The role of AI in planning large construction project schedules

Clients/owners have a right to expect that contractors will employ every reasonable resource to keep a project on schedule.  Therefore, as a large contractor that bids on and engages in major construction projects, you need to use AI to develop project schedules.

By incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry can gain greatly from ideation through construction. So, it’s no surprise that the market is growing. A report from the market research and consulting company Reports and Data forecasts the industry will spend $4.51 billion by 2026. 

What’s driving this innovation? “The easy risk mitigation of quality, and safety, coupled with the time and cost consumption requirements of the construction industry, will drive the growth of the market,” according to the report.

AI in construction scheduling: what are the benefits for large projects?

With large construction projects regularly running late and overbudget, AI offers hope that on-time projects can become more the norm. And as we noted before, scheduling is ripe for innovation.

In an interview with Construction DiveInEight’s Chief Design Officer Dr. Dan Patterson says of AI and scheduling, “Scheduling tools are now starting to assist in the planning process by making informed suggestions as to what durations, sequence and cost of work should be. That is a pretty amazing breakthrough and arguably the most interesting step forward in critical path method, or CPM, scheduling in the last 20 years.”

AI is a game changer in terms of construction scheduling. Traditionally, only one or two schedules were created for large projects. Even this was a challenge, because developing schedules is time-consuming. By using AI, hundreds or even thousands of fully resource-loaded schedules can be developed within hours, along with a clear cost and time impact of each iteration.

AI can manipulate the massive amount of parameters involved in a project that impact construction, including labor, equipment and material availability or construction methods. This rapid data manipulation can only happen with parametric software.

Management Consultant firm Roland Berger describes the process this way: “Designers and engineers can simply input design goals together with parameters such as spatial requirements, performance, materials, cost constraints and many more into the generative design software. Enabled by artificial intelligence, the software then explores all possible permutations of a solution, generating design alternatives that meet all previously specified requirements.” 

Continuuma creator of "optioneering" software for the project development process and the linear infrastructure space, notes its software tool is “proven to compress programme timelines as much as 40% and reduce whole life cost by up to 10%.”  

Where else can AI be used in construction management?

Again, AI is helpful in all phases of construction – not just design. Roland Berger notes, “Artificial intelligence is expected to increase efficiency throughout the entire value chain – from the production of building materials to the design, planning and construction phase itself, and facility management as well.”  

While AI companies that develop parametric software, such as SpaceMaker and nplan, can clearly help companies develop more options to consider, the usefulness comes from the analysis it inspires.

 

“Scheduling tools are now starting to assist in the planning process by making informed suggestions as to what durations, sequence and cost of work should be. That is a pretty amazing breakthrough and arguably the most interesting step forward in critical path method, or CPM, scheduling in the last 20 years.”

Dr. Dan Patterson Chief Design Officer - InEight

This analysis is why large contractors are turning to AI solutions more and more as they strive to remain competitive and/or differentiate themselves from the competition.  

Scheduling teams of large contractors can use AI to determine the best schedule for large construction projects. One way contractors can differentiate themselves is by presenting potential clients with multiple scheduling options. 

Consider this example. Getting a project done as fast as possible perhaps means crews working overtime, changing a design element, and bringing in more equipment. Does an earlier completion date justify the added costs? Owners can make an informed decision when contractors can clearly show how changing a parameter impacts the schedule. 

Scheduling does not end when construction begins. Developing a schedule is one thing, but staying on track during construction is another challenge, perhaps a more difficult one.

AI can help construction crews optimize their time to keep a project on schedule. “…at construction sites approximately one third of the time is spent on transports, rearrangements, downtimes and the search for materials,” says Roland Berger.  Although these factors might seem simple, they are time-consuming and therefore impact the schedule.

Issues invariably arise on major construction projects that last multiple construction cycles. Large contractors can use “AI … [to] improve construction execution planning, the updating of construction sequences and task management … [and] increase the productivity within construction execution itself,” according to Roland Berger.

The scheduling team for a large contractor can develop options, determine which one they think is best, and present it to the owner. By continually adapting based on the facts on the ground, AI helps keep a project running on schedule.

AI is becoming table stakes in each phase of the construction process, including scheduling. Clients/owners have a right to expect that contractors will employ every reasonable resource to keep a project on schedule.  Therefore, as a large contractor that bids on and engages in major construction projects, you need to use AI to develop project schedules.

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