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Now is the time for manufacturers to help shape BIM

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The industry must talk and collaborate with all stakeholders, including manufacturers, says Paul Surin, head of built environment at Wienerberger and vice chairman of BIM4M2.

BIM, digitalisation of the supply chain, EIR, OPEX, TOTEX etc. have been the buzz words of the last couple of years – the construction industry is finally getting digital.

With digitalisation manufacturers are facing new challenges, new requests for information, new terms such as Master Product Data Templates, Product Data Templates, geoBIM, BIM objects, digital product passports, product DNAs and more.

While there has been a lot of focus on the, obviously very important, digital world (exchange formats, IFC, bsDD etc) what we really need to deal with is the real world – for example what people want or how they describe products, in a coherent way to aid process.

Those immersed in BIM and digitalisation should be familiar with these terms, however, many manufacturers are not. They know their products as nobody else and now they need impartial and honest help to digitalise their data and make it available in the right format every time.

I believe now is the time for manufacturers to help shape BIM. It is important they talk to each other and pull in one direction, either through trade associations (which could become the relevant authorities in the whole digitalisation agenda) or via Home4Life Consortium or BIM4M2.

BIM4M2 has been encouraging manufacturers to play an active role in the creation of models and product data templates (or master PDTs) with clear, concise, structured and relevant product data embedded, which will allow customers to make informed investment decisions.

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Unfortunately, model and digitalisation content creation firms only offer part of the solution to the puzzle and it is difficult for any manufacturer to pick and choose “the right” partner or “kiss the right frog”.

We only get one shot to make BIM work as a manufacturer and therefore it is almost a gamble and manufacturers hope the “frog” they have been kissing turns into their “prince”. I have been speaking to number of manufacturers whose frog either turned into a nightmare or a monster.

Manufacturers have not been able to participate or have not yet been engaged enough to properly understand and participate within digitalisation and the BIM agenda. There are still a number of digitalisation initiatives that take on manufacturers’ data, digitalise this data and rent it back to manufacturers. This business model will end soon as manufacturers are getting more knowledgeable and they start sharing and handling their digital data themselves.

Let’s not be too pessimistic, it is not all doom and gloom. There are also good “frogs” out there and I am sure all content providers will respond and the data/BIM object ownership question is only a formality. After all, BIM is all about collaboration.

The recent initiative with CPA, CIBSE and the UK BIM Task Group will focus on the real world descriptions that the industry is familiar with. This information will be mapped to IFC and the bsDD to ensure it can be exchanged correctly in the digital world.

The scope of the technical specification sets out to provide a mechanism to enable convergence across the manufacturing sector to a common method of providing product information, to enable the consistent flow of information from a manufacturer on an application-agnostic product through to an installed, operational and maintainable product or system.

The scope includes defining and documenting a transparent development, approval and management process for flexible industry consensus and peer reviewed product information sets and a consistent plain language dictionary for product parameters, which must remain open to achieve industry adoption and widespread use.

In addition to the information requirement for parameters, information sets and sources, this technical specification provides a methodology for industry approval of information requirements in a timely manner, based on existing industry expertise and recognised organisations.

The initiative will pave the way for a single and unified approach to product data, using a common language that can be understood by the entire manufacturing profession.

Led by BIM4M2 this initiative is all about improving collaboration and information exchange. The industry must talk and collaborate with all stakeholders.

Obviously manufacturers are one of the most important stakeholders and enablers, therefore a change from the current approach, where manufacturers and others sharing digital information (either graphical or non-graphical) “throw it over the wall”, not necessarily knowing how the information is used, is needed.

I also believe the era of “Hollywood BIM” is over and therefore a bright BIM Level 2 future is ahead of us, laying the foundations for the benefits within BIM Level 3.

Unfortunately, model and digitalisation content creation firms only offer part of the solution to the puzzle and it is difficult for any manufacturer to pick and choose “the right” partner or “kiss the right frog”.– Paul Surin