AI in construction: Masters of AI reviewBy Marlee Briscoe on March 5, 2020
Our first Masters of AI event of 2020 saw us welcome a number of business professionals and enthusiasts working in the worlds of construction supply chain, merchanting, and house building to Manchester.
AI in construction and sustainability were the hot topics of discussion, as we learnt how forward-thinking businesses are leveraging new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to improve processes that drive both financial benefits and help to meet business-wide and government-set sustainability targets.
Held at LEAF on Portland Street, the afternoon event was hosted by Peak’s Mark Perkins, a commercial manager who specializes in helping businesses in the construction industry realize the benefits of AI. Mark introduced the evening by outlining the incredible potential of AI for businesses operating in these sectors, and why, in today’s ‘data economy,’ the technology’s importance is more apparent than ever.
The first two speakers of the afternoon represented Peak, with our Head of AI Consulting, Chris Ashley, and Head of Customer Success, Alex Kerswill, taking to the stage to share some of our most relevant case studies and success stories with a highly-engaged audience.
Chris outlined some of our great work with leading online merchant, CMOStores.com. He explained the power of personalization across CMOstores.com’s six digital superstores, and how our Customer AI solution is being employed to serve the right customer with the right product at the right time (via the right channel!)
Next up, Alex discussed two more Peak case studies from a demand and supply standpoint. He outlined the ways we’ve helped leading hire provider, Speedy, to dramatically reduce its inventory levels whilst maintaining high service levels thanks to AI-powered forecasting techniques.
Following a short networking break, our first guest speaker of the day was introduced: Richard Frost, Head of Sustainability, Innovation & Risk at CRH. Best known in the UK for being the parent company of Tarmac, CRH has a global footprint spanning 32 countries and over 3,700 operating locations. To create long-term value, the business embeds sustainability principles into all areas of its business strategy. It was great to hear from a business that places such a strong focus on environmental sustainability, but one that is also highly committed to social and economical responsibility.
Richard fielded several questions from the audience following his talk, and was asked about the opportunity that AI carries for CRH, and what areas the business is already looking at in terms of optimization potential.
“Logistics is a big one for us. A big piece of legislation that we have to react to, and one that is a key challenge, is the rise of low emission zones; buildings are in cities, low emission zones are in cities, and we have huge trucks that need to deliver our components and materials,” said Richard.
“This would be a huge cost to us, so we’re going to have to completely redesign a lot of our logistics models to meet these new kinds of legislation that are currently coming through. We could do that through the traditional construction and building materials method of ‘trial and error and see how it goes,’ but I don’t think we’ll be here much longer if we do it that way!
“We’re going to have to find some innovative approach to help us do that, and I feel that this environment [AI and machine learning] is the ideal solution for it.”
Last but not least, it was time to hear from Chris Shaw, Delivery Director of Urban Splash, a market-leading urban regeneration developer with over 25 years’ of experience in delivering thousands of new homes and commercial spaces.
Chris’ talk focused on the unique and innovative approach the business is taking to house building with its ‘House’ project. This is a new concept of modular building that offers customers bespoke, architect-designed homes that are distinctive, modern, and a real alternative to the world of volume house building.
After the talk, we quickly caught up with Chris to find out more about Urban Splash’s views on the impact of technology and the potential of AI in construction, particular in modular house building…
“The big thing for us is the storage of materials in our factory. I’d say around 30% of our factory space is taken up by storage, and if we could use AI to move to a just-in-time (JIT) inventory, that could start to allow us to free up more of our factory space. We could then introduce additional lines and things like that to actually make our assets sweat more – so we can ultimately deliver the same quality product, but at a lower cost.
“Will AI play a big role in the future of house building? Absolutely it will. We live in a world of big data, and the bigger we get as a business, the more data we’ll gather. The more data we have, the more we can feed back into the ‘machine,’ if you like, which will then funnel back into the whole process. It’s an exciting time.”