ECA to mobilise large member firms to bring SMEs up to speed on BIM

The Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) is to produce a “BIM readiness checklist” and a BIM jargon buster as part of its practical responses to a survey that suggested SME contractors in the M&E sector are in danger of being “frozen out” of public sector BIM projects.

And it will also be approaching some of its largest members to ask them to share tools and processes that might help smaller M&E contractors.

The recent ECA survey, carried out with leading industry partners, showed that 54% of contractors with a turnover of less than £1m were “not ready at all” for BIM, while 30% with earnings between £1m and £20m were in the same position.

But only 11% of the largest firms (turnover over £20m) said they were not at all ready for BIM, with the majority either fully ready, or nearly fully ready.

Paul Reeve, head of business services at the ECA, told BIM+ that the checklist would be drawn up to assist firms that “don’t even know what the questions are”.

“What was a strong result from the survey was how many companies don’t know what the basic steps are, such as a BIM Execution Plan. We’ll be working on that with our members, although I think the checklist will work for any contactors as it will cover the main elements of BIM,” he said.

The checklist is due to be trialled by ECA members shortly, and should be published more widely by the end of the year.

Reeve added: “We also have a lot of large companies that aren’t struggling and they are confident and happy, and medium-sized companies that see BIM as a market advantage. But among our 2,800 member companies, with 2,000 working on non-domestic projects, there will be many who will struggle if they’re asked to help on a [BIM-compliant] schools project.

“So we’ll go to the largest members and ask them what they can export to other contractors. A lot won’t be able to share the whole caboodle, but they also rely on the smaller contractors so it’s about supporting their own supply chain – you can’t do BIM on your own.”

The survey also found that only one in three contractors (34%) with turnover below £1m had a “BIM champion”, compared to almost three out of four firms (72%) with turnover above £20m.

Eight out of 10 firms (80%) with turnover below £1m did not have a “BIM planning group”, compared to just one in three larger contractors (36%), with turnover above £20m.

Only one in four small firms said there was enough “practically useful and publically available” information on BIM, compared to more than half of larger companies (54%), and almost seven in 10 of all respondents (69%) said they did not have a suitable BIM management process in place yet.

The ECA will also work with partners on BIM awareness, training and deployment issues, including efforts to develop a common approach towards the use of BIM objects.

And it is also seeking out more case studies, and also hopes to find BIM projects that can be compared with highly similar non-BIM “control” projects.

“Some medium-sized companies have really embraced BIM, and I’d like to try to get their PR machines to talk about it,” Reeve said.

Among our 2,800 member companies, with 2,000 working on non-domestic projects, there will be many who will struggle if they’re asked to help on a [BIM-compliant] schools project.– Paul Reeve, head of business services, ECA

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