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5 AI Solutions Construction Can Implement Today

Is the future of the construction industry already here?! With continued growth in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in other industries, why hasn’t construction followed suit? The industry continues to lag behind many others in the adoption of new tech, including AI, robotics, and machine learning.

In 2018 McKinsey posited five then-current technologies related to AI that construction could implement from other industries. Three years later, most of these are still science-fiction more than reality, but for how long?

1. Optimize project planning

Existing technology in the logistics industry allows delivery drivers to optimize their route planning to account for both distance and traffic. AI analyzes for the shortest route with the least amount of traffic to cut delivery times. The technology continues to learn through reinforcement learning, commonly called trial and error, the best way to go the shortest distance.

In construction, this technology could be used to analyze and assess project schedules to optimize them for the shortest time and best use of resources. By running thousands of alternatives, the technology could provide options that humans hadn’t thought of to perform the work most efficiently. AI could learn from past project data and over time correct itself with the best resource combinations and alternatives to speed up project planning.

2. Forecast risks and constructability of design

Pharmaceutical research firms are using AI to reduce R&D costs by predicting medical trial outcomes. The software uses predictive AI solutions to improve products without the additional cost of intermittent testing.

In construction, this technology could be used to forecast risks, predict constructability, and the structural stability of technical solutions during the planning stage. By testing for structural stability and constructability ahead of time, in the virtual world, it’s possible to save big bucks during the construction process. The technology can also be used to test various materials, limiting downtime during inspections.

3. Supply chain coordination

AI can currently be used to reduce downtime and oversupply of shipments in a supply chain. It also can be used to increase the predictability of shipments. This reduces costs, logistical burdens, and supply variability. We certainly could have used this technology during the recent construction material shortages.

As modular and prefabricated construction gain popularity, there will be an increased need for enhanced supply chain coordination. These types of construction rely on just-in-time deliveries, which can be more easily achieved using AI. The technology will also help control costs and overall cash flow.

4. Robots and 3D printing

Robots and 3D printing are already making waves in construction. They are being used by a few teams to provide affordable housing and reduce costs and project schedules. From this knowledge, researchers have trained robots to learn from simulations and used machine learning to replace software programming.

Robots are being used to construct panelized buildings and components for prefabricated and modular projects. The ability to use machine learning could shorten the timeframe even further and allow robots to quickly move from one task to another without lengthy programming.

5. Quality control

In healthcare, machine learning is creating opportunities to diagnose illnesses earlier through image recognition. The technology detects known markers for certain conditions to provide early diagnosis.

Using drone imagery and 3D models, the same technology could detect potential defects and help with quality control. It could notice anything from potential catastrophic failures to finish blemishes and alert the team in real-time.

Conclusion

While no one knows what the next technological breakthrough in construction will be, it’s safe to say it may come from one of these five technologies. All are using technology, machine learning, and AI to predict the future or inspect current work for future problems. By engaging technology early in the design and construction process, teams are saving time and money, as well as assuring the safety of building occupants.

Interested to hear more on AI? Jonas Premier can assist you with more information on how AI can empower your business to work smarter.

Visit our website or schedule a call with our team of professionals at Jonas Premier today for a complimentary walk-through of our simple and easy-to-use software.

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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Tips & Advice

Is Manual Data Entry Costing Your Business? Why Automation is the Solution

If you think that investing in software to automate your systems will cost you more money than doing everything manually, you’re not alone. Many businesses operate under the assumption that paying for automation is more expensive than paying people to do things. The truth is there are hidden costs to doing things by hand, and those costs can significantly affect your bottom line.

We’re going to look at the hidden costs you may not realize you’re incurring by doing your data entry manually. The magnitude of some may surprise you.

1. Increased error rate

Workers entering data manually, without verification, can have an error rate as high as 4%. That means for every 50 entries, two are wrong. In an experiment in 2009, it was shown that data entry workers made up to 10.23 errors when entering data from thirty spreadsheets. This is the nature of human data entry.

When errors involve money, the stakes are high. These errors could lead to over-and underpayments, over-and undercharging customers, disruptions to the accounting and auditing processes, and may lead to financial trouble. Data entry errors have cost companies millions of dollars.

2. It takes time

Manual data entry takes time. The average typist can perform 10,000 to 15,000 keystrokes per hour. Depending on the amount of data and its form, it can take even the fastest typist hours to perform data entry. If the data requires comprehension or analysis before entry, this slows down the process even more.

It could take a competent operator between 8 and 10 minutes to enter 400 units of data. This may not seem like much, but if the volume of data is high, it can cost your company valuable time that could be spent on other workflows, like analyzing the data.

3. Can’t focus on important business tasks

With so much time spent ensuring that the data entered is correct and finding and fixing errors, there is no time left to work on the business. Managers spend their time ensuring that the data they’re reporting is accurate and less time actually analyzing that data. A survey found that 37% of manufacturing professionals don’t trust the reliability of manually entered data when making strategic decisions. If you can’t trust the data you’re getting from your team, how can you grow your business or take on additional work?

4. Inhibits business growth

When management receives data, it often makes decisions based on that information, whether it’s correct or not. These decisions may inhibit the growth of the business. For example, a costly mistake can lead managers to believe a project is over budget when it’s not. They then make moves to cut company spending to protect the company, when instead, they should be investing in future growth.

5. Hidden costs

Most companies think automation costs more than entering data by hand. The truth is there are hidden costs to entering data manually. There’s the obvious labor to enter the data, then more labor to check for mistakes, and more labor to fix the mistakes. At each level, it becomes more expensive and time-consuming to detect and correct mistakes.

It has been shown that incorrect data can cost companies up to 30% or more of their revenue. In particular, a 2018 Goldman Sachs report stated that the direct and indirect costs of manual paper invoice processing are $2.7 trillion for businesses around the world. The hidden costs of manual data entry can be enough to make or break your business.

6. It’s boring

Continually spending days or hours doing mindless data entry can lead to employee dissatisfaction and turnover. When workers spend hours keying in the same information, they are bound to lose focus, which increases errors and leads to frustration. Data entry work is repetitive and tedious. 55% of employees in a survey cited the collection, uploading, and synching of data as the least productive part of manual data entry. When employees don’t feel productive, their morale lowers and they are then more prone to make mistakes.

Automation is the solution

How can companies save themselves the time and money that is lost through manual data entry processes? Automating as much as possible is one way to recoup these costs. By using machine learning and automation, the software can automate much of the data entry process, leading to fewer mistakes and speeding up the process.

Premier Software uses AI, machine learning, and automation to speed up invoice entry and other repetitive tasks, so you can spend time working on your business and less time entering data. For a demo of how our automation works to save you time and money, schedule one today.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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Why Go Digital? The Future of Construction Management

The construction industry has traditionally been slow to adopt the technology. Many of its work processes are legacy solutions from decades ago, like spreadsheets and yellow notepads. Today’s workers are stuck in the process of trying to digitize an industry that has been stuck in the analog world for many generations.

However, contractors are beginning to realize that they no longer have a choice when it comes to embracing technology. Now it’s a race to decide who will be the first adopters to bring the industry into the future.

We’ve put together five reasons why construction companies need to go digital today.

Why go digital?

Save time and money

Many contractors run several software systems simultaneously – one for estimating, one for project management, and one for accounting. These systems often don’t talk to each other, and each system becomes its own information silo, creating obstructions to the flow of information. Each software system provides information, but it’s difficult or impossible to share that information with the other systems.

Companies soon develop workarounds like entering data by hand from one system to another or using spreadsheets to provide the information everyone needs. Some software systems allow data sharing through import/export, but it still takes time to capture the data, download it, then upload it to another system.

When workers have to manually enter data, there’s an increasing chance that mistakes will be made. Inaccurate information can lead teams to make wrong decisions that can have a profound effect on the financial success of projects over time.

All-in-one software packages create workflows that allow project teams to share data between departments without resorting to workarounds that can cause errors and lost productivity.

Attract a younger workforce

In order to attract younger workers contractors need to upgrade their tools to the latest technology has to offer. You don’t have to be on the cutting edge, but there’s a lot of tried-and-true technology that construction has been hesitant to implement. Companies need to adopt tech more readily to match the skill sets, education, and training future workers are receiving.

Construction management students are learning project management and documentation using the software. These packages make tracking correspondence, submittals, and RFIs much easier than using Excel and other legacy software. If contractors don’t adopt these tools, they could be losing the opportunity to work with some of the best and brightest in new talent.

Integration is key when it comes to estimating and material takeoffs. Too many companies rely on outdated software or manual methods to create estimates and perform takeoffs. That data then has to be entered into another software system once the project is approved. Younger workers don’t understand why these systems are separated when there are so many options for integrating them.

Harness the power of new technology

New tech, like AI, machine learning, and automation are changing the landscape. Artificial intelligence (AI) is more than robots and droids. It describes how machines are able to mimic human thinking, like problem-solving, pattern recognition, and learning.

AI is being used to create predictive models based on past project data. These models analyze projects for cost overages, schedule delays, and other potential issues. The software looks for similarities between past projects and current work, and from there it can predict potential problems and bring them to the contractor’s attention.

Machine learning is a subset of AI and uses statistical techniques 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 both machine learning and predictive analysis to assess projects before they start so they know the risks and can proactively manage them from the beginning of the project.

Automation, or the use of technology to perform tasks, is also gaining in popularity in construction. Construction management and accounting software systems use automation to speed up data entry tasks and help prevent errors. For example, automated invoice entry in accounts payable allows workers to pull amounts and codes from commitment records and get notified when budget line items are over their limits. This automation helps ensure data is accurate and cost overruns are detected and managed.

Streamline your operations

With business growth responsibilities and processes are often developed organically. Employees do the best they can, but without a big picture view, they often create processes without knowing why. These processes certainly get the work done, but it doesn’t mean they’re the best way to do something.

The software can provide the overall structure needed to streamline processes that have grown cumbersome over time. With software as your guide, roles and responsibilities can be reorganized based on the most efficient way to perform a process.

Using an all-in-one system also simplifies record-keeping and data retrieval processes. Project records can be stored in the cloud, so now there’s only one place to look for information. Teams don’t have to search in multiple folders and software applications to find the information they need. It’s at the tip of their fingers 24/7.

Manage/control risk

Construction management software can help teams mitigate many of the risks found on a project. Although it can’t address all potential risks, it can speed communication and document what’s being done to proactively address issues.

Project management software allows teams to see and address overdue tasks and documents that may delay the project. Teams can run reports that show outstanding items as well as who is responsible for those items. The software can also track health checks and other safety-related inspections that are required in today’s world. This daily reporting allows team members to see the status of various items and predict potential problems.

Having a central hub where documents are stored is a must, given the number that is created and distributed during a project. Document storage, version control, and distribution are easily managed by project management software, ensuring everyone is working from the latest documents and has access to them from wherever they are. The same is true for project correspondence. Team members have only one place to look when it comes to searching for an email or notice. All communication is tracked and documented within the system, and specific items can easily be recalled in minutes.

Having an integrated system where costs are instantly updated in the field allows teams to respond to potential budget issues quickly. Project managers can manage the project budget and costs from the site, without having to request information from the office.

Digital is changing the construction world

While the outside world and other industries transitioned from analog to digital several years ago, construction has always been behind the times. It’s only now that the industry has begun harnessing the power that has been available for decades. Tomorrow’s workers are better prepared for this change and are sure to lead the effort. See how smoothly Jonas Premier can assist you and your team in the process of going digital. Visit our website or schedule a call with our team of professionals at Jonas Premier today for a complimentary walk-through of our simple and easy-to-use software.

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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Industry Insight Tips & Advice

What Makes a Successful Construction Project?

The goal of every project manager (PM) is to run a successful project from start to finish—which begs the question, “What makes a construction project successful?”

Generally speaking, a project’s success is gauged by the amount of time, money, and resources required to complete it. Therefore, the success of any project hinges upon the project manager’s ability to create a detailed process plan that can also adapt to real-time changes and unexpected situations. Because, let’s face it, in this industry you have to expect the unexpected—and find a way to plan for it—in order to keep your project on track. 

While it’s no easy feat, with the right people and strategies in place, project managers can consistently deliver projects that are on-time and within budget. 

Implement continuous planning

Project Manager sitting in office and working on desktop pc. Businessman looking at construction project spreadsheet while working in office.

During the planning phase, project members and stakeholders will establish deliverables, define goals, and outline project milestones. A well-planned project will provide a timeline and a step-by-step roadmap to complete the work on time and within budget as agreed upon in the initial meetings.  

But anyone who works in construction already knows that even a “simple” project is never really simple—it can, and almost certainly will, morph and evolve and require some level of change. For example, encountering unexpected environmental issues during the pre-construction phase could result in the need for design changes, which could then impact the entire construction plan and timeline.   

Because you never know what could happen, project managers should continuously revisit and rework plans as necessary throughout the entire project lifecycle to mitigate risk, as well as unexpected costs and delays.

Have your risk log ready

Being able to identify, monitor, and mitigate risk is fundamental to successful project management.  During the planning phase, project managers should prepare a risk log that outlines any foreseeable risks the project may face, as well as an action plan for what to do and how to resolve any issues that arise. 

Once the risk log has been drafted, it should be distributed to project members and stakeholders to equip the team with the confidence and know-how to resolve any issues, as well as to provide comfort to the client by showing there’s a game plan in place to tackle any foreseeable risks that may arise.

Hire the right people

Project Manager sitting in office and working on desktop pc. Businessman looking at construction project spreadsheet while working in office.

As is true in any industry, the people on your team will either contribute to your success or failure. Because construction project management has so many different components, variables, and moving parts, it’s absolutely critical to have the right people assigned to every aspect of the project to create high-performing, cross-functional teams. 

Every core project member, vendor, supplier, and stakeholder contributes to the overall team dynamic, so it’s important to make sure they all share the same level of commitment, understanding of the project, adaptability, and desire to succeed. Any inadequacies or dysfunction within a team can easily send a project spiraling in the wrong direction.  

Establish an effective communication plan 

Every single phase in the construction project lifecycle requires constant communication and collaboration. Any delays or miscommunication can lead to costly mistakes and project delays, so creating an effective communication plan is critical to ensuring the most accurate, up-to-date information is getting to the right people on time. 

One of the easiest ways to build an effective communication plan is to utilize a cloud-based project management software. Project management software provides the ability to add specific team members to projects where they can access all of the pertinent information and contract documents in one secure, centralized, and easy-to-access location. Using a centralized platform not only provides transparent communication that facilitates coordination between all parties, but it also creates accountability among team members. 

Constantly monitor progress

laptop with Jonas Premier Dashboard screen in construction office

For a project to be successful, the project manager needs to keep a constant pulse on what’s going on. This is another area where project management software can add significant value and help avoid costly mistakes. As we’ve touched on a few times, all projects—large and small—have a lot of moving parts that need to be constantly monitored to keep projects on-time and on-track. 

Project management software allows PMs to monitor data in real-time and provides the ability to generate custom reports that can be shared with other team members and stakeholders to keep everyone informed and on the same page. Additionally, consolidated dashboards make it easy to digest and consume multiple reports on one screen, and to identify any red flags, items pending approval, or actions required for next steps. 

Manage construction projects with the job dashboard in Premier

Conclusion

The best way to improve the likelihood of successful project completion is through careful planning, ensuring you have the right team in place, maintaining constant communication through defined channels, and continuously monitoring progress to mitigate risk, cost, and delays.

To learn how our cloud-based project management solution can help you do all of this and more, click here to schedule a free personalized product tour.

Author Biography:

Kathryn Dressler is a content strategist with more than 10 years of experience across the spectrum of marketing services, including blogging, social media, public relations, copywriting and editorial services.

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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

How does the use of construction project management software contribute to your risk management strategy?

Construction project management is often more about preventing and mitigating risk than actual project execution. While workers in the field concentrate on executing the work and quality control, management teams are looking ahead to see what potential problems they can identify before the next phase of the project.

Teams must work together to ensure project safety, schedule maintenance, and budget control. Communication and documentation are two of the most important tools available to do this. Construction project management software can help teams better track and respond to anticipated risk.

Before we get into how project management software helps teams with risk, we’ll look at the potential areas of risk on a project and how construction teams go about managing risk.

Potential Areas of Risk

Project manager stressing about the risks associated with commercial construction project job

There are many potential areas of risk on a construction project. Teams must identify and be aware of them all so they can work collaboratively to address them.

Safety – Construction is dangerous work. There are lots of physical dangers on a project that must be either prevented or managed. These days there are also health risks to consider. Additionally, if a project is being performed in a public space, public safety and health also have to be protected.

Financial – Contractors are vulnerable to financial risks such as unplanned costs and lower production rates. Tracking work costs and daily production, including delays and obstacles, is important to quantify these risks.

Contractual – Most construction project contracts push responsibility for costs and delays down to the next tier of contractor. GCs and subcontractors must read their contracts carefully, so they know what they’re responsible for.

Project – Projects are subject to delays and additional costs due to poor work management, scheduling issues, and unavoidable external conditions. Sometimes these problems can be avoided with better management and planning.

Stakeholder – Poor owner communication and delays in getting necessary information can lead to additional costs and schedule delays. There’s a higher chance of this happening when the owner is a public entity or there are several stakeholders involved in the project.

Environmental – Events such as natural disasters, weather, and fire can lead to damaged materials and work. This can set a project back and cause additional costs and delays.

Labor – Finding skilled workers is becoming more and more difficult, and trade subcontractors are scrambling to keep up with workloads and schedules.

Competition – Especially on hard bid projects, contractors are under pressure to be the low bidder, meaning there’s a chance they will cut corners to reduce project costs or cut scheduled time.

Construction Risk Management Process

The risk management process most contractors use is simple and straightforward. It involves three steps:

  1. Identify risks – First, the contractor must become familiar with all aspects of the project, including the scope of work and timeline for completion. Once they’ve done that, they’ll be better able to identify potential risks for the project. This is done by analyzing the flow of work, the individual tasks that must be completed, and the scheduled time, looking for potential conflicts or issues like those listed above.
  2. Prioritize risks – Next, the project management team will look at each of the risks they’ve identified and determine the probability that it will happen, potential severity of the risk, and its potential effect on the project. Risks with the highest probability and potential severity will be prioritized ahead of those with lower probability and severity. This allows the project team to make strategic decisions about how to address these risks, addressing the most probable ones first.
  3. Manage risks – Once the risks have been identified and prioritized, the team develops a plan to mitigate or prevent them from happening. They focus on the higher priority risks first, ensuring that they are addressed before moving on to the lower priority ones.

The risk management process detailed above is repeated many times as the project moves along. Risks that were present in the initial stages of a project may not be of concern later on. Additionally, new risks may be identified as work progresses and additional information comes to light. Teams need to be ready to respond to these risks proactively, so they should be constantly assessing the job for potential issues.

How Construction Project Management Software Can Help

Manage construction projects and submittals using Premier Construction Software

Construction project management software can help project teams reduce or mitigate many of the risks found on a project. Although it can’t address all potential risks, it does provide a way to speed communication and document what is being done to address potential issues.

Reporting – Project management software allows teams to quickly see overdue tasks and documents that may delay the project. Teams can run reports that show items outstanding as well as who is responsible for responding to those items. For example, tasks such as completing punch list items need to be addressed quickly so owners can move in. Also, documents like submittals and RFIs require timely responses to keep the project moving. Knowing who needs to do what helps teams keep the project on schedule.

Tracking – These days construction companies need to track health checks and other safety-related inspections more closely. Daily recording of inspection results and health checks in project management software allows team members to see their status and predict potential problems. Recording the number of crews and where they’re working can also help with contact tracing, should that be needed.

Document control – Given the number of documents that are created and distributed during a project, having a central hub where they are stored is a must. Document storage, version control, and distribution can easily be managed by project management software, ensuring everyone is working from the latest documents and has access to them from wherever they are.

Communication – Just like for documents, having a central location for all your project correspondence is a necessity. Team members then have only one place to look when it comes to searching for an email or notice. In addition, all communication is tracked and documented within the project management system. Specific items can easily be researched and recalled in minutes.

Budget – Having an integrated system where costs are instantly updated in the field allows teams to respond to potential budget issues quickly. Project managers can view and manage the budget and costs from the project site, without having to request a report from the office. They’re also able to predict future costs based on commitments, allowing for early detection of over budget items so they can adjust them as needed.

PM Software Helps Project Teams Assess and Prevent Risk

Laptop displaying a reporting dashboard for a construction project managers

Construction project management software allows project teams to create processes to help them plan for and mitigate risks on their projects. These processes, combined with documentation and tracking, help ensure that teams are prepared for and respond to risks.

The ability to get up-to-date information, including contract documents, correspondence, and status updates, allows teams to see where they’re vulnerable to risk and take action to control or mitigate it.

Premier’s job dashboard allows project managers to assess the status of their jobs from one screen. Whether the job is running overbudget or there are pending items that require their attention, an all-in-one construction management solution can help your team identify at-risk items before it’s too late. To learn more about Premier Construction Software, schedule a demo today.

 

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.