Global CoE Leader John Hilborn outlines three ways data and AI will evolve construction business processes

The construction industry is undergoing a period of dramatic transformation, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics accelerating the rate of change. Industry analyst forecasts suggest the market for AI in construction may rise from $2.5 billion to more than $15 billion by 2032.

Why the aggressive investment? Because data and AI technologies demonstrate the potential to maximize speed, transparency, reliability and innovation, while minimizing human error, unnecessary costs and environmental impact.

John Hilborn

The construction industry is often characterized by siloed processes leading to disjointed technology projects, implementation delays, data redundancy and budget overruns. Implementing digital transformations with data and AI as a key pillar means aligning strategic business processes, key market factors and business outcomes that will drive the greatest impact to the bottom line.

Additionally, AI can play a crucial role in meeting the increasing demand regarding the sustainability of construction projects by reducing waste and boosting energy efficiency. The insights from smart city projects and IoT-enabled buildings paired with AI are a potential source of innovation. For most construction companies, there are three areas where integrating data and AI can dramatically improve operational efficiencies and create disproportionately positive opportunities for optimization: project scheduling optimization, resource allocation and routine task management.

Project scheduling optimization
In construction, managing supply chains is mission-critical and increasingly complex. Growing project scopes compounded by economic pressure constrict the availability of critical resources. Bridging the gap between disparate systems enables data and AI solutions to improve decision-making and align the project planning process, increasing control from materials and people to scheduling and budgeting.

By getting a real-time view of project status thanks to the context data and AI can offer, construction leaders can shift from reactive management to choreographed execution to meet complex project needs. Armed with quality information, construction leaders can make critical decisions about where and when they are needed to respond and create the greatest positive impact for a given situation.

Supply chain uncertainty is business as usual in the construction industry. Just nine percent of respondents in the Associated General Contractors of America’s 2023 Construction Outlook National Survey indicated they had no significant supply chain problems. The overwhelming majority turned to alternate suppliers, products and materials or stockpiled or accelerated purchasing to manage projects which leads to increased cost, less predictable transportation timelines and a variety of potential inefficiencies that consume valuable time and cash flow.

Contextual data and AI can identify scenarios that can be avoided or reasonably compensated for at the outset of a project. Early detection for developing risks and recommended courses of action based on available options have the potential to protect construction’s already slim margins. Data insights on supply chain risks integrated with the overall construction plan create alternate options that might not otherwise be visible and can have a material impact.

Resource allocation
The construction industry has always contended with constant bottom-line pressure and a highly competitive marketplace. These factors make effective resource allocation a top priority for businesses and a competitive differentiator when managed effectively.

AI and data insights can help construction and service companies ensure that projects are adequately staffed with the right skills and provide accurate resource forecasts to ensure future success as well. AI can automate the highly manual process of resource allocation and dispatch, leading to quicker response times and reduced mobilization times.

Finding and keeping the right people in an always-tight labor market is essential for construction companies. AI can aid the talent recruiting process by attracting the right people through the right platforms. Data insights help businesses retain construction industry talent with engagement analytics and ongoing guided training.

Project costs
Incorporating AI and data insights can balance material and labor estimates with actuals more effectively over time, giving better estimate integrity from the beginning and improving visibility to overall project risks. Both construction companies and their clients value this greatly. For construction leaders, embedding these technologies into the resource allocation process can lead to differentiation in customer experience and sustainable practices.

Task management
Collectively, we’re still exploring the boundaries of what’s possible with AI. Most of the practical application of artificial intelligence falls into what’s called productive AI. It’s the modern answer to ‘do more with less.’ The concept is simple, if you can’t eliminate a non-value-added process, automate it and utilize high-value resources to audit and control.

Efficiency in task management can sharply reduce costs and increase productivity. Leveraging AI to execute labor-intensive and time-consuming processes streamlines workflows and increases accuracy while reducing the strain on resources, both human and technological.

A framework for success
Successfully infusing data and AI into construction demands a new paradigm. The approach we take at Syntax has four pillars, and it’s one that construction leaders can apply to incorporate artificial intelligence in business processes.

Industry-first context: how data and AI capabilities manifest in construction businesses looks completely different from the application in mining and natural resources. Bottom line: it requires an industry perspective paired with a different mindset about the technology that powers it.

Modular approach: treat ERP as a system of capabilities unlocked by cloud and empowered by data.

Security by design: view the network edge as a moving target, embracing a zero-trust mindset to build to recover, operate to protect, and monitor to respond.

Operational control: unify multi-cloud operations and embrace automation to enable transparency, command, and continuous optimization.

The construction industry has a long track record of adopting new technologies successfully and to great effect. From simple machines to machine learning, the leaders in this space continue to scrape the sky in physical and technological ways.

John Hilborn
Syntax provides comprehensive technology solutions and trusted professional, advisory, and application management services to power businesses’ mission-critical applications in the cloud. With 50 years of experience and over 800 customers around the world, Syntax has deep expertise in implementing and managing multi-ERP deployments in secure private, public, hybrid, or multi-cloud environments. Syntax partners with SAP, Oracle, JD Edwards, AWS, Microsoft, and other global technology leaders to ensure customers’ applications are seamless, secure, and at the forefront of enterprise technology innovation.