AI-based platform helps highway contractor save millions

The benefits of AI-powered planning and management are helping projects to be delivered quicker and saving clients millions, says René Morkos of ALICE Technologies.

The Highways England smart motorways programme aims to improve traffic management in a way that minimises environmental impact, cost and the time it takes to increase road capacity. Of course, even with this approach, delays to motorists are inevitable. And, if the project overruns, disruption and costs increase too. 

However, a solution is at hand – AI (artificial intelligence)-powered planning and management.

ALICE Technologies, a new player in the UK market, is helping contractors to solve this issue by using AI. Contractors can simulate the most elaborate project challenges and restrictions, both in advance of starting on site and during the build programme, to ensure that all considerations are accounted for and that operations are planned in the most efficient way possible.

To deliver the best value for taxpayer money and improve their own margins, smart motorway constructors can benefit hugely from intelligent scheduling and analysis tools like these. And given recent events - Covid restrictions, Brexit and the resulting economic turmoil - contractors need to be extremely savvy about how materials are being used and how labour is being deployed.

AI algorithms help contractors get the most from their available resources, while also allowing them to demonstrate value for money at every stage. Although it hasn’t yet been used for a major motorway project in the UK, the benefits of ALICE have been amply demonstrated in large highway projects around the world.

ALICE in action

An American contractor was hired for a large highway construction project in eastern United States. The contract involved widening the current roadway from four and six lanes (so that it became an eight-lane interstate highway throughout its length) and renovating four bridges crossing the interstate.

The contractor used ALICE to compare and analyse the many variables involved in this complex project. The software delivered detailed, resource-loaded schedules and production plans, which enabled project managers to quantify the impact of different scenarios and make informed decisions to help develop the best plans for normal working and for contingencies.

Getting the most from ALICE

After incorporating ALICE into its workflow, the contractor was able to compare its existing solutions with those ALICE created. It found that the solutions produced by ALICE were invariably superior, making it possible to revise and improve the project plans and to get the work back on schedule. “We were able to examine many more project scenarios than we could have done using conventional methods,” said the contractor, “which made ALICE an incredibly powerful and useful planning tool.”

By challenging its existing schedules with ALICE and resequencing its plans, the contractor was able to finish the project ahead of schedule and gained more than $25m dollars in value through early completion bonuses and savings on labour and materials. “The results we got with ALICE were excellent,” said the contractor. “We anticipated that we would make some modest savings in terms of time and money but, as it turned out, we saved many months on the overall project completion schedule. We now view ALICE as a source of competitive advantage; it has become our secret weapon."

How does it work?

ALICE can be used both during the pre-construction planning phase and as a live management tool throughout the duration of the project. The system has been shown to deliver an average reduction of 11% in project costs, and to typically reduce construction time by 17%.

For each stage of the project, ALICE provides accurate cost and time estimates, and offers guidance on the resources needed along the way. It allows users to plan for the unexpected and operate on a ‘just in time’ basis when it comes to things like hiring additional workers and equipment or ordering materials. 

When looking at large infrastructure projects like the UK’s smart highways initiative, the numbers can easily spiral out of control without a robust analysis system to guide contractors. But through leveraging cutting-edge AI technologies, those contractors can be confident that they are adding significant value to projects and optimising their resources. Less waste, more efficiency and minimal disruption on our roads.

René Morkos is the founder and CEO of ALICE Technologies.