Top construction companies are leveraging AI to streamline, optimize, and brace against crises

Introduction

In 2021, artificial intelligence (AI) is taking the construction industry by storm. According to a recent report by McKinsey & Company, AI-enabled digital technology, from machine-vision security systems to remote-controlled drones, will likely be construction’s “next frontier” of innovation. 

The obvious question is, “Why now?” Why is digital technology, especially AI, gaining traction in the construction industry today? What are its unique benefits? And what challenges can AI help address?

In this blog post, we explore three key market drivers behind digital adoption (i.e., the implementation of digital technology – particularly AI-enabled digital technology) in the construction industry today.

1. Necessity is the Mother of Invention

One obvious driver in the push toward AI-led digital adoption is the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has forced huge changes across industries. It has necessitated extraordinary, unplanned – and often unbudgeted – health and safety measures, including remote work and social distancing. For many under-digitized construction firms, getting caught “flat-footed” in March 2020, without the digital solutions to facilitate fast changes and flexibility, was a wake-up call and an innovation catalyst.

It is evident that firms invested in digital technology pre-pandemic were more responsive to the rapidly changing regulatory environment created by the virus. We heard anecdotally (through conversations with industry leaders) that these construction companies used digital technology to react nimbly to rapidly evolving transmission rates, CDC recommendations, and local ordinances such as stay-at-home orders.

Consequently, these digitized companies were relatively unhindered by COVID-related safety requirements. Their ability to quickly adapt plans and protocols allowed them to retain momentum during the pandemic, winning large projects while their undigitized peers struggled to catch up.

Synaptiq’s recent work in the construction industry revealed many opportunities for AI to help construction companies adapt to COVID-caused pain points. For example, “machine vision” can provide oversight to ensure compliance with social distancing and masking requirements; “intelligent document processing” facilitates remote work; and “predictive analytics” guides decision-making under pressure.

2. Consumers Demand Highly Digitized Services – Without Exception

Another driver for digital adoption in construction is digital adoption in other industries. According to McKinsey & Company, 2020 marked record digital adoption rates worldwide across market sectors. We (as consumers) were already conditioned to expect “smart” services from high-tech companies like Netflix and Uber; this wave of digital adoption led us to expect tech-competency from an even wider range of service providers. 

Online school, virtual appointments, remote work, and other everyday goods and services “gone virtual” shifted consumer preferences toward two values: convenience and efficiency. Gone are the days of exclusively brick-and-mortar, paper-heavy businesses. In 2021, marketability is all about digitization.

Construction has historically generated huge amounts of paperwork, from contracts to permits to blueprints. However, some construction companies are responding to consumer demand for digital delivery by investing in AI-enabled solutions like intelligent document processing to modernize their services.

Ultimately, shifting consumer preferences are making AI-enabled digital technology seem less like a gimmick or “optional” perk and more like a requirement to do business. COVID-19 has only accelerated this transition. Today, digital technology is popular; tomorrow, it will be ubiquitous. 

3. Competition Drives Innovation

Finally, perhaps the most significant driver behind AI-led digital adoption in the construction industry is digital technology itself  – or, more accurately, what it offers in terms of competitive advantage. 

For example, Synaptiq recently worked with one of the largest construction firms in the United States, helping develop a predictive model to anticipate which elements of a given construction project will have the most impact on its overall profitability. The end result gave our client a competitive “edge” for cost modeling and risk management purposes.

Beyond cost modeling, construction companies are also seeing safety benefits from AI-enabled digital technology. Machine vision solutions can augment EHS teams, providing 24/7 oversight to analyze risk factors and even predict – and potentially prevent –  injuries and fatalities. They can detect situations that present immediate risks (for example, misuse of equipment or lack of PPE) far faster than the human eye.

A demonstrated “care for life” is paramount within the country’s top construction organizations, as outfits with clean safety records are preferred employers and contractors. As a result, digital technology offers a significant present and future competitive advantage: safety now, plus talent and revenue later.

Conclusion

Ultimately, as the pandemic endures, consumer expectations evolve, and competition accelerates in the construction industry, companies will continue to see accelerated AI-led digital adoption. The power of AI-enabled digital technology to streamline processes, increase productivity, and promote safety is indisputable, and firms are well-advised to invest now – before they fall behind the cutting edge.

About Synaptiq

Founded in 2015, Synaptiq is a data science and AI consultancy with over 50 clients in more than 20 sectors worldwide. We develop and deploy actionable solutions using machine learning, machine vision, natural language processing, and other data-driven techniques. We help clients discover, organize, and leverage the data they have to streamline processes, increase productivity, and drive further innovation.

For more information about Synaptiq, please visit www.synaptiq.ai

Additional Reading