On-the-job training won BIM4SME award

At the recent BIM4SME awards, Canterbury-based SME contractor Coombs won the award for Best Training Initiative. BIM+ spoke to finance director Stephen Ball to find out more about its approach to BIM adoption.

What was the main motivation for  the company adopting BIM?

The company adopted BIM for three main reasons. First, the government announcement that all publicly procured contracts [from central government departments of their agencies] from 2016 should achieve BIM level two maturity. Second, the National Federation of Builders – of which we are a member – has been promoting BIM and provided training in both seminar and webinar form. And one of the company’s major clients, Kent County Council, had also stated that from 2016 contracts would be procured under BIM and that contractors would have to achieve BIM level two maturity.

Stephen Ball of Coombs pictured right with Robert Klaschka of BIM4SMEs

What benefits has BIM brought to the company?

It’s difficult to say, BIM is a long term investment for the business, the rewards of which will not come to fruition until we become competent in its processes and have completed several projects.

How have gone about training your team to use BIM?

Initially senior managers attended “action learning” group sessions sponsored NFB and Kent County Council. A BIM task group was also formed within the company consisting of managers from each discipline: estimating, contract management, surveying and buying.

Initially training sessions were held to consider PAS 1192:2 and we also used software demonstration to familiarize the team with the BIM process.

We also decided to take a live contract and manage it, as far as our knowledge would allow, under the BIM protocols. The reason being that although there is a lot of theory being taught at the moment there is very little by way of practical guidance. We also employed a consultant, David Harbottle of D2B Solutions, to assist with the live contract and the training has naturally flowed from this decision.

Which members of your team have you trained in BIM?

We’ve trained our estimators, contract managers, surveyors, buyers and admin staff.

How much approximately would you say this training has cost you?

We have managed to restrict training costs by using the consultant that we employed to assist with the live BIM project, therefore staff are receiving “on the job” training. We have also created our own Common Data Environment by utilising Dropbox. This has achieve a considerable saving on the cost of BIM-specific software.

Are you concerned that those team members you have trained may leave the company?

No, Coombs has good employee retention which is very common in the SME sector. Members of the team view this as enhancing their experience/knowledge within the business and not to promote themselves to potential employers.

What needs to change for more SMEs to adopt BIM?

BIM protocols are overloaded with jargon; there is need to demystify and simplify the process if more SME are to take up the challenge. The cost of BIM-specific software will also deter SMEs from venturing into BIM, therefore licence fees and training costs should be scalable.

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  1. Where can I do a BIM course? I am involved in contracts management.
    Is there a demand for BIM specialists on the market?! What sort of salary can one ask for, if BIM competency is achieved?!
    Thanks in advance!

  2. I am a final year student of architectural technology. May I know as a graduate to be, 1- what would BIM offer me in my world of profession
    2- if this is something good to be recommended to me to study as a Design technician, would I need to study project management before embarking on this subject BIM?

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