Why passing BIM expertise down the chain is so important | ISG

Why passing BIM expertise down the chain is so important?

As BIM methodology is increasingly the standard, rather than the exception, across all project value bands, the role of our supply chain partners is ever more pivotal in our ability to deliver positive BIM outcomes.

As BIM methodology is increasingly the standard, rather than the exception, across all project value bands, the role of our supply chain partners is ever more pivotal in our ability to deliver positive BIM outcomes.

As an early BIM adopter, we are fully committed to implementing BIM across our business and further extending the use of BIM over an increasing number of projects. Our supply chain partners are a key element in this process, so we play an active role in training and upskilling supply chain partners. Regular training sessions at our in-house facility, The Academy, bring our supply chain together and provide a collaborative environment to stimulate the sharing of knowledge and expertise.

Where BIM isn't a defined project deliverable, we review every opportunity to introduce a BIM methodology to new opportunities. This approach often highlights areas where we can add real value to a project.

The BIM approach for every project is bespoke, which creates an environment to pioneer new processes, techniques or outputs, or fosters the use of new technology or software solutions. BIM projects now account for more than a third of our annual turnover (over £500m in value), which is why we invest significantly in our own ongoing training and that of our supply chain partners. 

What’s the proof for BIM’s efficiency claims?

In the pre-construction design phase, we’ve seen tangible efficiency savings. When we run our interactive virtual design workshop sessions, these often highlight issues that may have been missed traditionally, or help to find better ways of executing the project design or installation.

These workshops often involve the whole delivery team, so decisions and resolutions can be driven through with greater speed and clarity of purpose when the bigger picture can be clearly seen.

We’ve also used scanning technology for both existing and new build projects. Understanding exactly what we are inheriting allows us to validate the proposed design and affect relevant changes before the trade packages are procured.

Tendering using the model also removes a major element of ambiguity that provides assurance that the scope is interpreted and priced correctly.

Real world benefits

BIM plays a role generating time and cost efficiencies, which then create other opportunities to make savings within the project. It’s certainly true that more informed decisions can be made earlier and at all stages of the project.

An area of marked benefit is client or design change. With BIM, we are more responsive and more accurate thanks to the range of digital tools available. On a recent, confidential, project we were able to save 20% on material costs as well as a significant reduction in associated waste.

Can BIM change project relationships?

The implementation of BIM is helping to bring architects closer to the design manager, contractor, specialist subcontractors and other members of the design team as well.

As the development of the construction stage models and drawings often involve the interaction of the specialist’s subcontractor models and proposals with the architect’s live model, we are seeing more engagement, discussion and collaboration between the parties.

This is highly beneficial and promotes better integration of specialist sub-contractor design into the scheme.

A knowledgeable and experienced BIM coordinator or manager at the heart of the process is absolutely essential to forge strong relationships with the project stakeholders. 

Where are the weak links in the knowledge chain?

Some supply chain partners are fully conversant and advanced in their BIM knowledge and capabilities, while others are not quite at this level yet.

It’s fair to say that many underestimated the amount of detailed data required for our BIM projects. The industry has evolved quickly from 3D models to a requirement for rich data, its collection and collation. This is why ISG is focusing so hard on upskilling its supply chain, assisting them forward on the BIM journey. 

Encourage and flourish

The first stage of the process is establishing the BIM competency of each and every supply chain partner. We have found that face-to-face sessions have yielded the best results at charting relevant levels of understanding, discussing areas of improvement and how we can assist in eliminating any skills gaps.

In terms of training, we regularly host in-house BIM courses for our supply chain, staff and clients, and have also developed a supply chain-specific awareness day course.

Here we underline many of the benefits the use of BIM technology can bring to their own workflows, what the expected deliverables of each trade can be and how to respond to a tender bid for a project where BIM is a deliverable.

This course has received great feedback and is always oversubscribed, so we are now developing a second more in-depth session to provide more advanced training on skills and tools for organisations. At project commencement, we also run a number of in-house workshops with both the site team and the supply chain to ensure that they are fully engaged with the BIM process, understand and manage their deliverables correctly and we provide assistance and support where needed.

Supply chain feedback sessions are an essential tool that provides us with invaluable feedback throughout the duration of a project, enabling us to refine our support and approach so that we can maximise engagement. 

Client expectations continue to grow

Client expectations have changed over the past year as it’s apparent that there is a significant increase in knowledge of what BIM is, and what it brings to a project and beyond into the operation of the building.

Where our clients embrace a BIM approach, there is already significant buy-in across their business, so we almost always see this followed through to the end of the project.

Many schemes we’ve worked on are certainly viewed by our clients as a trial or test bed to explore the capabilities and wider potential for BIM and to help develop and refine their own requirements. We certainly have a role to play in helping our clients to maximise the value of BIM. The delivery of a large dataset at the end of a project is now becoming more commonplace and exploiting this rich data should enable our clients to see a significant return on investment.

Phil Brown is managing director for UK Construction at ISG and is a key lead on BIM implementation within the business.

This article is taken from an interview Phil gave to the CIOB’s BIM+ website and is reproduced with permission of BIM+. This article first appeared on the BIM+ website on 07 January 2016.

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