The engineering and construction sector is lagging behind in the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. What are the solutions to bridge this gap?
A recent analysis by one of the leading American consulting firms claims that the construction sector has been slow to adopt process and technology innovation. The study shows how Artificial Intelligence, on the other hand, could increase productivity and what could be the solutions to be adopted to fill the gap in the construction industry.
Given the sophistication level of small construction firms, building new technological capabilities is yet another challenge. However, the construction sector is worth more than 10.000 billion a year (McKinsey data) and, despite the technological underdevelopment, the sector tends to focus on making incremental improvements.
New technologies could, indeed, help companies, especially larger ones, to address some of the main challenges, such as reducing costs and delays in completing projects and limiting safety risks.
It is correct to underline that, in the short term, the impact of these technologies will be very small, if not completely absent, as there are very few companies able to invest in these advanced instruments. Nonetheless, change is expected and will be driven by customers and other stakeholders (software companies, architects, owners, service providers).
Clients and other stakeholders’ requests follow the continuous increase in the capacity of AI solutions to find application in new sectors and market segments. This should gradually push companies in this sector to tackle this issue so as not to run the risk of falling behind their competitors.
Therefore, what are the next steps and progresses for this sector? First of all, three types of factors should be considered:
- Fields of application in the construction industry where artificial intelligence has started to be deployed;
- AI practical applications which have already had an impact in other sectors;
- Other algorithms and machine learning systems that could have potential utility in the sector.
At the moment, the AI use in the construction industry is mostly at its early stage. However, some innovative start-ups are coming under the spotlight for their approach to AI technologies. Some examples of AI use that companies could take in consideration are:
- design software that analyze thousands of different options for project development and contribute to the constant improvement of the planning process
- images identification and classification systems that can assess the photos and videos that are collected on construction sites, identify wrong or dangerous behaviours and support health and safety courses
- advanced platforms analysis that gather and analyze data that are collected by sensors to reduce costs, prevent delays on construction sites and for maintenance planning.
The AI algorithms purpose is to decode the enormous amount of data. This process generates considerable economies of scale benefitting big-size companies, that, especially in the short term, will need to manage a greater amount of information to accommodate the algorithms.
In conclusion, the AI can represent an advantage for companies and suppliers in the construction industry. It is a slow evolution that has to be considered in medium-long term.