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Barton Malow: The Journey to Predictive-based Safety and Reducing COVID-19 Risk

We recently recorded a webinar with Ted Jennings, virtual design and construction (VDC) manager for Barton Malow. Ranked by ENR in 2019 as one of the 50 largest contractors in the world, the firm has 2,000 employees in 10 states and serves a diverse array of markets, from education and sports to healthcare and energy. 

When we started planning the event, our aim was to tell the story of Barton Malow’s journey from safety monitoring and safety observations to predictive-based safety, and how the firm used technologies from Newmetrix (formerly Smartvid.io) and Autodesk BIM 360 to get there. Predictive-based safety uses AI to analyze a wide array of jobsite data to identify risk and suggest actions a firm can take to prevent incidents before they occur.

How Barton Malow is using AI to Assess COVID-19 Safety Practices

But it’s impossible to talk about anything these days without addressing COVID-19 and the dramatic impact it’s had on our work and our day-to-day lives. So, while I’ll talk about Barton Malow’s journey, first I want to talk about how the firm is using AI to track safety during the pandemic.

Our AI, Vinnie, has among its many talents the ability to identify safety issues in photographs, tagging risks such as a lack of PPE, work at height and cluttered walkways. And recently, Vinnie began tagging the type of work being done in a photograph so safety can be considered in context. After all, it’s not really a concern if people aren’t wearing gloves while they’re painting a finished room.

The goal is never to single out individuals to nail them. In fact, Vinnie was specifically designed not to recognize individual faces. Instead the goal is to quantify risk so safety teams can direct their resources and attention to where it is most needed.

In light of COVID-19, we’ve added a new tag: “People in Group”, where Vinnie identifies people who aren’t standing six feet apart and groups of 10 people or more. Again, Barton Malow is using this tag not to “catch” people violating the rules, but rather to inform the safety team so they can take action. Is there a choke point, for instance, that’s forcing people to bunch up? Are there important resources that aren’t appropriately spaced? With trend data and images in hand, safety personnel are better prepared to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. Soon, we’ll add another tag: “Workers without Masks”.

Barton Malow-Reducing COVID-19 risk

The new “people in group” tag in action at Barton Malow.
Note: This image pre-dates the COVID-19 guidelines.

“This isn’t a gotcha tool,” Jennings said. “It’s to help reinforce and focus our attention.”

We’re currently offering Newmetrix for free for 60 days while the pandemic continues. You can also find a lot more COVID-19 and construction resources here.

It’s been quite a safety journey with Barton Malow, and it’s not finished. As the firm starts to see the benefits of Predictive-Based Safety and as we continue to increase Vinnie’s capabilities, we’ll see the number of safety incidents continue to fall. We won’t be finished until we reach that coveted goal of zero incidents. 

Want to learn more about their journey toward Predictive-Based Safety? Watch our on-demand webinar with Barton Malow and Autodesk or read the case study.

Written by Josh Kanner

Josh Kanner has been involved in enterprise-focused software startups since 2000 with a focus in the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) industry since 2005.

Most recently he was co-founder of Vela Systems, a pioneer in the use of web and tablet workflows for construction and capital projects. There he led the company’s product, marketing, and business development functions. Vela Systems grew from bootstrapped beginnings to include over 50% of the ENR Top Contractors as customers and deployments all over the globe. The company was successfully acquired by Autodesk in 2012 and has been rebranded as BIM 360 Field.

Prior to founding Vela Systems, Josh was responsible for product management and strategy at Emptoris (now part of IBM), a web-based strategic sourcing software company with customers including Motorola, GlaxoSmithKline, Bank of America, and American Express.

Kanner graduated from Brown University and earned an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He still gets excited to put on a hard hat and walk a job.

View more posts by Josh Kanner.

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