BIM: But I’ve got 3D goggles


Attribution: US Dept of Commerce,  HoloLens demo at Microsoft’s HM16 booth | U.S. Department of Commerce | Flickr

As I see it, the prize at the end of the BIM game is very simple:

a project that runs smoothly & safely and makes money for everyone involved.

A construction project, with quality documentation so everything fits together properly, budget and program are achieved (or improved upon), construction runs efficiently & safely and there are not any acrimonious legal disputes at the end between client, designers, contractor and subcontractors is an elusive beast.

Construction projects have a propensity to run way over budget and program. This is coupled with quite small profit margins even for successful projects; and almost unlimited losses when it goes bad as I explain in BIM: Making Money

In my posts Tech is the easy bitBeware the technology magpie & Success is not guaranteed I’ve covered the tendency to focus just on technology, and to assume business success will automatically follow.

I have had a number of discussions that go something like this:
(where I am the questioner. You could substitute ‘goggles’ with the latest fad: laser scanners, 3D printers etc)

Q: How is BIM going to make us money ?
A: Dunno, but I’ve got some really cool 3D goggles. People will try them and suddenly realise BIM is brilliant. Of course it will make money.

Q: What is your BIM business strategy i.e how are you going to develop capabilities, upskill staff, implement new processes etc.
A: Dunno, but I’ve got some really cool 3D goggles…….

Q: What are your opportunities and risks with BIM/digital engineering ?
A: We might be able to see some with these really cool 3D goggles …..?

Q: What is the impact of BIM on our business partners such as consultants & subcontractors  ?
A: Er, not sure. Did I tell you I have some really cool 3D goggles ?

And so on.

It might seem obvious, but many organisations believe they “do BIM” by having a few people who know how to model in 3D, generate pretty pictures and operate some toys- but ask what their strategy, plan and approach is- you’ll get a blank response.

I like 3D goggles as much as the next BIM geek, but only if part of a broader strategy. They have a place in generating interest and enthusiasm, improving comprehension and identification of errors, in marketing and so on.
But in isolation, a few gadgets won’t make much difference. The important stuff is in the engine-room of design, documentation, construction and operation of the asset. This includes:

  • reducing or eliminating errors
  • identifing risks & opportunity
  • improving construction delivery, such as commercial, time and safety

However,  if there is no strategy and the main focus of a business or output of ‘BIM’ is on gadgetry or superficial uses, then it is most likely a waste of time and money.

As with all the posts on my blog, this is only my personal opinion and does not reflect my employer.
(I’m glad to report my current employer has an excellent digital engineering strategy, strong management support and a genuine commitment to innovation)