InEight: Opportunities in AI for technology sophistication

InEight's report shows how technology, including AI, can address global construction industry issues like supply chain delays and a decline in output

InEight’s June 2023 report ‘Global Capital Projects Outlook’ has highlighted global construction industry issues experienced over the past year and how technology sophistication can remedy these. During a time of inflation and global supply chain delays, and with output declining in countries like the UK, InEight has considered how the rapid boom of technology could benefit the construction industry. 

In particular, how can AI help continue to enhance industry capabilities and assist human workforces in efficiency and productivity? The report highlighted how software deployments and artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) can help with the companies’ long-term goals.

70% of survey respondents cite supply chain delays

The company’s third annual outlook report is research from 300 of the world’s largest capital project owners and construction professionals across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. Globally, 67% of respondents are project owners and 33% are contractors.

InEight provided participants with a survey that included 26 questions designed to gauge general confidence and optimism levels across the industry and assess track records, plans and attitudes towards digital transformation. 

Results showed that nearly three quarters of respondents (74%) report disruption caused by cost inflation, while 70% cite delays and disturbances in the supply chain. Concerning labour, 68% have indicated pay inflation as an issue, with 64% pointing to the related issue of labour and recruitment challenges.

The report also highlights that plenty of opportunities lie in technological sophistication. Analysing how construction companies are currently using technology and data more frequently, half of respondents said that having connected data improves risk management, while a third say it reduces cost overruns (38%), leads to fewer scope changes (37%) and schedule overruns (33%). 

As a result, there has also been a larger positive impact on employee productivity according to 46% of respondents. It is also important to continue considering staff wellbeing in these types of situations, as demonstrated by large construction companies like Skanska partnering with Maximus to boost mental health across the industry.

Will AI help shape the future of construction?

Despite plenty of disruption, construction companies are deploying technology to understand and combat what InEight calls ‘big picture’ disruptions. 

By far, the most popular technologies are project management or project controls software, which were selected by the majority of respondents (58%). Yet, the report does take care to mention that in order to gauge how advanced technological approaches are becoming, we must consider how companies are deploying these technologies. 

The second most selected response is the use of AI/ML (50%). However, the report quotes Christopher Dill, CTO at Kiewit, who warns that this may mask a wide range in sophistication of responses: 

“You have to separate AI and machine learning. For AI, we’re at the peak of the hype cycle, but practical use cases in construction are still very few. I would say that belongs more to the next phase of the sector’s technological development. 

“What you do see, though, is companies working to enhance and unlock the value of the data they’ve accrued, to put together analytics and predictive models for early warnings and suggested courses of action – and that can certainly draw on machine learning already.”

InEight still sees the direction of advancement is encouraging, as highlighted in its report. It suggests that the findings point to the construction industry making greater efforts to understand and engage with the big picture operating environment, which, in the company’s opinion, seems to be paying off. 

Of those organisations completing projects on time or ahead of schedule more than 80% of the time, 69% use project management or project controls software to combat these challenges (versus 58% average), and 56% use connected worksite communication (versus 47% average).

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