Opinion

Digital supply chains: Building lasting relationships based on data

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To overcome issues such as the fragmented communication between supply chain members, the inefficiencies regarding COBie data checking and quality, coBuilder are launching a new tool specially designed to facilitate client- contractor and contractor-supply chain collaboration when it comes to asset information. 

Digital supply chains: Building lasting relationships based on data

Innovation, sustainability, and agility have become major focus criteria that drive client demand in the construction sector. Traditional contracts focusing only on crunching prices have grown obsolete in today’s highly competitive construction market. The shift towards BIM-enabled processes has created high expectations for the increased value of built assets and an ever-rising need for all construction actors to update their core competences in order to be fit for the rise of the industry’s digital tomorrow.

Information management in the age of BIM

Naturally, all these changes have had a great impact on client-contractor and contractor-subcontractor relationships. The increased use of integrated contracts and the BIM Level 2 mandate have shifted the main duties of the information management responsibilities from the client to the main contractor and the supply chain. In this regard, COBie (Construction Operation Building information exchange) has been identified as the solution for the industry’s information challenges. COBie is a format that allows product data to be collected and retained through the asset’s lifecycle stages. However, a lot of inefficiencies remain due to the general misunderstanding around what is a useful, good-quality COBie .

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The (digital) supply chain

Up to 90% of the project turnover of main contractors is spent on buying goods and services as part of further subcontracts (Makkinga, De Graaf, Vordijk, 2018). Information is central for BIM and this fact has great implications. It means that apart from the collaborative work of federated 3D models, supply chain collaboration over construction product/system data has become a crucial success factor for the whole industry.

Is delivering COBie good enough?

The management and, at a later stage, the delivery of invalid or unchecked data by the main contractor and their supply chain can lead to problems.  If data is incomplete or lacking the required detail at the late phases of the project, changes become expensive and difficult to control. Contractors can be pushed to deliver bad quality data (in COBie) led by the belief that project progress is more important than making sure that suppliers keep their contractual agreements.

On the other end, subcontractors can be hindered to deliver checked data that is compliant with the contractor’s requirements if the data is too generic and invalid for their business and competences. This issue gets further complicated by the fact that, in contractor-lead projects, it is difficult for the subcontractor to check their work according to the data structure that has been requested. This is caused by the missing direct line of communication with the client. Even if valid requirements are set for the subcontractor, the lack of coercive instruments that stimulate the subcontractor to execute the verification and validation often leads to further extra costs when attempting to solve the aforementioned problems. In turn, the accumulation of such issues can result in client-contractor tension and the contractor not being able to prove that all specified requirements are met. In the worst-case scenario, this can result in the client withdrawing payment and can cause adverse financial consequences for the contractor.

A systematic approach to collaboration

To overcome such issues, coBuilder will be launching a new tool specially designed to facilitate client- contractor and contractor-supply chain collaboration when it comes to asset information. The coBuilder Collaborate suite is the smart software implementation of the coBuilder tried and tested – Set – Collect – Check – Integrate process. It enables clients to receive validated and verified Asset Information Models based on a collaborative data flow that’s based on the use of a common data structure called Product Data Templates (What is a PDT?). 

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