BIM will change your business, but getting the full benefits means wading through the salesmen and consultants to adopt a focused approach built on broad engagement.
As the target date for BIM Level 2 compliance in 2016 looms large and many tier one contractors and consultants mobilise their resources, the significance and role of the supply chain becomes ever more important.
Increasingly, work into this area from a SME perspective reveals some crucial weaknesses that require addressing to ensure not only compliance with relevant standards but also the effective deployment of BIM.
When SMEs are taking the first steps to introduce BIM into their business, their world is suddenly filled with helpful companies offering the latest software and powerful hardware alongside legions of experts and consultants offering to guide you through developing in-house systems.
“Let’s not confuse the issue here: BIM will change your business”
While there is some great and well-developed software and some very experienced consultants, what none of them can do is tell you about your own business.
Let’s not confuse the issue here: BIM will change your business.
It will change the way you do things, but this change should not be driven by choices about software or generic external advice.
Consider your business carefully, take a step back and have a good look at it.
What are the things that define it?
What is important about how you deliver the services you provide?
What is it that makes your clients choose you over others?
How will BIM improve your business in these areas?
Form your strategy
The answers to such questions will form the basis of a BIM strategy bespoke to your business.
Your strategy should be aspirational, especially so for agile SMEs unburdened by the slow-turning wheels of large corporate decision-making.
As a core group member of BIM4SME, I regularly see people starting this journey and it’s inspiring to see the diversity of micro, small and medium businesses working through briefing, design, construction and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure in a new BIM environment.
“Your BIM strategy should be aspirational, especially so for agile SMEs”
I learnt a lesson about perception of BIM from one of my last technical clients.
I was trying to enthuse him by explaining how we now worked with co-ordinated models in 3D, rich with information and sensitive to accurate context.
His response was that he had simply assumed that was what everyone was doing.
Why was I bothering him with it?
It is of course possible to engage a more aware client in discussions about BIM Level 2, OpenBIM and collaboration, and these important processes and goals are a framework for the process of delivering great projects.
What we must be clear about is the distinction between the business plan and the BIM implementation plan, the latter being about the process of delivering the former.
Many of the initial benefits of BIM software are inward-facing: automation of drawing workflow, production of schedules and parts lists, and visualising problems.
Embrace these with open arms, but remember: this is the easy part and you should not allow the excitement about internal efficiencies to cloud the focus on your strategy.
Using BIM requires outward-looking and collaborative working, where project information is produced to be passed on and enhanced by another party instead of redrawn or modelled from scratch.
“You should not underestimate the value of making information transitions work smoothly for the companies who rely on your information for their work”
Where does your company fit in during this process and how do you need to change to complement those up and down stream of you?
Are you an information provider or receiver, or probably both?
These information handovers are one of the more difficult aspects of BIM, because moving information between the major stages of a project means moving it between design, construction, fabrication and the maintenance platforms, all of which have different requirements.
You should not underestimate the value of making these transitions work smoothly for the companies that rely on your information.
Most importantly, take advantage of one of the benefits of the expanding culture of collaborative BIM.
It attracts people who are naturally open, so you will find among fellow SMEs a willingness to help, to share problems they have overcome themselves when they formed their own BIM strategies.
Social BIM using Twitter and LinkedIn are also fantastic knowledge-sharing platforms.
You’ll find many SMEs are active on social media and this should be part of your strategy too.
Within the UK BIM Task Group lies BIM4SME, whose core group is made up of individuals from all sectors, disciplines and specialisms within the built environment.
Run by a passionate group of core members on a fully voluntary basis, the group meets at least three times a year at venues around the country.
The group is holding a series of BIM clinics, the next of which is in Manchester on 4 June.
These are free events where you can discuss anything you want with members of the BIM4SME core group.