Our recent research, Adoption of BIM by Architects, has been compiled to provide an impartial view to help product manufacturers make informed decisions as part of their BIM strategy. The provision of BIM objects by building product manufacturers is now an issue of when, not if and of course how! With this in mind I asked John Tebbit, Deputy Chief Executive and  Industry Affairs Director of the Construction Products Association his thoughts on how building product manufacturers can benefit from BIM.

Q – Nearly half of the Architects surveyed in our research felt that Contractors were more likely to stay with specifications as a result of BIM. In your mind how do you think BIM will affect the switching of specifications?

My own feeling is that it depends on how much detail is in the model. If it is at outline stage then individual products will not have been specified. Further down the line, when greater detail is included, it is less likely that a switch will occur from one product that meets the specification to one that doesn’t; however saying that, there will still be the opportunity to switch between similar products that equally meet the specification.

Providing critical performance data in BIM objects will make it harder to switch. Manufacturers will have to provide regulatory data as well as the data that influences the specifier on product choice. As always price will remain important, but other influences that are not in the BIM object will also come into play, such as customer service and technical support. People do business with people they like so the less tangible stuff may play a greater role, differentiating products that have similar tangible data held within their BIM objects? It will be fascinating to see how it plays out.

Q – Over half of the Architects surveyed in our research said they would expect manufacturers to have a reasonable level of BIM expertise. What do you see as the barriers to the adoption of BIM? How can these be overcome and how can the product manufacturer help?

The biggest worry for the product manufacturer is the incompatibility between software systems. The evidence I have heard is that the transferability of data is not as good as it should be. A manufacturer needs the confidence that they can prepare an object in IFC and that this can be translated accurately into Autodesk Revit, Graphisoft, ArchiCAD , Bentley Building Suite etc. The manufacturer does not want to be faced with producing their objects several times over to accommodate software discrepancies.

The other barrier to adoption is manufacturers seeing BIM as drawings rather than structured data. BIM is not about the drawing but about the object’s information, it is about the data and how you manage the data. As companies start on a BIM implementation process, they will look at their ‘information strategy’ and will potentially save money, with greater efficiencies being adopted by the manufacturer as the product data is managed centrally from one system.

Finally the standard concerns that come with change still play a part, such as unfamiliarity and worry about cost. This is where manufacturers can learn from others, reviewing the lessons learnt by the early adopters and hearing case studies.

Q – In your opinion what are the main benefits of BIM for the building product manufacturer?

The early adopters may see some advantage initially but as BIM becomes the standard and everyone is using it there will be no clear advantage or competitive edge.

In the medium term I see the manufacturer benefiting from the restructuring of internal information systems, allowing for greater efficiencies. Long term I see the advantage being the designers (not just the architect, but all those on the design team) being more connected with the manufacturer. BIM will allow for a direct line between designer and manufacturer. It could bring the Architect back to the role of master mason, reconnecting the designer with the build.

Manufacturing has been digital for decades and now designers are preparing for a digital age. Manufacturers have existed on a digital island in a sea of analogue data. Designers will now be on their digital island and, although we may occasionally still need to swim through a sea of shark infested analogue water, BIM provides an opportunity to build a bridge between the islands.

BIM will fundamentally change the construction industry. Construction is the last big industry to go digital. Music, print, retail, much of manufacturing is already digital. Not checking data you receive because you know it is right and uncorrupted- imagine what this could do to the construction industry? This is where manufacturers need to be confident that when a file is shared it is received correctly, with no corruption to data. We could also potentially see changes in payment. If the as-built model is updated by the sub-contractor and the client knows this then why pay him via a main-contractor, why not just pay the sub-contractor directly? I truly believe we have no comprehension how the industry will change over the next decade. My father-in-law was a printer when that trade changed in less than a decade to being digital. By the end of the change, he said that there were whole trades that not only weren’t needed anymore, people had already forgotten what those trades had been for! Whilst we may each have our favourite construction trade or profession to suffer a similar fate, one thing is certain, we all have an exciting and revolutionary journey ahead of us.

John Tebbit, Industry Affairs Director, Construction Products Association

John trained as a civil engineer with British Rail and Southern Water Authority then spent time with a heavy civil and marine contractor before heading into manufacturing. He stayed there for 15 years getting involved in technical support, R&D, business development and technology licensing. He has been at the Construction Products Association for thirteen years dealing with technical and sustainability issues.

www.constructionproducts.org.uk

Further reading:

BIM for the Terrified
This guide is aimed at the general reader who does not have a detailed understanding of BIM, but wishes to gain sufficient understanding to assess the possible impacts of BIM on their construction product manufacturing or distribution business.

 

 

Construction Research: Adoption of BIM: 2013
Building Information Modelling is a hot topic, with government and the construction industry shouting its benefits. The problem for the manufacturer, with hard pressed budgets, is will I get a return on my investment? Adoption of BIM has been researched and written to help answer that question and then make the right implementation choices

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