You need to know where you’ve been to plan where you want to go with information modelling technology.
By Dale Dutton, VDC Product Engagement and Project Delivery, InEight
As capital projects become more complex, visibility into these projects remains largely obscured for the industry, costing construction companies and project owners in wasted time, money and resources. Traditionally speaking, a substantial portion of the problem centres around the lack of appropriate models. If there are models to work from, there may be pushback from engineers and architects wary of sharing potentially out-of-date model data, pushback from stakeholders who fear change, plus the overarching issue of owners and contractors not having the right software to make model data accessible to today’s increasingly diverse project teams.
How can you clear up these problems and start gaining crucial visibility into your projects for all stakeholders from day one? With today’s best building information modelling technology. But you need to know where you’ve been to plan where you want to go with that technology.
Traditional practices may be holding you back
In some industries there is a lack of digital model usage to support construction. This is partly due to the lack of experience or desire to utilise models, and not understanding how models can bring value to the project. In addition, there is often a mindset that says you must hire new people with model skills to manage the model. And finally, it may be that teams have experienced some model technology that doesn’t use enough metadata to bring real value to the construction project.
There may be workflow problems. Some current workflows, according to the needs of utilising a model for pre-construction and during construction, require models to be uploaded or imported into different, siloed products, such as Microsoft Excel® in order to utilise the model for different reasons. This can lead to a serious lack of collaboration and to data that may be incorrect or out of date, making engineers and architects wary of sharing it.
Manually updating models separate from construction activities is also practiced. If your model is not connected to construction software capturing completed tasks, then you must update the construction status tracking within a model separately from completed work in a different system.
Streamlining to add value, visibility and trust
All of the above practices have one thing in common, the need for duplicate work. This leads to a lot of wasted time and effort, which are the biggest problems with traditional methods. Utilising multiple model software systems for specific tasks does not allow for capturing true construction status in a model if it is housed in multiple locations.
Trying to solve the problem by adding additional personnel usually ends up wasting company resources in the end. The addition of personnel just to run the model may have improved your process and communication a little bit in the beginning, but that person will have to disseminate project data out to your stakeholders who are still working in siloes from each other. By hiring an appointed “model person,” you’ve actually added yet another layer of potential confusion.
As for data trust, lagging model updates from disparate systems are a drag on accuracy and collaboration. Are all stakeholders utilising the latest project models? Is there confusion on your project because some are looking at different model versions? This goes back to my initial comment on why you can get pushback from engineers and architects. No one trusts the data due to lack of visibility into the system.
The answer to these issues? Streamlining workflows around the use of a model to create a single source of project truth. This means creating just one federated project model within one building information modeling tool as opposed to multiple point solution software systems. By setting things up this way, you will be establishing a single source of truth in your data and in the project’s status for your stakeholders, making it easier to access information when they need it. Integrating the project model into the management and control tasks also instills a sense of trust and reliability not only in the model data, but in the process used to access and share that data.
Encouraging easier adoption through empowerment
No matter how tempting it may be to simply add a BIM, VDC or data manager to a project and then try to incorporate new processes within that one person, resist that temptation. Empowering your current team members within a model software system that allows for real collaboration will be your best way to make adoption smoother and more lasting for all stakeholders, and also save time, money and frustration along the way. Because each team member benefits from using the right model tool, you will:
- Empower the document controller to link received documents to the related model objects. The document controller gains a more in-depth understanding of the project and the linked documents are accessible by all stakeholders via the model.
- Empower the estimators to link the model to the estimate to extract available quantities so the estimator can incorporate your model quantities into your estimating software. This is faster than following the traditional method of downloading model data into Excel, for instance, then uploading it into an estimate.
- Empower the superintendents, foremen and project engineers to utilise the model alongside of creating items like construction work packaging or workface planning and installation work packaging.
By enabling individual empowerment, team members will not use a model as a one-off, but to connect and pass information in real time between them as work planning and packaging are being created and executed in the field. The result? No more duplicate work in disparate systems holding teams and the project itself back.
Streamlining your process with one federated project model and utilising that project model in current workflows will enhance your stakeholders’ capabilities in executing their tasks. Using one model for different use cases within the same project = a single source of truth and enhanced collaboration.
Such a model can also be used in pre-construction activities, construction, commissioning activities and then handed over to the owner for facility and asset management throughout the asset’s life. With all of this within one VDC model software system, your key to clearer project visibility from day one — and beyond — is now yours to claim.