The BIM Hub speaks to Colin Stephen Johnson, Company Secretary of Cadenas UK Solutions Ltd, about "openBIM".
Could you please provide an introduction into your organisation, highlighting where and how you integrate into BIM projects, on what level, and perhaps also across which sectors you operate so as best to give further meaning in the further questions? This should cover both organisational information, but also personal information and role within said organisation.
CADENAS have been leaders in the mechanical and engineering sector for over 20+ years providing 3D & 2D digital objects and part solutions software. Over the last 12 months, they have been working on adapting their technology to provide a unique global solution for the AEC and BIM sector. CADENAS will provide as standard, an online product configurator, multiple 3D software formats, visualization options and international data sets. We can even extract the necessary information from existing Revit models, so we’re not talking about high remodeling costs or we can create from scratch and implement online configuration tools. Whatever the source, it results in providing multiple software formats, languages and visualization exports. By visiting the Cadenas website, it will show an example of the software configurator tool and file outputs available to you.
Regarding the present BIM landscape, what do you feel are some of the shortcomings of traditional, closed BIM, and do you feel that a more open, transparent and collaborative approach based on open standards and workflows can resolve some some of these concerns?
Manufacturer’s in the AEC sector are trying to react to BIM legislation by providing a digital BIM product library but the current challenges for any manufacture is that there are no set or agreed global standards for both the type of 3D data format or BIM specification. Added to the fact that currently this additional cost and burden is placed upon the manufacturer with all the benefits and potential value saving being achieved downstream for the building design/construction/facilities management businesses. None of these facts are helping to drive rapid adoption of BIM.
Many potential lessons could be learned from the manufacturing industries which have been trying to drive down through life costs with the use of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software for many years. Typically this has been achieved with a closed single software vender (Closed) approach. This can often be achievable because the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is both the design authority (read: architect) as well as the manufacturer (read: constructor) and maintenance authority (read: facilities management).
A good example of this is the aero engine manufacture Rolls Royce, which designs/builds/maintains their aero engines by providing “Power By The Hour” to the airlines (Service level contract). Currently the AEC industry is a long way from this type of model with very defined handovers from each phase of a buildings' life. Added to the problem each is party to being driven by very different cost/revenue models that do not encourage tight collaboration and sharing of information with the architect attempting to adhere to both a design brief as well as a budget, the construction company bidding low and achieving profits via design changes etc.
There could be potentially a move in the AEC industry to a Rolls Royce service level model of “Building facilities by the hour”. Clearly this will not be an option for most within the AEC industry hence the importance of trying to agree open BIM standards, and this is the “Holy Grail” that the cynical older engineer within me feels the industry will struggle with for many years to come.
The classical problems of there not being one global authority coupled with the reality that the building AEC industry covers many different disciplines, from building construction, HVAC, complex steel work, to aesthetic interior design and much more in-between all having both their particular nuances requires the waiting for there to emerge an agreed single global standard that supports multi-language and the multi disciplines is potentially a long way off.
As always I believe it is important to “Follow The Money” and the building project financier/owner needs to financially motivate all various parties involved with incentives geared to ensure that all of the data they both use and create is open, transparent and usable along the entire value chain. This will involve many different software tools used from different software vendors because no one software company is capable of being best in class at everything.
The value of doing this will ultimately benefit the owner of the asset of which the buildings data should be considered as important as the physical bricks and mortar. If the building asset is to be later sold onto a third party the price with which the asset can be sold will be greatly enhanced if the quality and usability of its “As Designed”, “As Built” and “As maintained” data is complete.
Hence at CADENAS we have ensured that we are able to provide all manufactures product data in multiple software formats, multiply standards, and multiple language taking away the restriction and burden from the manufacture and ensuring their products can be seen and used across the entire value chain providing an enhanced service for their potential customers.
What benefits can see you a transparent and collaborative workflow, with a common language and translation, bringing to construction projects, both in comparison to those already utilsing BIM and also those which are perhaps not.
As previously explained providing incentives and motivations to all involved parties to share handover information in a usable and transparent way through all stages of a projects life, allowing them to agree the details of this handover between them will prove to be a better option than waiting for any international and global standards to become agreed.
What limitations or challenges might you also see stemming from collaborative workflow, and can you see this means of working being one to stunt creativity and relationship development, or perhaps complement it in the alternative means of working, with clear controls over personal design data?
A manufacturer, creating a product library in just one software format, can limit their ability to respond to the rest of their supply chain who also need to be BIM compliant. We have seen it time and time again, fabricators, contractors, specialist design teams, facility managers, distributors, international markets, sales and marketing teams could all benefit from multiple file and visualisation formats.
How do you see openBIM altering the landscape with relevance to small and medium enterprises, the alteration or boundaries to entry, and potentially increased competition from smaller software vendors and the impacts of this on those already-established core brands.
Everyone by now recognises that an open BIM approach will really be the only way to future proof relationships across the construction supply chain. I see the smaller software companies providing possibly niche or bespoke software solutions, but for a manufacturer, a software solution that enables them to aid specification by providing a bespoke product configurator, multiple file export options and international data sets would be ideal. As would software that meets the needs of their supply chain and also the needs of the international outlets.
At which points of the project lifespan do you see the primary effects, be they negative or positive, of openBIM on any given project? This could include anything from initial concepts and plans all the way through to the asset management and planned renovation of structures in future years.
The positive impacts of an open BIM standard and use of the subsequent data can be realised at every stage of a projects lifecycle. It is still early days for many stakeholders and the value chain but as this data becomes available in a usable and accessible form more applications will become available that will take advantage of this rich data source that will benefit everyone throughout the asset's lifecycle even in areas we do not see today. It is often trying to understand the potential impacts of change and make predictions on costs and time due to these potential changes that can provide the highest returns to everyone having full open BIM.
The challenge is often helping to ease the increases in costs to particular areas of the value chain that didn’t have these previously. A simple example maybe that design was traditionally paid by the number of 2D drawings that were produced, when in future they actually build a virtual 3D model of an asset.
This requires higher skill sets, higher software costs and potential increases in time, but the downstream benefits are huge to other areas and parties of the value chain and ultimately the asset owner.
In which areas, be they part of the lifespan or with regard to throughout the supply chain and partners, do you perceive challenges with regard to the implementation of openBIM, and how can you perhaps see these challenges being overcome?
From a product manufacturer’s perspective, the challenge begins when you understand that not everyone is using the same BIM software format and that with BIM it is not just the architect or designer who will require a digital representation of your product. By providing a solution that provides multiple file formats, then interoperability becomes the end goal not the challenge.
What experience have you personally had with openBIM? If this is somewhat limited, could you instead entail experiences with traditional BIM and purvey opinion on how the openBIM approach could have changed, be that positively or negatively, project outcomes or experiences? This could, and perhaps should, include any case studies you have on both notes.
I have worked for a software vendor for over 25 years in the area of PLM and product design and construction, with customers such as Rolls Royce aero engines, Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, Anglo Platinum, Batemans Engineering (Tenova Mining). This provides me with a unique insight from both within the software industry and the end customers with the alternative agendas of being closed (Single software environment) to the project driven multi disciplines across an OEM’s value chain of a more open approach. (Open BIM)
How can you see the openBIM approach, methodology and philosophy being adapted in the given years? In which ways might you support this development with any given reasoning and purpose?
At CADENAS we have always ensured that we maintain a tight relationship with all software vendors this allows us to provide BIM content in any format, language, and any emerging BIM standards that are being developed. This removes the burden from our customers not to have to worry about different formats/global standards and can get on with and focus on providing their expertise and value add.
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