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Björn Bringmann

McKinsey & Company

"The steam engine improving labour productivity by 0.3% and changed the world. AI will impact labour productivity by 1.2% - watch out world!"

The potential of AI for the construction industry

20 years ago, I built my first AI – It scared me to see how it out-performed the ‘expert’, Me!

AI is not new or magic, it is as old as mathematics and there is a lot of value behind it.

We are a $10 trillion industry - construction builds a Paris sized city every 5 days!

We are an old industry using mathematics for thousands of years, so we should be ahead of the game on AI

Productivity – 90% of projects do not meet the timeline, 40% exceed budget
Labour shortage – Ageing workforce, difficulty in attracting talent
Climate change – Sustainability and real effect of extreme weather impacting projects

The good news is investment in construction technology has massively increased

  • New building methods – off-site modular, additive construction
  • Robotics and autonomous vehicles scale and automate heavy machinery
  • VR/extended reality allows remote collaboration – Digital Twin and site analysis
  • Artificial Intelligence – a general purpose technology – AI is an enabler technology

The steam engine changed the world by improving labour productivity by 0.3%, AI will impact labour productivity by 1.2% - Watch out world!

Construction is currently low on AI adoption, but has similarities with other industries where it can borrow this ‘general purpose’ technology to leap-frog development. It can be leveraged across the value chain.

Use Case: AI-enhanced predictive maintenance:

  • Sensors detect, e.g. sound or vibrations
  • AI algorithms predict maintenance needs
  • Workers are given maintenance information
  • Predictive maintenance reduces machine downtime
  • Benefits:
    • 10% reduction in annual maintenance costs
    • 20% reduction in downtime
    • 25% reduction in inspection costs

AI can undertake the repetitive, possibly dangerous activity that workers are not efficient at doing, allowing them to concentrate on effective work.

Construction sites are complex environments, so are we surprised that the average worker is inactive 57% of their working time?

AI’s great benefit is the capability to digest many hundreds of variables a continuous basis – this allows AI to predict, optimise, simulate and prescribe solutions – a Learning Organisation.
For AI to be successful - Owners and contractors must collaborate in new ways

Start with a good lighthouse project – Strong leadership, fast path to value, high feasibility, a project that others can learn from.

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