The technology may be the same but attitudes differ in the UK, US and Australia.
The way we collaborate as professionals in the construction industry is going to change, and it is already happening for some organisations. But concentrating on one end game will bring another set of problems to the table.
For example, the businesses that have already begun to introduce new technologies are finding their people are having great difficulty in adapting or accepting that change is required in their roles.
“What I have noticed is there is a gulf between the cultures of our industries and how they perceive the challenges presented by business information modelling”
Neil Thompson, Balfour Beatty
I have recently been to Australia, speaking at the Air Conditioning and Mechanical Contractors’ Association’s BIM-MEP(AUS) Innovation Forum 2013 and have close ties to my colleagues in the US.
What I have noticed is there is a gulf between the cultures of our industries and how they perceive the challenges presented by business information modelling. Yet as far as the technological landscape goes, they are very similar; in fact, almost identical.
Here are some opinions I have gathered from each region that demonstrate interesting contrasts, considering the similarities in the technology.
Technology and the blame culture
Chris Barker is an application engineer with Balfour Beatty UK and has been leading the technological integration on our projects as well as for our horizontal projects:
“The emergence of mobile technology provides new and significant enhancements in project management and delivery capabilities. It fills a digital void in the process between the design and completed construction of an asset.
“Applications are now providing real time, structured and relational data from the shop floor, giving visibility to cause and effect, and consequently analytical capabilities that measure supply chain performance and the root causation for production issues.
“They are also bringing information to the operative and manager with ever-increasing detail and efficiency.
“Some of this data will undoubtedly have the potential to influence the future of procurement and make quality in delivery more achievable for industry.
“What it won’t do for us is teach us how to prevent these insights from exacerbating the current blame culture or how to make individuals put down or adapt current methods to accommodate new and more efficient ones.
“This is down to people changing and not technology, and sadly the former will always be the tougher nut to crack.”
How BIM can stifle innovation
Jason Reece works in research and development at the Capability Center for Balfour Beatty US:
“BIM adoption in the US is probably ahead of most countries, primarily due to our competitive culture.
“With BIM, we now follow the leader. One person develops an idea and 12 months later your competitors offer the same solution. Simply put, our advantage in the US is our ability to copy an established idea and scale it quickly.
“Unfortunately, the architecture, engineering and construction industry in particular has forgotten how to innovate, so there are very few people that can identify that a problem exists and then come up with a solution to this problem no one realised they had.
“If we had more innovators in the architecture, engineering and construction industry, we’d be even further ahead than we are today.
“This is why there is a movement in the US to adopt the Japanese concept of ‘kaizen’, which fuels the ‘lean’ [manufacturing] movement in the US, started by Toyota.”
The lack of industry standards
Sumit Oberoi is executive director of the Air Conditioning and Mechanical Contractors’ Association of Australia:
“Despite the incentives, BIM uptake across industry has been gradual. Though technology has advanced, skills gaps remain a problem and concerns about insurance liability and ownership of the BIM model remain unresolved.
“However, the greatest impediments to the broader adoption of BIM are practical deficiencies resulting from a lack of industry-agreed standards and protocols for the exchange of information.
“While other countries have also embraced BIM, it is not an overstatement to say that Australian companies are among the world leaders.
“Certainly, much work remains; however, contrary to its sluggish reputation, the building and construction sector is doing its bit to move Australia toward an innovation economy.”
Neil Thompson is principal BIM integrator at Balfour Beatty Construction Services UK