Interview: Andy Smith, Waitrose – Providing client-side BIM leadership

Andy Smith, general manager of Future Planning at Waitrose, on rolling out BIM on every project, regardless of size, and plans to exploit asset data for space and merchandise planning.

Are you Level 2 compliant?

We are closing in on Level 2 BIM and hope to get there as fast as possible, even though we are not bound by the mandate. Our key consultants are fully up to speed with industry standards and we have defined, in a very technical way, what we want the supply chain to deliver, through an EIR, BIM Protocol, BIM Execution Plans etc.

I have a very clear vision that the client should be providing leadership and defining how a BIM strategy should be implemented on projects. It shouldn’t be down to the consultants or supply chain to define how BIM is used.

Are you now mandating BIM on projects?

Yes, we would expect a Level 2 level of detail to come through against all deliverables on future projects. However, the new space we build is such a tiny proportion of the entire estate that, in my view, no job is too small to start creating some form of BIM model.

On every project we will aim to create a BIM model for the aspect being constructed or refurbished that can serve as a foundation for a more complete model and dataset for a store in future.

For example, at the John Lewis store at Oxford Street, we implemented a BIM strategy for the refurbishment of the second and third floors, using Revit and based on existing as-built information and an external point cloud survey. When we progress the project to other floors, a complete BIM model for the store will emerge.

Is BIM saving Waitrose money during design or construction?

I can’t see massive cost reduction at the moment. Some consultants and contractors are trying to charge a premium on projects, but the forward-thinking are starting to say that it is more expensive for them internally to use AutoCAD or other non-collaborative tools, than Revit, or equivalent software.

What I find really encouraging is contractors are starting to say we can do this stuff, what would you like and how and where would you like the information? It’s becoming embedded into their ways of working.

What are your strengths in BIM, as a client?

Being able to get real clarity on what the design will look and feel like, which really helps drive decision making for internal customers, retailers, branch managers, and building operators. That should eventually drive down costs as the amount of money we hold in the risk pot, for changes at end of a project, reduces.

The technical accuracy of a BIM model has helped eliminate abortive works because we get to a high level of clarity quicker.

In what areas is Waitrose struggling?

We haven’t got FM cracked yet, but we are working on it. A key challenge is to enhance our BIM utilisation in the existing estate. We also need to look at how to connect BIM models to other non-construction related systems.

The design and construction period is very short compared to a building’s overall life, we need to make the BIM model dataset accessible for different types of working, such as merchandising systems, space planning systems, staff planning etc. I see huge potential in all of that, but we have to get the foundations right to start with.

Is integrating BIM with your FM systems a challenge?

Yes. We are absolutely committed to ensuring anything we build today comes with a fully-compliant dataset so our FM providers can suck the data out. Our current CAFM platform is not performing to expectations, but we are working with partners to resolve it and currently trialling systems.

There is a big drive towards productivity in the business and using technology to make sure all our maintenance technicians and specialist maintenance subcontractors have the right information so we achieve first time fix and other related KPIs.

What do you think about the public sector Level 2 BIM mandate?

It has driven huge awareness and given the industry the impetus it needed to ready itself. When you talk to the supply chain, awareness has gone right up the agenda, people have readied themselves to be able to deliver public sector work, which has knock-on benefits for our sector.

Is the BIM Task Group’s target of Level 3 BIM by 2025 realistic?

There are some big issues still to be debated and resolved, particularly around creating more collaborative contracts and a collaborative style of working, and defining model ownership. What’s good is that the 2025 objective will give people a focus and increase awareness, as the 2016 mandate did.

Moving towards Level 3 will require a major shift in the way the industry works to allow us to collaborate effectively, which could mean different forms of contract that protect clients and the supply chain from others tampering with their models.

From a commercial sensitivity perspective, everything we do in BIM is already locked down. We schedule design from the models, but cost data is held externally so we don’t damage commercial sensitivities of any supplier.

Are you aware of the government stretch target requiring the electronic verification and validation of supplier BIM data from October?

The data assurance piece is very important and if you define a clear structure you should get a decent set of data back. Making sure data is correct is a huge task, the first time you find out data is wrong should not be when you try to maintain an asset.

What is Waitrose’s next big step with BIM? 

It is an evolutionary process, we haven’t got specific target milestones, but we are constantly getting better. What I tell consultants is we are learning and you are learning, let’s try new ways of working to drive efficiency and productivity into the design process.

I would encourage people to get enabled, learn about BIM and invest in it because those that are, that can innovate, will be our preferred choice in future.

I have a very clear vision that the client should be providing leadership and defining how a BIM strategy should be implemented on projects. It shouldn’t be down to the consultants or supply chain to define how BIM is used.– Andy Smith, Waitrose

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