How do we build BIM Capability in the Irish Construction Industry?

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One of the biggest challenges to implementing BIM, for individuals, for companies, and for project teams, is finding, or developing the skills, tools and infrastructure required to deliver BIM projects.

BIMIreland.ie asked Ralph Montague, Managing Partner of ArcDox, if they have any advice for companies or individuals. ArcDox is Ireland’s leading BIM consultancy practice, and has been helping companies and project teams for the past 8 years, to implement BIM within their business, and on their projects, through consultancy, production, training and support services. Ralph gave the following advice.

It is a Journey – Begin with the End in Mind
The transition to BIM for a company is not something you can “switch on” or “buy in”, at a moment’s notice, just when you need it. It is an alternative way of working and requires a plan. Like planning any journey, you need to know a few things: Where are you now? Where are you going (destination)? What is the method, vehicle or mode of transport (quick/expensive, slow/cheap)? Plan the route, with recognised stops, or markers along the way (so you are sure you are still going in the right directions). You may need to adjust the destination slightly, or the method, or the route, as you go along, as you learn more things you didn’t know when you first set the destination – in other words, review your plan regularly.

Develop Skills Internally (you can’t buy them)
BIM is new to the industry, and there aren’t many skilled people out there just sitting around waiting for your jobs. Those who have the skills, probably have high earning jobs already. You might be able to poach one or two people, but for the most part, you will have to develop the skills within your organisation. This has the benefit that you already know these people, they already know your business, and by working together, they can help your business transition, while they learn new skills and develop with the company (and get to keep their job). Also, if you bring everyone along with you, you don’t become overly dependent on any one or two individuals in the business. But, this does, however, require a change in “culture”, of continued professional development (CPD) within the business, which is not the norm in construction and needs to be understood and supported by management.

Be Strategic, Not Reactive
There is no doubt that BIM, as a way of working is coming, and coming quickly. And this is not something you can adopt or transition to overnight. If you wait until the next tender comes out, with a BIM requirement, before you do anything, you may immediately be disadvantaged or even disqualified. Also, if you try and learn about BIM on your first project, where there is a full BIM Level 2 requirement, to PAS1192-2 standard, you will be under enormous pressure, and run a very high risk of failure, because you won’t know what to expect, or how to plan for it. In the end, you may end up sub-contracting a lot of your work to resolve problems or avoid delays, which will add costs and reduce your profit. A far better approach, is to consider and plan your implementation of BIM before the next tender comes out, and begin educating staff, even trying elements of BIM on existing projects (where there is no hard and fast BIM requirement), as a way to develop skills and capability for the time when you need it. Plan a smoother, more comfortable transition to BIM, that won’t cause too much disruption to your existing business.

Integrate, Don’t Overlay BIM
If you simply take your existing business processes, and add, or overlay BIM, then all you will be doing is adding additional time and cost, and you will, therefore, become less competitive, and less profitable. Alternatively, if as part of a strategic review of your businesses processes, you carefully consider, and investigate, how BIM might bring about business improvements in information production, management, communication, not only between all your internal departments but also between your business and external parties, including, clients, consultants, contractors, suppliers and other stakeholders, then you will be finding ways to reduce time and costs, and will therefore become more competitive, and more profitable. Also, try to implement elements of BIM on real projects, as part of the day-to-day business, rather than trying to learn BIM as something on the side, or after hours. Companies who have taken the time to discover tangible returns or benefits on their investment into BIM, are more likely to succeed and excel in their BIM implementation.

Find the Drivers – “What Is In It For Me?”
Your BIM implementation programme will very much depend on getting the “buy-in” from individual people in the organisation, who have to actually do the work to implement it, all the way from management, to workers, in all departments, and possibly even some of your external supply chain. You need to understand the human psychology. People in general, don’t like change and fear uncertainty or things they don’t understand. They like to be comfortable. You are going to have to take time to show people how BIM is going to help their lives, and improve their jobs if you are going to get their buy-in. Firstly, don’t assume everyone fully understands BIM. Provide everyone with a basic strategic overview, of what it is, why it is important, and how it is going to bring benefits to the company, and individuals. Get some internal discussion going. Make sure people understand, and involve people in the strategic review of the current business processes. Find out what currently doesn’t work so well – what is their current “pain” or discomfort. Demonstrate how BIM will improve things directly for them (or ease their pain). This will provide the internal “driver” for your BIM implementation. Develop your strategic implementation plan out of these learnings. Small benefits or gains, for individuals within different departments, will add up to big gains overall for the business. In many ways, the implementation of BIM is really about Lean Business Improvement and should be tied back into your Quality, Safety & Environmental Procedures (eg ISO9000, ISO 14000, ISO 18000 etc).

Ralph Montague, Managing Partner, ArcDox

Don’t “Reinvent the Wheel” – Get Help and Support
There is a saying that “experience is the best teacher”, but what they forget, or neglect, to point out, is that it is better to learn from the experience of others, rather than making all the same mistakes yourself. Many people, many companies, have already made the journey to BIM. They have struggled through the lessons learned. Many are willing and enthusiastic about sharing their experience, through the internet, through conferences, events, books, articles, videos, and through professional training courses and support services. There is no reason, in this day and age of “information”, to “reinvent the wheel”, to do things the hard way and stumble through the same learnings that others have already gone through. On your journey to BIM, whether personal, or as a business, or as a project team, follow the path that is already “well-trodden” by those who have gone before.

Show-Off and Impress your Clients
As you start to develop your new capability in BIM, don’t keep it a secret. Use it to impress your colleagues, your boss, your clients, your consultants and potential new clients. The design and construction process is fraught with problems and pain. People are looking for better ways of doing things, and for companies that offer better solutions. Become “solution” orientated.

Understanding the Barriers to BIM Adoption
Preparing an implementation strategy has to deal with the real, or even perceived “barriers” to adoption. Here are the top 3:

Cost:
Most people think, or would say that the cost of investment is the biggest barrier to BIM adoption, but really it is a lack of understanding of the potential ROI (return on investment) from BIM. Companies lack real data or metrics, on current costs and waste within their organisation, to make a proper comparison or assessment of the return on investment. They also lack the internal knowledge and skills to make these assessments. Helping to properly assess the ROI is where an experienced professional consultant can help.

Time:
People are generally very busy and “stretched”, operating in low income / low-profit business environments. They find it difficult to find the time, or money, to learn something new or implement change, outside of “the day job”. Your implementation plan has to take this into account.

Culture:
Unfortunately, there is a “culture” in the construction industry, to do the minimum, to push problems “down the road” or to appoint people very late on the project. The idea of investing time and effort in constructing the “virtual building” in BIM, to resolve issues before going to tender, or before going to site, is very “foreign” to the industry, despite the obvious benefits. Also, in general, the industry doesn’t invest much in training people – they are worried that they will leave or demand more pay. There is also a very strong “Win-Lose” Culture in the industry – in order to win, someone else needs to lose. Lastly, there is an attitude of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”, and many are using the excuse that “nobody is asking for this”, as a reason not to change or make improvements. You need to develop a new mindset or “culture” in your business that is proactive, forward-thinking, and respects people.

Some other Considerations for your BIM Strategic Plan

  • Develop Internal BIM Standards, Procedures and Protocols, that are aligned to emerging international standards, and linked to Quality, Environmental, and Safety procedures.
  • Have really good Template Documents and Object Libraries, to avoid duplication or work.
  • Carefully consider common Coding, Classification, Work Breakdown Structures (WBS), between BIM and other information workflows, like Estimating, Project Planning, etc
  • Have a clearly defined set of Model Checking Procedures
  • Consider what “Hardware Infrastructure” you need, both for the office, and field (site)
  • Carefully and continuously investigate Software (Productivity Tools)
  • Have a defined Training and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) plan for each role/individual.
  • Seek to obtain Certification (both for individuals and the business)
  • Where you work with other 3rd party suppliers, Assess and Support Supply Chain BIM Capability
  • “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” – have KPI’s (key performance indicators) and ROI (return on investment) metrics that you review often.

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