Making BIM truly effective out on site

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Clearbox MD, Graeme Forbes, highlights the benefits when BIM processes can be properly enabled out on site. 

Mobile solutions to everyday tasks dominate our lives. On a construction site, where the need to access or collect information is immense, the opportunity for mobile tools is expanding rapidly, with users able to massively increase productivity.

At first sight the opportunity is to surface the information we have in the office, out in the field. However, it is soon clear to the battle-hardened user that because of the power of the devices, the size of the screens, the user interface on a tablet, the environment that the operator works in and even the issues of security that can arise with such extensive access in the palm of your hand, what is required is likely to be a more tailored view of the project surfaced in the format to suit the task at hand.

Mobile solutions from BIM in delivery need to cover three important aspects:

  • Provide information in the field – the right information, in the right format to suit the task at hand
  • Collect the right information from the field – to support the digital handover
  • Ensure the process of each is recorded as part of the digital diary of delivery, to evidence the work undertaken

As well as out on site, when facilities are in operation the same requirements exist around a fixed built model, but now the opportunity for BIM is significantly focused around the management of changes to the information attached to the components in the model.


Nevertheless, many mobile BIM tools work from forms (in the shape of pdfs) that are attached to drawings, essentially an electronic version of the manual process. There are benefits in being able to collect the information electronically, being able to read it and store it, but these benefits are limited to the collection and storage of file based information. The site information management process has historically been quite inefficient and results in much double handling of data and information in the completion of the task.

The Clearbox solution responds to the need to provide mobility but, by focusing on the data that is collected rather than the form it is presented in, it is able to bring improved cost, not to mention performance and outcome benefits that are essential to ensuring a high ROI.

One of the best examples of real mobility in solutions was recognised with our tool in action on the Chelsea River Bridge refurbishment. On the surface this was not a “BIM” project - the bridge existed, defined on old pdfs, and simply needed refurbishment. However, if your concept of BIM is about visual digital management then this project meets the criteria. The decision to use the Clearbox mobile platform only came into effect on the 3rd of 5 spans. The upside of this however, was that it allowed us the ability to compare a traditional approach with a digital approach which linked location, data and documentation to create a better outcome faster than could be done with traditional tools and, of course, with the most comprehensive records of the work undertaken.

So the process was:

  • Replicate the bridge in a model to provide the visual/locational reference – 5 similar spans with multiple replication made this task very simple.
  • Configure our application to replicate the workflows required by the Client’s process. A five step process was configured that involved all members of the project team. Wet signature sign off was included to provide early confidence, and signed documents were scanned and uploaded to record the approvals in line with the relevant part of the workflow.
  • Train and set the team to work.
  • Monitor the outcome.

The Outcome:

  • The overall cycle time from survey to signoff of the completed work was halved.
  • This led to an impressive return on investment that represented many multiples of the cost of the implementation as opposed to more traditional incremental improvement.
  • Much improved records provide integrated evidence of the physical outcome as well as the dramatic improvement in the efficiency of the delivery and the transparency in the process of getting there.

Watch the video here

It is clear that the use of onsite mobile tools will increase rapidly over the next few years. Even the most basic of tools support consistency, availability and efficiency. However most of these tools simply make a manual process electronic and the real step changing opportunity is when the process is managed at a data level in the app with the relevant associated information surfaced to suit the task at hand – that is when users will experience increased efficiency and a bigger ROI. 

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