AI-based Simulation Tool Keeps Construction on Track

The power of AI allows general contractors to model construction projects, adjusting parameters on the fly to find the optimal construction schedule. It reduces upfront risks, helps keep projects on task, and can rein in expenses if they get out of control.

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Image credit: Alice Technologies

The perennial joke in Chicago is that there are only two seasons: winter and construction. Construction season is upon us, and it always lingers. Construction delays often can be traced to bad weather, improper budgeting, permit approvals, worker shortages, supply chain issues, and miscommunication.

Weather aside, construction companies can get a handle on their projects using artificial intelligence-based software and cloud computing. Alice Technologies, a startup spun out of Stanford University, has developed an artificial intelligence-based software solution that allows general contractors to model and efficiently plan construction projects before breaking ground. It also can help contractors eke out savings from projects that have gone off the rails.

ALICE in Constructionland

ALICE is a data-driven construction simulation tool that enables general contractors to optimize construction projects using established parameters and what-if scenarios. To start, the contractor uploads a Precedence Diagram or 3D model of the project, along with labor and equipment needs and rates, crane locations, timeline, and other constrictions.

ALICE then creates “recipes,” or the processes needed for each stage of construction, identifying the required tasks, resources, and logic for each element. Recipes can be reapplied and tweaked as needed. They can also be adjusted on the fly: contractors can change one or more parameters and ALICE will update the schedule in real time.

After inputting the data, ALICE’s AI engine runs millions of potential scenarios, based on the contractor's needs and timeframe, and presents the most viable and efficient construction schedules and sequence of work. Contractors can run what-if scenarios by adjusting variables, such as adding equipment or working overtime, to see how those changes will impact the project cost and timeline.

ALICE web dashboard.

Image credit: Alice Technologies

A Penny Saved

For each scenario, ALICE also creates a 4D schedule of all tasks and resources, saving contractors from building separate task-based schedules. The data can be exported into the Oracle Primavera P6 project management tool.

A dashboard allows the general contractor to view the progress, costs, and adherence to the schedule. If a project gets out of control, ALICE can re-sequence the project to get it back on track. According to Alice Technologies, ALICE can shave labor costs by 14 percent, equipment costs by 12 percent, and construction time by 17 percent.

One ALICE client was working on a Silicon Valley project. The contractor was limited by the P6 critical path method (CPM) scheduling tool and wanted the ability to compare alternative schedule and cost scenarios. Using ALICE, the contractor was able to run multiple simulations and find the most cost-effective plan.

As a result, the GC was able to finish the project 8 percent more quickly with 10 percent less crew, saving millions of dollars. Project resequencing also saved construction and equipment time that resulted in an additional $5 million savings.

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