Jane Marsh, Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co, explains why the key advantage of AI for construction merchants lies in its adaptability.

Up until relatively recently, construction has not been a very tech-centric industry. That is changing as pressures to become more efficient and sustainable rise, and technology advances faster than ever. A rising number of firms and the merchants that support them are embracing new technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) leads the pack.

Construction companies are evolving at an unprecedented rate to keep up with similar changes in their clients. Suppliers, manufacturers and other businesses serving these firms must likewise embrace technology — especially AI — to enable that change.

The key advantage of AI for construction merchants lies in its adaptability. The construction sector is devoloping rapidly, with 91% of industry professionals saying they have witnessed tech-skeptical colleagues adopt new technologies within the past year. Outside of technology, trends like sustainability and smart buildings are sweeping the industry.

Equipment manufacturers and material suppliers must adapt to meet these shifting needs, but manual approaches are insufficiently slow and error-prone. AI helps through predictive analytics. Machine learning models can analyze current and past trends to predict how markets and supply chains will shift. Merchants can then adjust their production targets or ordering practices to adapt while minimizing inventory or shipping issues.

Merchants are also using AI to highlight ways this adaptation can take place. Because concrete production accounts for more emissions than the aviation industry, many construction companies seek new, more sustainable materials. AI can compare various resources’ strengths, carbon footprints and other qualities to find ideal alternatives for suppliers.

As construction companies and their merchants collect more data, these AI insights become increasingly reliable. Because AI can spot trends in data faster and more accurately than humans, it is becoming a critical tool for this analysis, especially as trends shift again in the future.

Optimising current operations

Merchants at the forefront of technology also apply AI to their current work. The same algorithms that can predict future trends based on historical data can analyze current information to highlight existing inefficiencies. Businesses can then act on these insights to become as efficient, resilient or cost effective as possible.

AI insights can suggest changes to workflows or ordering practices, and alert organizations when new opportunities or issues arise. By monitoring real-time sensor data, AI can notify companies of degrading infrastructure, which results in time consuming repairs when left unaddressed. Construction crews can then take these jobs and complete them sooner, and their partners can support them more efficiently.

Despite these benefits and skyrocketing AI adoption rates, some challenges remain in the way of the technology’s full potential. As many as 92% of construction companies are using or planning on using AI, but just 65% of these projects have been successful.

The largest issue is data. Construction firms and merchants have abundant information thanks to rising digitization and the Internet of Things. However, managing these vast data volumes takes a lot of work. Information often exists in silos, leading to inefficiencies and oversights, and manual processes introduce errors that hinder AI’s accuracy.

Many of these organizations also lack experience with AI and related technologies, so they do not know how to implement it effectively. That leads to troubleshooting errors and project scopes that are too large or vague to produce meaningful results. A lack of experience can also introduce security oversights.

Merchants must address these pain points to use AI effectively. Hiring AI talent or fostering it from within through upskilling programs will enable more effective rollouts. Businesses must also embrace better data management, including using a single, consolidated platform to access all data and using automated organization, cleansing and reporting tools.

An increasingly important business tool

As AI becomes more reliable and construction’s tech-centric streak continues, AI will become more of a necessity than a convenience. Organizations serving this market must embrace this technology to keep pace with these changes.

Several obstacles remain in the way of widespread AI adoption. If businesses can anticipate and tackle these challenges head on, they can become more agile and resilient than ever.