The NEXT Coalition, a construction technology consortium formed in 2020 by Black & Veatch, DPR Construction, Haskell and McCarthy to address the challenges of COVID-19 on the construction site, has completed the rollout of a key safety orientation and onboarding technology and plans to continue its work after COVID-19, according to coalition members interviewed by Construction Dive.
“The NEXT Coalition represented something bigger in terms of a bit of collaboration and a little bit of open innovation in how different companies come together with an aligned focus and priority,” said Dave Burns, director of innovation and field applications for McCarthy Building Companies . “The NEXT coalition was born absolutely out of a need to respond to COVID-19 and the security challenges that COVID-19 posed.”
Cooperation is the collaboration between competitors in the hope of mutually beneficial results. Some of the most successful technologies, especially at the beginning of the COVID-19 response, have been security-centric solutions. The usual orientation process resulted in unwanted gatherings at the site, which prompted members of the NEXT Coalition to implement an automated solution for employee onboarding GoContractor.
“We partnered with them and ran a number of pilots across the country,” said Burns. “As a result, we have decided to sign a company agreement with them and are in the process of starting this as a national implementation.”
With GoContractor, employees go through a digital security orientation process that can be set up as a project-specific template. NEXT coalition members plan to continue using it beyond COVID-19, Burns said.
The coalition member DPR is currently also testing remote assist solutions that use mobile tablets, telephones or an augmented reality headset. This technology enables a person on a construction site with a camera or headset to communicate with another team member, owner or inspector, said Kaushal Diwan, national innovation leader at DPR. He added that DPR projects working at reduced capacity have used these remote assist tools to conduct project inspections.
“This solution has the potential to really take off. It will open up new avenues for project inspections and create more flexibility, ”said Diwan. “It also enables more timely on-site support. If scaled up further, this could also help reduce travel budgets, as unnecessary trips for short meetings are minimized.”
Named Innovator of the Year by Construction Dive in DecemberThe coalition also initially tested a field-proven tracking technology for monitoring the locations of workers on construction sites in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. But due to the reservations of the workers, the technology was not adopted in the end. Tracking solutions are often rejected by the workforce due to privacy concerns, Diwan said.
“[There was] The frictions associated with maintaining some of these solutions, “Burns said.” That made it difficult to consider these technologies as a full-scale solution.
Coalition members will continue to meet after COVID-19, Burns said, and will continue to identify new challenges, such as common vulnerabilities for contractors, Diwan said.
“There is absolutely a plan to continue your education and focus,” said Burns. “[The coalition] is actually working towards what will be the next type of alliance, priority and focus. They’ll be engaging the technology community on a global scale to work together at the next opportunity. “