OCR in Construction: Powering Up for Digital Transformation

Learn more about why and how many construction firms have adopted OCR and other AI technologies as their first step to start thei

 min. read
May 28, 2024
OCR in Construction: Powering Up for Digital Transformation

The role of data in any industry today is incontestable. Organizations need data to power their operations and make decisions. In an increasingly competitive business landscape, the ability to access and process data quickly and accurately is critical. Astonishingly, 86 percent of businesses still use paper to capture and store data, wasting an immense amount of time and money. Many of these businesses are in the construction sector, one of the biggest markets in the world. Embracing new technologies like Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Machine Learning (ML) can help take data management and analytics to the next level. In this blog, we explore how construction OCR can make a difference in your construction organization.

Construction is big business in the US, with the market valued at $2 trillion in 2021. With the sector experiencing a rebound from the pandemic, this figure is expected to grow. As construction projects become increasingly complex, construction firms are investing in digital solutions to stay ahead of the competition and ensure project efficiency from start to finish. Recent research by McKinsey shows that, over the last ten years, companies in the industry have more than doubled their investment in construction technology. Among the solutions being explored are OCR and ML, which can help companies digitize their data and automate the processing of documents.

Automation processes utilize data, yet a great deal of this required information is kept in physical documents and unstructured formats, making it hard for software to interpret. OCR alone can only turn images or printed texts into machine-editable texts; however, the result remains unstructured and therefore cannot be processed without proper formatting.

By combining OCR with ML and other technologies, Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) solutions can not only recognize text in documents but also comprehend their context to precisely identify key information to be extracted. This data is then transformed into organized formats like JSON or CSV. To sum it up, this advanced version of OCR software facilitates automated extraction, which serves as a basis for workflow automation.

Thanks to machine learning and OCR, construction companies can:

The complexity of physical construction documents can be overwhelming at times. Not only can they get worn out, lost, and misplaced easily, but they are also often not accessible to personnel in different locations.

With digital construction documents, these challenges can be addressed swiftly. These records can be securely stored within a cloud database and retrieved on any digital device, no matter its location. Furthermore, digital construction documents are far simpler to arrange and analyze. With the help of an OCR or IDP solution, scanned documents can be converted into a form that computers can understand. This allows construction companies to take advantage of collected data from these documents.

A lot of processes, such as accounts payable reconciliation, administration, and even waste management, involve processing a variety of documents and extract data from them. A huge challenge with manually capturing data from these construction documents is the time it takes to do so. One must go through each document individually and enter data into the system. This can be a slow and tedious process, which takes up significant amounts of employees' time.

By leveraging OCR and ML, construction firms can automate data entry. Documents are automatically processed by IDP solutions, allowing for quick retrieval at any time. For any business seeking to automate its administrative, operational and financial operations, it all starts here.

It's not just time that companies save when they leverage OCR and ML technologies. They also help them save costs in the long term.

Firstly, automating document processing help reduce paper costs. No longer do construction companies need to print and store hundreds of documents. Secondly, they are also able to reduce the labor costs associated with manual data entry processes and allow employees to spend time on more important tasks. With construction OCR, the software can do the job for you, limiting human involvement to verification of the end results.

Manual processes also tend to be error-prone, and this can mean huge losses for construction companies. With construction OCR, these mistakes can be avoided as the software is able to accurately recognize and process information without human errors.

Construction firms across the country are leveraging OCR software to automate their Accounts Payable processes. This allows them to significantly reduce manual labor while boosting growth. Not only can IDP powered by OCR and ML read and extract data from invoices, purchase orders, and receipts quickly, but it also returns structured information that is sent directly to their accounting software for automated accounts payable processes. This increases efficiency within the finance team while greatly reducing human error..

As a construction firm, dealing with certain physical documents such as reports, contracts, billing invoices, and more is inevitable. But using a legacy IT system and manual efforts for document processing can prove cumbersome and slow your company's growth.

However, with the help of OCR and ML, these documents can be managed more efficiently. These AI technologies have the ability to recognize text from scanned documents, capture data from them automatically, and store this information in an organized manner for easy retrieval at any time. With receipt OCR API, for instance, you can extract data from receipts quickly and accurately. The same approach can be applied to contract documents, daily reports, and more.

Data from construction documents must be stored securely and reported on quickly for better quality control. To do this manually would be an inefficient use of time and resources. However, with OCR technology, construction firms can quickly collect data from their documents and store them securely.

Furthermore, automated reports make it easier to keep track of quality assurance across various projects quickly. With a comprehensive overview of the data at your fingertips, it's easier to ensure excellent quality control and make informed decisions.

With all the advantages that come with using construction OCR, it's no wonder why more and more construction firms are adopting this technology. But making the switch from a traditional to a digital business model is no easy feat, and implementing construction OCR has its own unique set of considerations. Here's an in-depth look at how you can successfully implement OCR technology in your business.

Step 1: Make an Extensive Assessment of the Document-Centric Processes

To get the most out of automation with OCR technology, it is important to assess your organization's current circumstances and identify which parts would be best suited for automated data extraction. Take a close look at how manual document processing has hindered each area in order to prioritize what needs automation first. After this, you can begin exploring ways to automate your administrative tasks and processes.

Step 2: Decide Which Specific Processes You Will Automate

One mistake many businesses make is attempting to change everything at once. Rather than attempting an overhaul, the best approach is to focus on the small-scale automation of specific processes. Determine where you can make an impact quickly and where your efforts are needed most.

Ultimately, you want to automate to the greatest extent possible. However, with resource and budget limitations, a more reasonable approach is to automate data extraction from particular business documents first. The documents you decide to focus on first will determine which tools you'll need. For instance, if you're working with PDF documents, investing in a PDF parser is a good step.

It may be necessary to create an organized flowchart or roadmap. This will not only help determine priority areas but also streamline the process overall. Once you have set your priorities, you can then decide which data fields need to be extracted and used further down the line.

Step 3: Train and Prepare Employees for a Smoother Digital Transformation

The human element is just as important as the technology you're implementing. Your employees need to be adequately trained and prepared for a smoother transition. When going digital, start by introducing them to the basics of OCR, ML, and their uses the construction industries.

You can then create standard operating procedures (SOPs) so everyone knows how to use the technology correctly. Consider investing in regular training sessions and workshops to ensure that everyone understands how the system works and can make the most of it.

Step 4: Executing Construction Automation

Now that your employees have had the basic training they need, you can start automating your processes. Keep in mind that initiating the process is just part of the equation. To make sure that everything is running smoothly, you must continuously monitor and assess your system's performance.

The process should be improved over time as you identify certain areas that need optimization or additional automation solutions. Doing so will ensure that automated processes are in line with industry standards and help you meet all compliance requirements.

Overall, OCR technology can help construction firms gain a competitive edge by streamlining their business processes and ensuring accuracy in data entry. By leveraging machine learning and AI, it's now possible to automate document processing tasks with speed and precision. With its rapid adoption, businesses are now able to improve efficiency and save time and money.

Are you ready to kickstart your construction business's journey to automation? FormX can help you unlock the full potential of intelligent document processing. Get in touch with us today and start the journey towards increased productivity and cost savings.