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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Bittinger

The Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Industry needs AI NLG now more than ever

To understand my argument that the AEC industry needs natural language generation (NLG) now more than ever before, let me explain NLG. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly common in various industries. For example, Facebook algorithms cannot only make a distinction between a person versus an object but can identify that person’s name and profile through a picture. In the world of text generation, AI is rapidly changing the way text is being produced. Natural language generation analyzes structured data, such as information in an Excel document or a Google Sheets document. Information in these documents are organized in a consistent format. NLG produces an automatically generated text document that can explain the “what”, what changed and “why”, describing the contributing factors that explain the reasons for what changed.

The reason why I think this is a game changer is because NLG can produce these text documents significantly faster and more accurately than a human analyst. NLG reporting empowers data analysts and project managers with fast and accurate text explanations so a new set of decisions can be made by decision makers within an organization.

So, why do I think the construction industry is in need of natural language generation (NLG)? In one word, “quality.” The word “quality” denotes a few factors. Achieving “quality” for any company is a result of a long list of things that "should" happen on a project such as an aligned understanding of project status, cost efficiency, reduced errors and so on and so forth. Construction companies are highly concerned about delivering a high-quality product and achieving high scoring client satisfaction results. Why? They want to easily secure new business and new projects from that same client. As the common business saying goes, “it is more valuable to keep ongoing business with an existing client than spending efforts on winning new clients.” This is very much true in the construction industry. For a high performing construction, engineering or architecture firm, they derive about 25% to 60% of revenue from new projects brought on by existing clients.

Moreover, how can NLG help? Construction companies generate data, a lot of data. This data can cover information on workplace injuries, work-in-progress reports (WIP’s), capital expenditure vs. project milestones, quality control (punch lists, rework, etc.), average revenue per day and material delivery updates. NLG can quickly assess these data points and in a written summary describe the changes in progress and why the changes are occurring. Subsequently, when these written summaries are produced, which we call data story narratives (DSN’s), Superintendents, Project Managers and Financial Managers are empowered by getting contextual understanding through a written explanation of all these data points. These story narratives improve team alignment, reduced errors and more importantly, a deeper understanding of the operations all told in a story format. What do many bosses often say to their managers? “Thanks for the dashboards, data graphs and spreadsheets, but please just tell me in plain English what it means and why it's important.” Artificial intelligence natural language generation can provide this clarity.

Furthermore, here at Array, we can make those data story narratives interactive. Meaning, Project Managers and Financial Managers can query questions into an app, such as Slack (now part of Salesforce), to quickly retrieve these data story narratives to enhance their work and decisions. For smaller construction companies, this process can serve as their own virtual data analyst or for larger companies, it can augment their own teams of data analysts that can produce reports faster, accurately and more frequently. All of this aims to deliver a high quality product to a client through an aligned understanding of operational and project changes. Furthermore, NLG helps companies to undergo a digital transformation for any company, especially for the construction industry. During this “post-Covid” period of time where remote working and access to broad understanding of project changes and project updates are becoming the norm, NLG may become an essential and streamlined approach to delivering construction projects on-time, on-budget, injury-free and with high client satisfaction results.


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