Builders in Singapore rev up DX, seeing AI as key growth driver

Construction companies in Singapore are planning to expand their use of digital technologies and are investing more than 20% of their expenditure into these digitalisation efforts, according to a report from Autodesk.

Jointly conducted with Deloitte, the report is based on insights from 933 construction firms across six markets including Singapore, Australia, Japan, India, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Respondents were either CEOs, directors, business owners or managers of a construction business with headquarters in these six markets.

While industry players in Singapore are currently using an average of five different technologies, respondents shared their aim of increasing this to an average of seven additional technologies — a higher number than any other country included in the study.

The pace of digital transformation among Singapore construction companies is likely to have been accelerated by complementary government policies. These include Singapore’s Built Environment Industry Transformation Map which prioritises the adoption of common data standards and Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology. 

This has likely contributed to BIM technologies and data analytics ranking among the top three technologies used by Singapore construction companies, used by 40% and 36% of respondents respectively. 

Nearly two in every five (39%) are also using construction management cloud software, and prefabrication and modular construction technologies.

Sumit Oberoi, Autodesk senior industry strategist in the Asia-Pacific region, sad that with the challenges facing Singapore’s construction industry, artificial intelligence and technology adoption has become integral for businesses to succeed and to help reduce the costs of construction. 

AI also ranked among the technologies that Singapore construction companies are most keen to adopt, with nearly all (98%) considering the technology to be important to their business growth — the highest share of any country surveyed. 

The report finds that 30% of construction companies in Singapore surveyed are currently trialing or using AI or machine learning (ML) software. Findings indicate that the main benefits arising from AI adoption among Singapore industry players include improved efficiencies (61%), better margins (59%), with nearly three in every five (57%) citing increased competitive advantages, new ideas and insights, as well as enhanced relationships with clients.

More than half (56%) also mentioned the potential of AI to reduce costs, a key advantage that comes at a time when construction costs in Singapore are increasing. 

With factors such as manpower constraints and global inflation poised to create upward pressure on costs in 2024, the ability to manage costs will be especially important amid a strong pipeline of construction projects forecasted in Singapore for the year ahead. 

In line with this, nearly half (45%) of Singapore construction companies surveyed expressed plans to use AI in future.

“Generative AI means that a new project proposal doesn’t need to start from scratch, instead leveraging material and pricing based on projects completed by the company with similar specifications,” said Oberoi.

David Rumbens, partner at Deloitte Access Economics, said that if all companies with plans to adopt AI do so, AI will have a similar level of prevalence in the construction industry as data analytics or mobile apps.

However, integrating technologies like these into business operations will be no small feat. The report identified the lack of digital skills as a key barrier to technology adoption, registered among more than a third (34%) of Singapore respondents. 

Findings also indicate that Singapore construction companies were the most likely out of all countries surveyed to find actions aimed at reducing skill gaps ineffective. 

For instance, while 79% of construction companies in Singapore had hired new workers, 32% found this to be ineffective in addressing the skills gap, a figure well above the regional average of 16%.