Artificial Intelligence and Project Management
Real estate improvements (development, construction and renovation) rely on people making decisions and using specialized skills. One thing people don’t do as well as computers, though, is remember and process vast quantities of data. That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning come in.
The construction industry has adopted a few AI-enhanced practices, and more are certainly to come in the next few years and decades. Here are three ways project managers are looking to the potential benefits of AI:
Overall, the role of AI is to use data and trend information from the past to predict future events and outcomes. For construction, AI could better evaluate and coordinate labor, materials and equipment, putting the right quantities and capabilities together for maximum performance and efficiency. AI would provide up-to-the-minute information on where raw materials and pre-fabricated components are, and when contractors will be ready to use them on site.
Applying collected intelligence about labor could reveal productive and unproductive actions and help contractors more wisely spend the limited number of hours they have to accomplish tasks. Armed with this type of information, project managers could best estimate the time required to complete jobs with greater accuracy. This would be especially useful when trying to determine the most effective resources to recover a lagging schedule or accelerate toward a critical milestone.
Weather is another factor in construction that might be mitigated sometime in the future with AI. Running “what if” scenarios based on past weather effects and weather forecasts applicable to the project location could be helpful in predicting and mitigating possible issues and delays.
While project managers use sophisticated CPM scheduling and tracking tools, the team relies on intuition guided by past experiences to, often conservatively, estimate the labor and materials required for projects and guess at the related outcomes. Better historical and predictive modeling approaches are possible with AI.
Construction work is inherently dangerous. Safety is one area where artificial intelligence can greatly benefit everyone who works in the field. The Robotics Business Review reports that on some job sites, AI-supported cameras take and analyze thousands of images to give construction managers a clearer picture of possible hazards. In fact, the review cites a 2016 study that showed AI software could process more than a thousand images in just five minutes to identify on-site safety risks.
A deep-learning algorithm monitoring images of a construction site and accident records can increase safety, the MIT Technology Review reports. If, for instance, a worker was shown to be without gloves or too close to machinery that had caused prior injuries, the system would flag that behavior.
Right now, project managers spend a great deal of time reviewing contractor and subcontractor invoices (known as applications for payment) and related backup to process funding for payment. For instance, when a contractor requests payment for $1 million on work completed, it’s part of the project manager’s job to confirm that work has actually been completed and monies earned in accordance with the contract. It’s further complicated if the contractor is billing for materials or equipment not located on site. Numerous batches of “paper” and typically a site visit are required to determine if the invoices can be paid and in the amounts requested.
Perhaps in the future, AI and recognition tools could track when each batch of materials and piece of equipment actually arrives on the jobsite and even further know when they have been installed and ready for use. Eventually the system might be able to do so in real time. Either way, AI could automatically verify work as it is done and move money into contractors’ accounts in real time rather than through a complex monthly batching package. Especially when resources are tight like in the current hot market, there is no better way to motivate a contractor than timely payment!
For the time being, there’s no substitute for a project manager reviewing work in real life: A complete on-site inspection calls for walking the building and observing the sights, sounds and even smells of progress. There’s very little technology that can replace project managers’ sound judgment at this point.
AI software and tracking holds everyone involved in a real estate improvement project accountable, according to the Robotic Business Review. These tools streamline paperwork and communication in ways we couldn’t imagine even a few years ago.
How do you think AI might change real estate development, construction and improvements? We’d love to hear your thoughts or discuss how we could help with one of your projects. For more information on the services we offer clients, browse some of our other articles — or give us a call at 888.357.7342.