Implementing BIM processes and technologies brings many significant benefits for the construction industry. However as with any new venture it can go wrong, resulting in wasted investment.
If things do not go well a company may be less enthusiastic using BIM as a result of this initial experience. By putting the software back on the shelf the company misses out on the opportunity to transform its business, which could be essential for long term survival in these difficult times.
In 2007, Finith E Jernigan wrote the acclaimed book BIG BIM little bim. Jernigan identified the differences between BIG BIM; the all-encompassing process that is widely published via global media and conferences and little bim; the actual usage and application by operators within a design or engineering office.
The publication also clearly identifies that BIM means different things to different users throughout the process, and more critically that the specific benefits to individuals often take priority over the wider benefits to both the business and the project.
The BIM Hub endorses the view that BIM changes both internal and external workflow processes. After all implementation is a business decision first, and a technical approach second. Not realising this is the first step towards failure.
The Individual Application - little BIM
Jernigan begins an analogy of little BIM by the use of individual computers before the advent of integrated networks and the internet. In this environment, operators use the software tools only to enhance the performance of their individual tasks. Using this analogy in the design process helps to visualise the problems associated with the little BIM concept.
Learning how to effectively utilise particular software depends upon the quality of the product, the skills of the operator and the effectiveness of the training provided. These are easily defined parameters and are commonly used in traditional processes where software is used in isolation.
For example, 2D software drafting tools were easily mastered by those familiar with drawing boards because they worked in the same way, albeit more efficiently (the same as those using a typewriter easily migrating to a word processor).
Likewise, those who had mastered 2D tools took on-board the principles of early 3D technology without difficulty. The progression to 3D BIM as a modelling tool is likewise easy to understand and adopt.
The only real consideration in this little bim world is which software tool to purchase. What happens outside of their world is of limited interest to the individual operator. Many participants in ‘Software A vs. Software B’ debates tend to fall into this trap.
However BIM is not a traditional process. It is possible to use BIM tools in isolation but if this is done the real purpose and potential is missed (and certainly not Level 2). If using in isolation is the intention then it could be easier to argue the case for drawing board technologies being already easier and debatably cheaper.
BIM systems have now been linked with others via networks and the internet. This presents a totally different view which is an actual representation of the integrated business process that BIM really is.
In this BIG BIM world, personal systems are now in communication with all other personal systems and not just within one particular discipline. Architects, structural, MEP, engineering cost managers, planners and facilities management are all connected and have the ability to view and integrate their designs into a single environment.
This is the power of BIM, seamless exchange of data made possible by system interoperability; communication in real time to improve co-ordination; sharing vital information and improving the quality of project delivery.
However, in this environment it is essential that individuals create their data in such a way that it can be used by others. For example components, areas and volumes need to have material and functional information added to them to be properly quantified.
This collaborative environment requires the adoption of new business processes to define workflow and this requires both commitment and involvement from all who share the process from management downwards.
Not realising and acting on this is a common mistake and will inevitably result in an ineffective deployment of BIM.
In summary, traditional construction processes work in isolation; with individuals selecting technologies that improve their own environment. However BIM requires collaborative working and successful deployment necessitates adoption of the correct business processes to allow this to happen. The result of a poor BIM implementation will be costly to the business and is not a good use of resources at all.
To avoid this, it is important to ensure from the outset that the implementation is planned correctly.
Next week we will focus on Optimising your BIM Implementation by exploring how this can be achieved.
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