3 Things to Do First
June 09, 2021
With construction companies making the transition to using building information modeling (BIM) in their projects, there’s no shortage of effort going into the technical aspects of ensuring everything will work as planned. And that makes sense. After all, you want to make sure software and hardware compatibility and capabilities are aligned.
But that’s only part of what will make a BIM implementation successful. Because it’s more of a process than a 3D modeling software, there are several key non-technical things that should be in place ahead of the technology itself.
This has to start at the top. Why? Because it shows management is on board, supporting it not just as a new practice, but also from a financial perspective. Plus, when you have buy-in at the highest levels, that’s an indication there’s an expectation of gaining measurable value from BIM. This kind of support tends to spread through the rest of the company and helps smooth acceptance and adoption.
Naturally there may be some who view this as an unwelcome and disruptive change. It may be stemming from fear of leaving the familiar behind or not having accurate information about what BIM is really all about. Emphasize the benefits to counter any potential resistance to a new process. Better yet, highlight how other companies are using it and the gains they’ve experienced. This can be through published case studies or testimonials calling attention to some of the ways migrating to a BIM process has benefited their construction company through an improved, more accurate process. You may even consider asking the solution providers you’ve contacted if they’re willing to put you in touch with a client or two (if you don’t know of other companies on your own) who would be willing to share firsthand experiences of the positive impact it has made on their design process and their projects.
To understand the level of shift you’ll experience, it might help to compare it to the evolution of the phone. Years ago, people began transitioning from wall phones with 10’ coiled cords to cordless phones and then to “brick” cellular phones. Phone functionality remained basically the same throughout, yet you were no longer tethered to a location. Then came the shift to smartphones. The point is that for each evolution, there was a slightly higher learning curve and price tag, yet the gain in extra capabilities within one device was well worth the investment of time and money.
This is similar to the construction industry’s migration to BIM. When CAD was introduced over 30 years ago, it represented a shift in how to view 2D documents. Going from paper to computer screen in order to view project blueprints or job site maps was a leap. The shift to BIM is more so, but the payoffs are proportionately bigger as well. Because with BIM, it’s not just how you draft or view blueprints, for example, it’s how you interact with them. It requires implementing and following a new process of designing and managing structures using interactive data — from beginning to end of construction, and beyond into facilities management. Ensuring this is buttoned up is more critical than even the choice of software.
A change like this will take time and patience. Assuming you have the necessary software and hardware to support BIM, a logical place to start is choosing a pilot project to implement the new process — one that is smaller than your typical project or that doesn’t have a high level of risk attached to it. Perhaps one that resembles a recent project so comparisons can be made.
This project is where you’re going to experiment with what BIM enables you to do, as well as work through any initial challenges of using unfamiliar processes. So you’ll need to assemble a team to participate in it. Whether handpicked or volunteered, your pilot project team members ideally are tech-savvy and already somewhat familiar with design modeling. Why? Because not only can they give more informed, thoughtful feedback on how the process is working, but they also can assist other staff who are learning how to use it. They may be the ones who become your BIM evangelists. Be sure to give this pilot team the proper training
Throughout the test project, don’t forget to document, document, document. Take note of how BIM was used, any common use threads that emerged among team members and any stumbling blocks that presented themselves. Also consider questions like these:
- Was the formal training sufficient?
- What common challenges arose and what were the solutions?
- Was using the software smooth and intuitive?
- How long did it take to perform the takeoff and estimate?
- Was the process shorter and more streamlined than your current processes?
- What was the quality level of the final project? If the project was chosen for its resemblance to another one, how did the results compare?
These details will help inform the best practices or standards your company uses going forward. One thing to keep in mind is that not all companies use BIM in the same way, so the standards you create will be unique to your organization.
You stand to have more success with BIM when the process itself is adopted rather than just the idea of the technology. When you’re ready to start exploring your software options, look to InEight Model as a possible solution. It’s designed to make managing your capital projects more efficient, while optimizing decision making and collaboration. An InEight demo can show you how all the rich data it collects and processes can also help streamline your takeoffs and estimates and create a more accurate, better quality structure.