Jan 29 2016

Is the supply chain BIM-ready?

Construction We are now just weeks away from the UK Government’s Level 2 BIM mandate coming into force (4th April) for all new, centrally procured public sector projects.

The stimulus for this digital revolution is to drive out inefficiency from construction, an industry long considered to be behind the times in terms of both technology and collaborative working practices.

To be BIM compliant, the UK’s major contractors have had to adopt new systems, processes and behaviours. Ensuring these methods are adopted and used by their immediate in-house and external design teams has been the primary objective when meeting BIM requirements.

However, with Level 2 BIM’s necessity to provide full component and attribute data, contractors are having to take new steps to ensure BIM readiness, compliance and governance from their materials and product suppliers. Failure to meet such requirements creates the risk of fines and costly delays which can reflect badly on both the supplier, the contractor and potentially the client themselves.

It’s not just about design

When the first government ‘push’ for BIM came in 2011, the initial focus was often upon BIM adoption by designers and constructors. Less attention was given to the BIM needs of manufacturers, specialist subcontractors and suppliers lower down the supply chain

This quickly changed, of course, as designers began to request BIM-ready data from companies supplying products and materials. Soon, many of the latter were heavily engaged in understanding what BIM meant for their businesses (and some are still on that journey today – aware that they may miss out on new trade if they are not BIM-ready).

BIM objects

BIM has, in part, helped accomplish what many progressive voices in construction have long desired: early involvement of the supply chain in projects. It has enabled suppliers to give early visibility of their products – and their related knowledge and experience of those products’ installation and use – in design and specification, and in planning the construction process.

This has not happened overnight, of course. Suppliers and manufacturers have had to follow the same steep BIM learning curves, and they have also had to invest time and money in creating object models of their various products and systems – sometimes with the help of new BIM object libraries such as bimstore.co.uk and NBS’s National BIM Library.

With BIM objects often required for use in proprietary authoring tools (eg: Autodesk Revit) as well as in in open standard formats such as Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) and COBie (Construction Operations Building information exchange), multiple variants of objects often needed to be created, and there was little consistency regarding the parameters demanded for each format.

Promoting product data consistency

Fortunately, in December 2015 it was announced that the BIM for Manufacturers group (BIM4M2) had teamed up with the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), the Construction Products Association (CPA) and NBS to support manufacturers with free, consistent product data templates (PDTs). These will identify the minimum amount of information that BIM components must possess, in accordance with the government’s Level 2 suite of documents. This may have come a little late in the day, but this hasn’t prevented many supply chain businesses developing their BIM capabilities.

The involvement of NBS is significant as it was one of the authors of the BIM Toolkit, a key building block of Level 2 BIM capability. In developing our CONJECT CDE (common data environment), we have engaged frequently with NBS through the BIM Technologies Alliance so that we incorporated Toolkit functionality, particularly relating to BIM data from manufacturers, into our platform.

As a result, clients, contractors and project managers can be confident that by using CONJECT that their suppliers are integrated with and notified of the virtual processes and activities required in order to be compliant. Configurable reports and alert mechanisms notify both supplier and contractor/client of non-conformity, promoting effective collaboration.

About the author

Michelle Mason

Michelle Mason leads the UK and MEAP Marketing team, with far too many years in B2B marketing to mention. A CONJECT newbie, Michelle is eagerly climbing a steep learning curve.

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