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Leveraging AI, Machine Learning, and Automation in 2021

Contractors collect a lot of data in the process of building a project. It comes from the field, office, and outside sources. Successful contractors are using this project data to improve the efficiency of their production and save admin time. Technology tools like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation are driving this focus and providing valuable insights that contractors can use to increase profitability.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is more than robots and droids. It describes all the ways that machines are able to mimic human thinking, like problem-solving, pattern recognition, and learning. It is now being programmed into powerful software packages that are being used by contractors to analyze and assess their projects. This intelligence is a powerful way to coordinate with team members and provide project monitoring.

AI is being used to create predictive models based on past project data. These models can be used to analyze projects for cost overruns, schedule delays, and other onsite issues. The software reviews past projects and compares them to current work to determine the similarities. From there it can predict potential problems and bring them to contractors’ attention before they become issues.

IoT devices are increasingly being used on-site to assist with safety and health monitoring. Smartwatches, cameras, and drones are able to detect worker proximity to other workers and potential hazards. These devices became more popular in the past year and a half due to the pandemic and the need to keep workers spaced out. The software was able to monitor who workers were close to, allowing for quick and easy contact tracing. It’s also possible to track where workers are on-site and to analyze work patterns to help improve productivity and efficiency.
Some contractors are using AI to better analyze their project schedules so they can more efficiently perform work and meet deadlines. ALICE is a schedule analysis algorithm, started by ALICE Technologies, that many contractors are using to assess and predict delays. It analyzes schedules by extrapolating thousands of possible outcomes and running simulations of a project’s 4D schedule and BIM. By adjusting the inputs, contractors can quickly see what effect it will have on the schedule.

Machine learning

Machine learning is a subset of AI and has to do with using statistical technology and calculations to understand project data and gain insights. As more data is added to the machine learning model, the software is able to assimilate the information and refine its predictions in current situations.

Contractors are using machine learning and predictive analysis to assess projects ahead of time so they know the risks and can proactively manage them from the beginning of the project. This type of analysis can monitor RFIs, project issues, and potential change orders and alert contractors to critical issues.

This learning is also being used to take real-time measurements of completed work on-site and compare them to the scheduled work to determine if a project is on schedule or not. Based on the result of the analysis, the software alerts contractors to direct their resources to address the delay. This analysis can be done across a project portfolio, allowing contractors to be more effective in their crew and equipment resource use.

One application of machine learning uses visual and audio data to identify people in photos and videos and recognize if they are using the correct safety equipment, including PPE. This information is then used to notify safety officers, superintendents, and others who can act to correct the issue.

Selecting which projects to bid on and improving the accuracy and success of bids is another way that machine learning is being used to make contractors more successful. The software can analyze the results to predict which projects contractors will be most successful on and provide insight on bid successes.

Automation

Automation, or the use of technology to perform tasks, is gaining in popularity in construction. Contractors who can eliminate unnecessary work improve efficiency, saving time and money, which leads to more profits.

Construction management and accounting software uses automation to speed up data entry tasks and help prevent typing mistakes. For example, automated invoice entry in accounts payable allows workers to pull amounts and codes from commitment records and receive notifications when budget line items are over their limits. These automations help ensure data is entered accurately and cost overruns are detected and managed.

For recurring invoice entries, where the amounts and codes don’t change, automating these entries speeds up the process and ensures that costs are coded and allocated correctly. Using a template saves time by reducing the amount of data that needs to be entered, reducing the chance for errors.

When mistakes are made in invoice entry, or an invoice allocation needs to be changed, simple invoice correction helps workers quickly make the necessary changes and move on with the rest of their work. There’s no need to worry about debits and credits, as the system takes care of those entries on the backend. The goal is to make changing invoices quick and easy while maintaining the proper audit trail.

Get the right software

If you’re looking to leverage the latest in automation, AI, and machine learning to improve efficiency and increase profits, you’ll need software that can gather and analyze data quickly. Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Click here to schedule a personalized product tour.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101

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What to Consider When Looking For Construction Accounting Software

With all of the advancements in software functionality over the years, making a decision on the right construction accounting software that meets your needs can be difficult to say the least. Finding a solution that can seamlessly handle job costing, project management, progress billing, document management, and accounting is not an easy feat. The good news is that an integrated system such as this already exists. With that being said, there are key factors to consider when deciding on which construction accounting solution is right for your business.

Automation

The level at which your accounting system automates processes can reduce the amount of manual entries and double data entry. With less manual entries being made, there will be less chance of errors such as duplicate or incorrect data entry. Automation can also lead to greater employee satisfaction, as the amount of monotonous work will be reduced and more time will be available to complete more value added tasks and close your books faster.

Integration

Without a fully integrated construction accounting solution, consolidating information is difficult to say the least (as most of you reading this are well aware). From the office to the field, an integrated accounting system automatically consolidates information between these functional areas, thus reducing the time and effort it would take to consolidate manually. For example, field workers enter their hours directly from the field using the Jonas Premier Field APP, which then automatically integrates with payroll and all that is left is to approve the information submitted! No more entering hours from a manual worksheet and struggling to get your field workers paid on time.

Flexibility

Each business is different and having the ability to make changes on the fly is essential to staying ahead of the curve in the construction industry today. With a flexible construction accounting system, you can customize and adjust the functionality to adapt with the changing needs of your business. An example of this can be seen with editing prior periods. Jonas allows you to enter information into prior periods, providing you with the flexibility to go back into an accounting period and make changes or updates as necessary.

Reporting

Being able to audit and drill down to the electronic documents allows for reconciliation with ease and improved reporting capabilities. A great example of this is ad-hoc reporting. With Jonas Premier, ad-hoc operational and financial reports can be generated quickly and easily. This tool provides a fast way to generate and review multiple reports whenever you want them and automates the distribution as well.

Customer Satisfaction

With all of the day-to-day tasks we perform, we can sometimes forget about the customers we are dealing with. Having a construction accounting system that creates simple and configurable reports, contracts, and invoices will improve customer satisfaction. Having professional and easily understandable documents sent to your customers will help to reduce any further questions they may have and keep operations running smoothly.

 

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