Anyone for a game of BIM darts?

A little while ago I was asked to write something regarding some of my experiences with the use of CAD environments and what I would change to make current working practices better. I hasten to add, this was post one of my whinging sessions in the office about yet another issue I had come across in the model environment. Depending on how this goes I might just keep quiet in the future!

At Clearbox, I get to diagnose and assist project teams in checking “problem” models and enable them to make use of the information held within. These models are generally not owned by these teams and they are distributed to them for their use. Largely, this is an absolute pleasure because I am exposed to some incredible models that people and teams have produced. But, out of this work, a common theme has arisen and that is an issue around the highly detailed and overly complex mix of Geometry & Data that is completed through an almost magical workflow between applications. The challenge to keep these processes alive through the life of the project is incredibly difficult.

It is like playing Darts. Personally, I can at least hit the board and get into the general area I need to be in. Will the quality of the darts I use make any difference? I would like to think so – well I’ve convinced myself this is the case…. And when it all really starts to fall apart, everybody else around me gets the blame!

In a project, our 3 darts can be summed up as our capability, all the technology we use & the culture or environment we find ourselves in. They are largely already decided for us. But what if I said we could manipulate the Board? Make it easier to hit the Bulls eye? That means we could lower the bar to being successful. Therefore, more people in your teams have the required capability to win the game, because your technology can be simpler and more consistent to use, making it easier for you to improve culture change.

So, what is this Board that could change everything? In my mind it’s in our choice of Common Data Environment (CDE). The CDE “IS” the single source of information used to collect, manage and disseminate documentation, the graphical model and non-graphical data – containing the project information model (PIM) for the project team and beyond.

For your CDE to become a single source of truth, it needs to lower the threshold of capability required. It needs to connect and/or centralise your technology and surrounding workflows and it needs to create a culture where we just do our job and the CDE takes care of the rest. Too often, our CDEs are treated as a file repository where superficial workflows are being used to track Design progress based on file-based delivery through Gateways.

I would argue for a CDE to achieve its stated goal it needs to get into the very heart of these files gaining access to the very assets our projects are all about. Placing the items into a common language environment where they can be managed and used for all aspects of our projects. Our assets go through various stages in their life which can be described as defining the requirement, specifying the design, procuring the services and/or objects, constructing the job and maintaining it for its serviceable life. Those stages are not owned by a single individual, team, application or moment in time. And a good CDE can and will cater for this, and make the whole process simpler and success easier to achieve.

Better yet, it will highlight where asset data is missing or changed for a given stage or even the full lifecycle of the facility…And get a better hold of the geometric representation of the assets, because we are entering a world where we are making more use of tools like robotics, where the use of 2D drawings becomes irrelevant and the very geometry must be correct.

A clear frustration that we’re seeing with some of the contractors we work with is getting models without the information they need to be able to deliver what they are contractually obliged to in the EIR. They’re then spending months catching up. Is your CDE helping you do this or is it simply telling you that a file has arrived and a few people have checked the model file that contains circa 50,000 assets?

A CDE should be the enabler for all parties to take on their responsibility - to deliver the best possible outcome. The requirements for much more detail and clarity have come at a time when we’re still in a race to the bottom on pricing.

But, if everyone is clear in the need for detail – the client knows to specify it, the consultant knows to always interrogate further, the contractor knows to demand it - the CDE should provide visibility and ease of use to give all parties the opportunity to easily hit the bullseye and deliver a successful project.