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Comment: There’s more than one way to BIM a cat

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There are many different ways for manufacturers to approach BIM, say regular contributors John Adams, head of BIM services at BIM Strategy, and coBuilder chief executive Nick Tune.

Construction product manufacturers are all different, so why should they all see BIM the same way? There are of course standards and mandates to consider when it comes to BIM, but within this wider framework, there are ways for businesses to show what makes them different with more clarity and efficiency than ever before.

Instead of seeing BIM as a tick in a box, or worse still, a scary threat to their businesses, it is time for manufacturers to get excited about providing great digital content to their customers and specifiers.

To understand how best to engage with, and importantly, start winning with, BIM it is fundamental to understand that there is indeed more than one way to BIM a cat.

The great news is that nobody knows the qualities of a business better than they do, and that is exactly where to start. Distill what makes the business unique and make sure the BIM content provided to the industry reflects that. Just like a visit to the website or showroom, if somebody uses manufacturer-specific BIM data in their design or construction model they should learn the key aspects of the product or solution, so focus on this.

If a product has specific geometrical design features that make it better than a competitor’s alternative, then investing in product specific geometry (aka a BIM object) may be the right option. If a manufacturer offers the thinnest product on the market, letting people design with a data-rich replica will offer an advantage because trying to swap it out later may adversely impact floor area.

If this sounds like the shape of your challenge then you should consider approaching a specialist in content creation. In many cases, BIM objects are also useful as design aids to help specifiers get their designs right for specific products. BIM Strategy offers this service, but so do others, and just like manufacturers, we’re all different – so make a few calls and find the best fit for you. 

However, there are plenty of business advantages that have little to do with dimensions or aesthetics; this is where BIM differs significantly from CAD. If the advantage is based in areas such as longer warranties, the use of higher quality aggregates, or increased performance of any other kind, then the focus should really be on the “I” for information in BIM ahead of the “M” for modelling.

If the product you sell looks pretty generic, but it outperforms your competitors in areas which can’t be seen in a 3D representation then using BIM to promote this takes a different flavour which until recently was difficult to deliver. That was until coBuilder delivered its new goBIM solution to the market which has a very much data first approach.

As manufacturers are realising they need to start sharing data as well as PDF documents, and in some cases BIM objects, coBuilder developed goBIM to act as a manufacturer’s information hub, where they can set their data free to their customers by creating their Product Data Sheets, as well as hosting their documents and BIM objects.

The manufacturer can now control and edit their data and can meet their clients’ data requirements (Skanska has publicly stated they require manufacturers’ data and not objects) while gaining valuable market intelligence as to who is using their data and what data their customers require. So you may well be asking: what data should I share and where do I get it from? The answer is really simple, you already have the data and most of it comes from the standards you must conform to under Construction Product Regulations.

By using the Product Data Templates, that conform to CEN 442 WG4 (EU standard on BIM data templates and attributes), ie those that have the standards embedded within them, you can structure your data, and coBuilder then maps it to BIM formats such as IFC, Revit, COBie etc, so that the data is now interoperable and shareable to all.

Once you’ve defined whether you need to invest in data-rich geometry families, or whether you want to invest in tools to share your data widely, or you really do need both options, the next step should be to talk to your customers and specifiers. Find out how they would like to use your BIM content, what information can you provide which helps them satisfy the needs of their projects.

With this knowledge captured and a few phone calls under your belt, your business should be ready to embark on your BIM journey heading in the right direction. 

In many cases, BIM objects are also useful as design aids to help specifiers get their designs right for specific products. BIM Strategy offers this service, but so do others, and just like manufacturers, we’re all different – so make a few calls and find the best fit for you.