BIM: Talk the talk. Walk the walk?

Silly Walk Gait

By Jazeen Hollings (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Over the years, I have been involved with various companies in transitioning away from drafting systems (paper & CAD) towards model-based systems (BIM).

BIM is a term that corporate sloganeers like to get hold of, often accompanied by words such as ‘innovative’, ‘business transformation’ or ‘disruption’ (or my favourite ‘thought leader’). There can be a lot of hot air and BIM certainly gets thrown in the mix.

While there is nothing unique, or indeed wrong with talking up the capabilities of a business, all talk & little (or no) action goes beyond a waste of time i.e has a negative effect.

So, talking BIM is a good start but has to be matched with action.

Superficial BIM (the talk)

For a business that has well developed & efficient CAD systems, superficial use of BIM is most likely counterproductive.
In other words, it takes more time to produce the same output using an inefficient process, or the BIM component is just added on to an existing process (so it constitutes extra effort with little benefit) or simply the additional costs in software & training.

For example, in a structural design context- if an engineer works in a traditional drafting workflow (in terms of concept design, analysis, red-line review of drawings etc) and the only BIM aspect is that the ‘drafters’ produce drawings using Revit, then there will be minimal benefit of BIM.

It might even take longer to produce drawings this way, rather than with a well-developed CAD process. In this instance, the overall process should be considered rather than seeing BIM as a tool to just produce drawings.

BIM does not have to be complex and at the cutting edge of technology. But there does have to be some commitment and genuine readiness for change across a business. The symptoms of superficial BIM are:

  • BIM features in marketing material or project bids, but the expertise is limited to just a small number of people.
  • Most roles & processes are unchanged, only dedicated BIM people do BIM
  • More time is spent speaking at conferences about BIM than actually doing it….
  • The benefits of BIM can’t be clearly defined or quantified
  • The focus of BIM is just on limited use such as 3D renderings or drawing production

Side-effects

The cost of superficial BIM is not significantly less than a committed approach. In other words, a half-baked  appraoch does not save much since there are still costs in software, trainig and so on. However, the side effects are:

  • Project delivery performance or profitability declines
  • Disillusionment or attrition of staff (in particular the more proactive or skilled staff that are most valuable)
  • Negative impression of BIM

Reasons

I have covered some of the reasons why BIM is not properly implemented in my posts BIM: Success is not guaranteed and BIM: A workhorse, not a show pony.

These range from natural resistance to change to a misconception that it is expensive or difficult.

Beyond the talk

I have covered BIM strategy & general do’s & don’ts in some of my other blog posts:

BIM: Tech is the easy bit

BIM: Making Money

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