there’s a good reason for that. Before the sector’s current weaknesses, the three-month construction cycle was mostly profitable. But now that the industry is experiencing symptoms of a broader macroeconomic crisis, construction firms – like other industries – should be open to change. Instead of investing all their capital in operational costs, construction companies should triple their investment in technology.

If firms do just that, it’s not far-fetched to say that artificial intelligence will encompass between 20% and 40% of physical and administrative work on construction sites. The entire industry will become much more efficient, and the speed of development or project execution will accelerate rapidly. However, it is worth emphasizing that investing in artificial intelligence must go hand in hand with investing in the workforce. They are not two mutually exclusive matters. Companies need to invest in people and their training.

I understand that there may be concerns about the costs of implementing these technologies; after all, many construction firms are just trying to stabilize their balance sheets. But that’s why the industry should collaborate with technology companies to maximize their investments and make applications more cost-effective for limited development and execution teams. This is not a solo mission. In order to introduce new technologies into the industry, everyone – including the government – must be involved.

Now, everyone is wondering: “Will artificial intelligence take over all our jobs?” But I do not believe that will be the case in the construction sector because everyday work in construction is too unpredictable. Problems in construction – from design to installation – occur on a daily basis. The human workforce in the industry easily adapts to these changing situations, but there is no guarantee that artificial intelligence – even the most sophisticated technology – will be able to do the same.

So, despite the general fear, artificial intelligence will not impact the construction workforce. Instead, like in software development, artificial intelligence will become an additional colleague on projects and developments. And it may even attract software experts or technical talent to the industry as a result.

The future of construction should rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. And if firms change their attitude towards change, they will benefit from it.

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