How AI can get the most from a P6 schedule

A photo of SCS East's work on the London tunnels for HS2 for AI schedule story
ALICE helped SCS East with HS2’s London Tunnels project, saving £2m in overhead expenses and reducing the shaft sinking programme by 86 working days (Image courtesy of SCS East)

Primavera P6 schedules are the bread and butter of many project managers’ roles. But, René Morkos asks, what if there was a way to use AI to improve the schedule’s efficiency, reducing build timelines and saving money with the click of a few buttons?

Generative AI has the answer. The potential for industry transformation is huge: it’s estimated that construction can accrue more than £1 trillion in savings by adopting modern technologies such as AI to boost productivity. 

A step above traditional AI systems that use machine learning to analyse and predict patterns, generative AI can review vast quantities of unstructured data to reach its conclusions. This could include areas like build methodology, performance benchmark information, or even relatively simple things like inventory management.

However, this is not about using Chat GPT for construction. Tools like this are based on large, deep-learning models trained on vast quantities of unstructured, unlabelled data. It means that you can only get a general answer based on these precedents. In a world of one-off projects, with specific challenges, this has limited value. 

René Morkos of ALICE Technologies

“To maximise the roll-out of AI in the construction industry, integrating traditional methods and processes, such as a P6 schedule, with new solutions will be key.”

René Morkos

Solutions, such as those from ALICE Technologies, can bring information directly from a P6 schedule, or for more complex projects, via a 3D building model. Either way, it is a potential game changer for the industry when it comes to integrating AI in project planning and delivery.

The key to streamlining the scheduling process and encouraging adoption is to make it fast and easy to bring information from one software tool to another. It is something we focused on with ALICE Core – which now allows users to import existing schedules within minutes.

We’re excited to see how contractors and asset owners will maximise the impact that AI can have on their business and bottom line. We think this will bring in a new era of construction scheduling.

Reducing the risk factor

The benefit of using AI in this way is that users can explore scenarios through the construction optioneering process. This involves carrying out an in-depth review of a project to determine the most cost-effective and timely delivery method that produces the best possible outcome for clients and end users.

It leads to the creation of schedules that are both more efficient and less risky. The latter is important, especially with larger projects. Research via McKinsey found that 98% of megaprojects are delayed or over budget. Reducing this risk will make a big difference to the industry. 

AI allows us to test multiple scenarios very quickly and create highly efficient solutions that can be fine-tuned and adjusted as needed during construction. The processing power available now, and the tools on the market, mean that AI is becoming a reality for many construction businesses, not just the major contractors.

AI tools are even helping schedulers to deal with macro risks such as extreme weather. By combining their project plans with weather data, planners can spot potential issues and proactively find a solution before delays occur. This process can significantly reduce the chances of downtime, as thousands of alternative solutions can be assessed ahead of time.

Understanding resourcing

There is more to the process than just uploading a P6 schedule. In ALICE, project managers can add in and test various constraints, including specific challenges such as labour availability or material shortages, to see how they will influence the project delivery date and costs.

It is all about adding transparency and making scheduling data more accessible, allowing project teams to consider more options and pick the right solution to drive better outcomes for the project. And, while the solutions are tailored to each project, you can repeat the same processes and test the same scenarios again for similar projects in the future.

Products leading the way

To maximise the roll-out of AI in the construction industry, integrating traditional methods and processes, such as a P6 schedule, with new solutions will be key.

Construction is often highly inefficient. During my time in the field as a civil engineer, the inefficiencies of construction projects were clear: only around 3% of the construction site is worked on at any one time, and there are many examples of labour and resources being mismanaged.

In an industry that has small margins, this can be the difference between a business being able to invest and grow, or falling behind their competitors. But to make this happen, we need to make sure we can align the digital world with the traditional construction world – we call it bringing power to the old-school universe.

René Morkos is chief executive of ALICE Technologies.

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