AI for the assist

Historically, construction project planning has been a highly labour-intensive process.

That’s because traditional critical path method (CPM) scheduling required planners to start from scratch with each new project plan.

This is changing however, as today’s scheduling tools are incorporating emerging technologies to assist planners in making informed suggestions as to what durations, sequence and cost of work should be.

This arguably represents one of the most significant breakthroughs in CPM scheduling over the last 20 years.

While the common perception is that a project’s focus should be on execution, the reality is that project success is more dependent on sound upfront planning, which entails forecasting future events and spend.

This is an area where artificial intelligence (AI) is making huge inroads and exerting a significant impact within the industry.

In fact, a recent analysis by reports and data predicts over $4 billion will be spent on AI within the construction industry by 2026.

Construction projects share many commonalities, and with the advent of AI, planners can now leverage the vast amounts of historical and as-built performance data that was previously too complex to mine.

This captured knowledge can help guide planners in assembling more realistic forecasts that highlight potential risks — risks that may have been overlooked using traditional CPM-style scheduling tools.

As more meaningful data is collected, AI acts like a calibrating engine, helping to adjust a project plan or schedule in accordance with what has been achievable historically. But AI and machine learning alone will not advance project planning and scheduling.

Actual personal experience and expertise from team members must be included in the process. This buy-in and/or pushback serves as fuel for the engine to create a solid, achievable and defendable plan.

This is exactly where human intelligence (HI) comes in; having those multiple stakeholders, such as discipline leads or experienced field personnel, actually validate what has been established in the schedule is essential to success.

Without consulting these stakeholders and gaining their insight and validation, the schedule is little more than the planner’s best guess and will undoubtedly face some pushback. Team endorsement results in a much higher degree of certainty and realism in a given forecast.

The greater the certainty in the schedule, the greater the likelihood of on-time and on-budget delivery.

When planners can seamlessly integrate AI and HI into a comprehensive scheduling platform, they can make real-time adjustments around risks, opportunities and plan elements to achieve desired confidence levels for the project.

By quickly incorporating lessons learned from historical data and human insight from personal experience, a realistic plan can be created — faster. Successful planners recognise that expert insight coupled with historical data is the ideal combination for collaborative development of the most realistic and achievable project plans.

So, AI will never replace the human factor in project scheduling, nor is it intended to. AI represents a big step in the right direction, away from the start-from-scratch approach. It can assist planners in creating more realistic, achievable project plans — plans that ultimately lead us toward successful project completion.

To learn more about InEight’s planning, scheduling and risk solutions, visit ineight.com.

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