Artificial intelligence (AI) has been receiving plenty of press coverage lately, much of it negative. Like many technological innovations, AI is certainly susceptible to abuse and it’s far from infallible. However, AI has the potential to transform the way contractors do business — both in the office and on the jobsite. That’s why forward-looking contractors should keep an eye on where it is and where it’s headed.

5 Ways AI can Help

Generally, AI involves using computers or other machines to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. Here are five ways that this technology can be used — or will soon be used — in the construction industry:

  1. Improving worker safety. AI can improve safety in two ways: 1) by employing machines, such as drones or robots, to complete dangerous tasks historically performed by people, and 2) by monitoring the jobsite — for example using AI-powered cameras — and alerting personnel to hazardous conditions, unauthorized access or unsafe practices.
  2. Enhancing productivity and efficiency. Technologies such as robotic process automation can automate tasks such as generating invoices, managing documents, processing vendors’ bills and responding to customer requests. Completing these tasks using AI-driven technology reduces labor costs, prevents human errors and frees up people to do more valuable work.
  3. Generating more accurate estimates. One specific area of construction that holds particular promise is estimating. AI’s ability to quickly process large amounts of data — including measurements, cost of materials and labor requirements — can help construction companies prepare more accurate estimates in a fraction of the time. This can not only boost efficiency, but also prevent cost overruns and maximize profitability.
  4. Managing projects more smoothly and cost-effectively. AI can help construction companies keep track of complex projects and schedules. It can also enable you to optimize delivery and allocation of labor and materials.
  5. Creating more accurate forecasts. AI-powered forecasting software allows construction businesses to better predict the impact of many of the factors that can delay or even completely derail a project. These include weather, economic conditions and your company’s own cash flow. Having timely, accurate AI-delivered data can enable you to adjust bids, budgets, staffing levels and other mission-critical items accordingly.

An Evolving Technology

These are just a few examples of the many ways AI may be able to help construction companies become more productive, efficient and safe — either right now or in the near future. However, as mentioned, the technology is still very much evolving and there have been concerns about how AI may negatively affect hiring and performance management. So, exercise caution and due diligence before buying AI software and adjusting your business processes.