Manufacturers around the world are making BIM content available for their products to meet increasing demand from their AEC clients. But do manufacturers really know what impact their BIM content is having on their brand and reputation?
All BIM content is NOT created equal
At present, most manufacturers investing in BIM content are outsourcing creation to specialist content creators. Few manufacturers possess the skills and understanding to generate quality content themselves. Some of this outsourced content is great and some of it is, well, not so great. Absolutely useless might be another way of putting it.
You are what you BIM
By making their content available to their clients in various ways, including hosting it on their own websites, manufacturers are taking ownership of their content. And rightly so. But like anything that bears your company’s name, it’s a representation of your brand and a direct reflection of your company’s commitment to quality.
If your clients look at your BIM content and see major flaws in the way the content is created, this does not reflect well on your ability to meet your client’s needs. Perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t portray the commitment to quality you want associated with the products you are ultimately trying to sell.
BIM content is a product. Quality matters.
It’s a harsh association perhaps, but when I see BIM content with glaring issues, my opinion of the manufacturer certainly doesn’t improve. If I was a specifier comparing two manufacturers and one had major flaws in their content, how would that affect my perception of those two companies and their approach to holistic quality? Consciously or subconsciously, how would this then translate to my specification decisions?
Ignorance may be bliss…. but only temporarily
When I speak with other manufacturers, those who have BIM content tend to say so with a great sense of pride. Yet, somewhat frighteningly, some can’t even tell me what formats they have available. Even fewer are able to make any quantifiable statements about the quality of their content. Furthermore, short of seeing a few ‘pictures’ of their content, hardly any have actually test driven their content, or seen someone else do it for them. For me, these are major oversights.
I ask manufacturers this question. Would you be happy for a website designer to create a website for your company and make it live without you having reviewed it? Of course they wouldn’t. It would be madness not to review a website, catalogue, press release or even a new product design first before showing it to your clients. What if it’s terrible? What if it’s not right? So why don’t so many manufacturers have at least a basic understanding of their BIM content if they’re using this as a primary part of their sales and marketing efforts? You are putting an enormous amount of faith in your content creator to properly understand your product and produce a quality BIM solution.
The obvious difference is that most manufacturers can’t really evaluate their own BIM content. They lack the tools and the skills to review their content and will generally only judge the outcome on how the models look from an aesthetic point of view, which is often the first mistake in itself. Understanding BIM content is currently perceived as a bridge too far by a lot of manufacturers.
What’s the solution?
I believe the solution is for manufacturers to start learning about BIM and more specifically, learning as much as they can about how their products can and should represent in a BIM format. Mitigate your risks and maximise your potential gains by knowing what a quality outcome should be. At the very least you will be able to understand the feedback you are getting from third parties (i.e. your clients) if you ask for it. And you should. You are also more capable of contributing valuable insights during the creation process.
Understanding BIM is an AEC marketing must
Let me put it like this. Twenty years ago, sales and marketing people knew nothing about websites. But over time we have learnt about ‘foreign’ subjects like SEO, metadata and web design principles. We are now able to critique a website with greater technical ability. An even better illustration of this point is that most of us knew nothing about the products we now promote (I know I knew nothing about stainless steel plumbing fixtures before working at Britex) but we learnt enough to create technical marketing materials. This is what we do. We learn about associated subjects that make us better at our job. We don’t need to be industry experts in all of these areas, but we learn enough to make better, more informed decisions. BIM should be no different. Understanding at least basic BIM principles and BIM content fundamentals will make you better at your job.
Is it worth it? Is it really necessary?
Manufacturers who are truly investing in BIM are already seeing great return on investment in areas like specification frequency, reputation, goodwill and improved processes relating to procurement. There are some fabulous examples of manufacturers who have used their BIM investment to reposition and elevate themselves above their competitors. These manufacturers are not just having content created for them, but working cohesively with their creators and in some cases, creating it themselves. They are learning about BIM processes, articulating the facets of their content with their clients in ‘BIM speak’, attending BIM events and adopting industry standards where applicable. In this sense, BIM shouldn’t be something that is ‘tacked on’. BIM should be integrated.
I believe the day is nigh that any manufacturer seeking excellence in servicing the AEC sector will employ their own quasi ‘BIM Manager’. This person won’t just create BIM content but contribute in various ways to the sales, marketing and operational requirements of the business. A number of manufacturers have already done this.
Understanding the basics of BIM content is not a bridge too far for manufacturers. It’s just another bridge. In fact, it’s right in front of you. Stop looking at it and start the journey of walking across it.
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