Construction is an industry that still runs on tradition and relies heavily on pen and paper for many of the processes on the site and the office. The good news is that a digital wave is rapidly approaching the sector.
More and more stakeholders seem to understand the need for a data-driven and agile construction process where everyone involved remains connected and confident that they work on the latest version of the project.
That’s extremely important if we consider that the IT investment in construction is less than 1%. BIM is, of course, one of the areas with tremendous potential which are affected deeply by this stalemate situation in construction.
How is BIM used in construction?
Building Information Modeling could introduce a whole new level of transparency in the industry and transform the way people in construction design, collaborate and build.
For that to happen, an impeccable BIM implementation and management plan is required. That can be much harder than many might think given the confusion that there is still around the topic.
BIM should be seen as a secure, yet open, vehicle for the data of a project. Operating on a Common Data Environment (CDE) can help the different agents to work more efficiently while reacting faster on problems that emerge in the field.
The creation of an open and highly collaborative data ecosystem could play a decisive role in boosting productivity while cutting down delays and budget overruns.
In addition, the creation of a “digital twin” can be a true game-changer in the effort to prevent mistakes during the building process, increase predictability and put an end to reworks in construction. As reported by McKinsey, the efficiency rate in construction is calculated to 30% while 80% of the projects are expected to go over budget.
It becomes clear, then, that there is a lot of room for improvement in the industry. Especially, if stakeholders in construction attack the root of the problem which is fragmented communication and lack of trust between the numerous stakeholders of the project.
BIM implementation challenges
Despite the enormous value that BIM can bring to the table, some parts of the industry are still quite hesitant when it comes to implementing Building Information Modeling. Habit is still a strong force in construction and is seen as one of the main reasons behind the industry’s digital delay.
This isn’t something new for the sector considering that it’s the least digitised market in Europe. People are simply not interested in changing their habits unless they see a tangible example of the value that they can get in return.
With that in mind, it becomes understandable that stakeholders in construction should focus their efforts on digital adoption in order to break down the wall of habit and communicate to the industry why BIM matters.
Training is another factor which hinders BIM implementation. For many organisations, the task of training all their teams, both production and stuff, to the new tools and processes feels like a nightmare.
At first sight, it might indeed be both time and resource-consuming but if done correctly the return is immense. So even if production goes back for a week or two, in the long run, a solid training can make your team work in a faster and more profitable way.
At the end of the day, the initial financial investment that is required for BIM implementation can scare some stakeholders away. Nevertheless, that’s a very short-sighted approach which overlooks the end goal of introducing Building Information Modeling to your processes.
Preparing for BIM implementation: All the steps you should follow
By now it’s clear that implementing and managing BIM isn’t a walk in the park. It requires a collective effort, bold initiatives, and a proactive digital culture. Only then, it will be possible for your BIM strategy to develop and flourish.
To achieve that, there are a number of steps that your organisation will have to follow. In a nutshell, here are the main components of a successful BIM implementation and management process:
Start with some BIM education
Before you start this digital journey, it’s of paramount importance that you get your team BIM-educated. BIM is a vast topic and there can often be a lot of confusion around its true value for a construction project.
Train your co-workers in the core ideas of Building Information Modeling and initiate an open discussion where everybody can ask questions, express their concerns and eventually get on board with your vision for a collaborative, agile and fact-based construction process.
This first step can pave the way for the creation of your BIM strategy and get your organisation one step closer to a profitable data culture.
It goes without saying that at this phase, you should be fully aware of the fact that this investment comes with a high initial cost. That’s a key point that makes many organisations, especially the smaller ones, avoid taking the vital transformational risk.
The secret is again BIM education. Get to know how BIM can help your projects and understand why this investment is worth the money and the effort.
Roll out small
As soon as the training part is over and everything is good to go, a common mistake many organisations do is trying to roll out across the entire company at once. In the case of BIM, this can be catastrophic.
When implementing BIM, it is always a good idea to start with baby steps. Find a small team within your organisation and assign them to test the BIM model. Once they become familiar with the new way of communicating, working and capturing data, it’s time to take the next step and introduce the new systems and processes to the rest of the company.
In that way, you have the time to detect any unpredicted mistakes and resolve them before they have a serious effect on your entire implementation process.
On top of that, by trusting the initial testing to a specific part of your team you have now got some allies across your co-workers. In that way, introducing and developing your BIM strategy becomes even easier.
Focus on digital adoption
The construction industry tends to focus a lot on the value that the 3D model brings to the building process failing to consider the key component of it. That is data and, by extension, digital adoption.
A BIM model is only as accurate and helpful as the data fed to it. In that sense, on-site adoption is one of the most crucial factors for the success of your BIM endeavours. This is where the simplicity of the tools that your organisation uses comes into the picture.
People on site should be able to report progress and submit their latest updates from the field just by using their mobile or tablet device. The easier the data capturing progress is the simpler will be for the on-site personnel to use the new technologies and join the digital revolution that you want to initiate.
At this point, it is important to say that, of course, the 3D visual representation of a built structure can be valuable for the stakeholders of the project. Nonetheless, there are different levels of transparency depending on someone’s role in a project.
A BIM manager could use a well-visualised 3D model but the people on site they can go on with their tasks just fine by using an easy, yet intuitive, 2D version of the model. And that’s why simplicity for the user should be seen as a priority when we refer to digital adoption.
Go back and reiterate
Collecting data is one thing. Learning how to read and analyse it is another. It is no exaggeration to say that data is your biggest ally in the effort to boost productivity, decrease reworks and start building faster and smarter than your competition.
Staying consistently on top of your data and becoming better based on its feedback can pave the way for a standardised construction process which can be repeated again and again in the future, leaving no room for mistakes and costly misunderstandings.
Thanks to this approach, your organisation has the opportunity to invest in replicability. That’s the first step towards predictability which is vital when it comes to calculating the budget, resource and time needs of your project.
A culture shift comes from the bottom up
It takes heavy resource investment and a lot of hard work to drive strong results in construction. Building Information Modeling has already entered the field and made an impact on the industry but it’s still far from where it’s supposed to be.
To some extent that’s completely normal, as a groundbreaking culture shift like this requires time. However, it is important to remember that a BIM, and therefore a digital, culture can’t be “CEO-mandated”.
It should start from the bottom up. People on the site should understand why they need to change their working routine and be able to do so in a simple and straightforward way. That is the secret behind digital adoption and data-driven decision making.
“When people begin to believe in the data, it’s a game-changer: They begin to change their behaviors, based on a new understanding of all the richness trapped beneath the surface of our systems and processes,” says Boeing CIO Ted Colbert.
So the next big mission for the construction industry is to find the culture drivers which will unlock a new way of work and communication in construction. In any other case, your BIM implementation and management efforts will sooner or later fail.