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How construction is an Industry 4.0 application for AI

Industry 4.0 is best known for enhancing the manufacturing sector, but the construction industry is another good use case for AI and related tools.

Industry 4.0 technologies give various industries the opportunity to address safety concerns and simplify manual tasks affecting productivity. The construction industry is no exception.

Industry 4.0, also called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is transforming the way construction projects are designed and managed. The technologies of Industry 4.0, including AI, cloud computing, intelligent automation, IoT, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), help reduce costs and improve efficiencies from design to project completion. This trend is called Construction 4.0.

Sellen Construction, a construction management and renovation services firm in Seattle, uses AI and VR to determine whether plans and execution will align before it's too late.

"By combining design and construction models in a VR environment, we can envision the project in real scale and with true sight lines," said David de Yarza, virtual design and construction manager at Sellen Construction.

This practice enables his team to understand complex construction sequences clearly, improve safety and reduce risk.

"What is a challenge to understand in drawings becomes clearer in 3D models and unmistakable in VR," Yarza said.

With advanced technologies, designers can access real-time data to make decisions, explore alternatives quickly and improve accuracy of designs. Other Construction 4.0 benefits include better project management and cross-team collaboration.

Construction 4.0 means better collaboration and project management

3D printing -- which can often be a form of generative AI -- and VR tools are also changing the design and management of construction projects. 3D printing creates complex structures quickly and easily. VR enables designers to view designs and construction sites before the project is even built.

Notably, Construction 4.0 enables collaboration among designers, contractors and other stakeholders.

"Designers are able to share information quickly and securely with those on the ground, allowing for improved coordination and communication," said Chris Alexakis, co-founder of online cabinet sales company Cabinet Select. "This is leading to greater efficiency, better decision-making and a more streamlined construction process overall."

More specifically, some construction projects Alexakis has worked on used AI-based software for cost estimates and project management. Other processes have been automated, such as tracking project progress, resource utilization and scheduling.

Similar companies agree that Construction 4.0 influences how their projects are designed and managed.

"This new technology has made it easier to manage complex projects with a high degree of efficiency and accuracy," said Jason Farr, interior designer and founder of design and outdoor living specialist company Aviara Pavers. "From the use of artificial intelligence for more accurate estimates and cost analysis, to the automation of processes for faster project completion, Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing the construction industry."

Lisa Morgan interview on Industry 4.0

More benefits of Construction 4.0

In addition to optimized construction schedules and reduced waste, safety on job sites is improving. For example, drones equipped with AI technology can survey construction sites and quickly identify potential safety hazards.

Robotic technologies are increasing construction efficiency as construction professionals can now automate repetitive tasks.

"Autonomous vehicles are used to transport materials around job sites, while robotic exoskeletons help workers lift heavy objects with ease," said Iu Ayala, CEO of U.K.-based technology consulting firm Gradient Insight.

Home renovation company Bilt Renovation has developed a personal project hub that uses AI technology to track its clients' home renovation projects via an online dashboard. The dashboard provides complete transparency into a project's progress, financials and other metrics. This approach proved useful during the COVID-19 pandemic when clients were unable to visit the site in person to check on project progress.

The company's software makes use of an app called Procore for data collection and management and Matterport, which creates digital twins. That way, Bilt Renovation and its clients can see a 3D diary of building demolition and rebuilding. Digital twins help pinpoint hidden components, including wiring, pipework and studwork.

"We are also working on design automation and how we can reduce typical design times using 3D visualization and AI," said Owen Drury, Bilt Renovation's co-founder. "Procore runs all our project back end, including submittals, RFIs [requests for information], financial management, contract management and site diaries. It also provides us with all of our project data to keep a close eye on how projects are proceeding."

Procore collects all project data, and then leadership reviews it. The process captures valuable insights and learnings for optimal performance in future projects as well. In sum, Industry 4.0 benefits for Bilt include the following:

  • Visibility and collaboration.
  • Data-driven decision-making.
  • Increased efficiency.
  • Better customer insights into response times, design preferences and recurring issues.
  • First-mover advantage.
  • Enhanced risk management.

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