Can new technology help us avoid low productivity?
Image: Dreamstime/Kanawat Thongrod
New technology is part of the solution to construction's low productivity problem - but some individuals hold us back, according to a survey by CM and Kreo.
Construction's problem with low productivity levels are well-known. "Construction productivity has been flat for decades", according to McKinsey research.
We know from other industries that adopting new technology will play a big part in construction's modernisation. But the biggest barrier to adopting new technology is "individuals not wanting to change old processes".
This came from a survey with CM and Kreo to find out how artificial intelligence (AI) could transform pre-construction planning. Survey participants included over 200 program and project managers, quantity surveyors and BIM managers. Only 18% of survey respondents cited lack of time to learn as the main obstacle and 9% said lack of money for training. A third of respondents said it was individuals not wanting to change old processes that was the main obstacle preventing adoption of new technology.
The survey findings correlated with what Kreo's CEO, Magomed Galaev, had heard from clients and at industry events. "In a similar-sized survey we ran last year, half of companies said they use MS Excel for project planning. This is not sufficient for advanced construction projects", says Galaev.
With low employee productivity comes poor project outcomes. It's part of the reason that the majority of projects will run over budget and schedule. There just isn't time to get accurate plans together in the pre-construction stage.
Time is the one area where technology can, and should, help. According to Galaev, "Kreo's AI simplifies pre-construction planning and design processes for everyone involved. It does the donkey work of calculations so that project experts can focus on optioneering and winning work."
When asked to rate the accuracy of the project cost and schedule they offered to tender, survey respondents' confidence level was around six out of 10. When asked what aspect of pre-construction planning could be most improved by automating processes, 63% of respondents chose quantity takeoff.
By making it easy to automate certain processes, Kreo aims to change the mindsets of those individuals averse to changing old processes. Kreo has broken down its products to respond to the survey and now offers a tool specifically to automate quantity takeoff. Kreo Takeoff was launched as a beta version at an event at their WeWork offices on 1st May. It will be launched officially after the beta trials have ended on 1 June.
Low productivity in pre-construction planning
The main reason given for wanting to automate quantity takeoff was lack of time. Galaev comes across this problem with almost every new customer he speaks to - there is not enough time to get bids together. He suggests, "If companies and employees could embrace small advances in technology, they would see the time they save result in better project outcomes."
"Currently the industry is doomed to inaccurate pre-construction plans due to lack of time and low productivity. If we can't do anything about short pre-tender timeframes, we can at least try to improve productivity to get more accurate results."
Artificial intelligence is the next step in automation. By using machine learning, individuals no longer have to manually enter data to get results. AI like Kreo's can identify (and classify) BIM elements instantly, as it able to carry out thousands of calculations per second. Aspects of pre-construction planning such as quantity takeoff will stop being slow, manual processes. Professionals will be able to calculate the effects of design changes on project cost and schedule estimations at the click of a button. This will leave experts to be experts, spending their time on making the right decisions, choosing projects that are worth (or not worth) bidding on. Companies will be able to bid for more projects than ever before, in the same time, with increased accuracy.
Ultimately the survey suggested that artificial intelligence would indeed pre-construction planning - in the form of productivity. However, without the support of individuals in the organisation, the industry will be held back. When asked specifically about the biggest obstacle to productivity in their role, 48% of respondents said it was industry culture.
"Without the support of the industry for change, individuals will not feel pressured to change old processes," says Galaev. "The only way forward will be disruption. Companies who take the leap first and choose to improve pre-construction planning using technology will survive. The rest will either have to follow suit or will be phased out."