How AI Can Support The Back Office In Any Construction Business – Part 2

Written by Sandra Kirsch from Craeftig

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become the go to for anyone looking to achieve advancement and simplification in business processes specifically in back-office operations such as project management, purchasing and accounting in any kind of business may they be small or medium to large businesses/enterprise. Medium to large Enterprises can easily consume such new technology as application suppliers are ploughing the field ahead. Whilst small to midsize businesses such as plumbers, heating engineers, electricians, carpenters, builders, handyman, landscapers and many more, struggle to make sense of such and how to consume/use this new technology as application partners are sitting on the fence. This is where external application and software partners need to step away from ”business as usual” but think outside the box to enhance their existing solutions to include automation through artificial intelligence, reducing manual processes that negatively impact business profitability and management even in small construction businesses.

AI can challenge and provide greater ability to manage projects/jobs, schedule staff, project/ job specific purchasing, cost management, customer financials and finally bookkeeping.

Let’s discuss in detail each of these areas in this 2-part article. You will see enablers to support any construction business from contractor, one man band businesses to medium size construction businesses.

The second part of the article will focus on the project/job scheduling, project/job specific purchasing and bookkeeping.

Scheduling for projects/jobs

We have seen many advancements in the past years in field service operations for large scale companies, these can also be applied to small construction businesses to optimise their job scheduling and project scheduling ability.

I’m sure you have encounter times where you have to many jobs/projects and not enough time to deliver all of these or having to work overtime and weekends to get your scheduled work done to ensure we are keeping your customers happy.

So how could a solution solve issue occurring out of scheduling the right staff member at the right time to the right job? Let’s reflect what may be required to figure out the complexity.

So how could a solution solve issue occurring out of scheduling the right staff member at the right time to the right job? Let’s reflect what may be required to figure out the complexity.

1. Who can manage the job?

To ensure you are sending a staff member who are knowledgeable you need to consider their qualifications, level of experience and problem-solving skills to name just a few. When training an apprentice, you will need support from more experienced members of your crew ensuring support as and when required.

2. Who is availability?

There is two dimensions of availability: members of your crew and parts. You don’t want to sacrifice another customer’s job at short notice but offer the service to the customer at the time that suits your customers, so they don’t seek another construction business out to perform the work. Beside the availability of your staff members, we also need to ensure we got the right parts available, please see below project/job specific purchasing for more information.

3. Where is the location?

The proximity of staff members in an emergency callout, how do you reduce travel hours and how can you provide a service at short notice?

Now these are all viable questions and a fair few more need to be addressed when looking at scheduling jobs and projects so you can provide to your new and old customers the best customer service at the timeframe that fits to your customer’s needs.

This is where artificial intelligence can provide a strong support framework. It supports your business activity by investigating and understanding the jobs / projects and take account of who is in your crew, which skills they have and in which proximity(location) they are based, as well as understanding the job requirements. AI can provide the decision support framework that allows you to schedule your customers jobs/projects to the needs of your customer. Let’s talk an emergency call out for a heating engineer. The diary is full of jobs and the workload is at 100% of the capacity but the business has also got an apprentice which has learned a lot over the past few years to the point they can be self-sufficient in many scenarios. So, taking all these aspects into account a scheduling solution can understand the requirements of competing jobs and analyse who of your team is available the quickest and has the skill to fix the heating systems. Therefore, providing a suggestion in your weekly schedule. This could also mean an existing job customer can be rescheduled fast and easy through embedded automation to ensure both jobs can be finished at expected times that suit the customers.

Benefits

So, to sum up the Benefits for you to look out for in a solution/app that includes abilities such as mentioned above:

  • Providing a better customer service;
  • reduction in jobs being passed on due to availability issues;
  • automation of possible complex rescheduling scenarios;
  • flexible upscaling of your construction crew to your projects and jobs.

Project/Job specific purchasing

Project/job specific purchasing where AI can greatly support any construction business of any size are the optimisation of pricing and inventory (i.e. stock in your van). Whilst investigating project/job specific purchasing there is the pricing dimension and the inventory dimension to consider.

Dynamic Pricing

In the past few years, we have seen material cost fluctuating significantly due to market conditions. AI systems can monitor changes in material prices in real-time and identify the most cost-effective times to purchase supplies. This capability allows small construction businesses to take advantage of lower prices and special offers, significantly reducing overall project costs.

Inventory Management

AI can dramatically improve inventory management by tracking material usage rates and automatically reordering supplies when levels fall below predefined thresholds. This not only ensures that projects do not face delays due to material shortages but also helps maintain a lean inventory, reducing storage costs and minimizing waste.

Benefits

The benefits of such a solution include:

  • Never run out of parts again that you need for your jobs;
  • replenish your stock when prices are good without overstocking;
  • reduce costs for your customer and provide better quotes.

Bookkeeping

The last area to discuss in this series is bookkeeping, often a love / hate relationship of construction business due to its complexities. The necessary evil that most construction business outsource to a third party or make it somehow work by spending hours and hours in the office when it’s time to do VAT returns or invoicing customers.

But fear not the future is bright and AI provides a great framework of support that can automate up to 90% of your paperwork processing.

Here are some off the aspects on how AI is helping you to keep your books without needing a degree in bookkeeping and/or an accounting degree. The three area where AI can support and automate your world are:

1. Automated Data Entry

Traditional bookkeeping requires manual entry of transactions into accounting systems, a process that is time-consuming and prone to human error. AI technologies, such as optical character recognition (OCR) and machine learning (ML), can automate the extraction of data from receipts and invoices. This not only speeds up the process but also reduces the likelihood of mistakes, ensuring more accurate financial records.

2. Real-time Transaction Categorization

As painful as it can be you have business purchases that don’t fall into the chargeable space for our customers, such as buying new tools, coffee meeting with customers etc. AI systems can be trained to categorise transactions automatically as they occur. By analysing data patterns and previous categorisation decisions, AI can apply similar logic to new transactions. This capability allows for real-time financial insights, helping businesses understand their spending and earning patterns instantaneously.

The benefits of such a solution include:

  • Reduction in man hours to complete your books to spending and income;
  • real-time analysis of your cash flow and profit & loss;
  • automation to simplify your monthly and annual reporting to tax authorities.

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