By David Derocher
Over the past two decades, the adoption of building information modeling (BIM) has steadily grown and become a more common industry practice. Traditionally utilized in the design and modeling phases of a project, BIM has provided benefits such as improved coordination with other trades, better planning, and more accurate and efficient layout in the field.
Now the industry is embarking on the next phase in the growth and adoption of BIM, a phase in which the model is utilized beyond just the design and layout of a building. However, for this new approach to be successful, all project data must be accessible, accurate and actionable by the right people at the right time. Oftentimes, MEP contractors are unable to share or access up-to-date data, leaving gaps in information and coordination that make it difficult to carry out MEP construction effectively.
Using a constructible process in which data is shared and updated in real-time with all stakeholders optimizes the entire design, build, and operate lifecycle. Contractors can further extend the value of their models by connecting them during the estimating, procurement and fabrication processes for better project insight and visibility, improved collaboration, and more accurate project execution.
The value of digital collaboration, in real-time and across teams, can be found in impactful workflows that ensure every person, phase and process works together seamlessly. It all starts with high-quality content—having the right information, at the right time, in the right format. And not just any content; content that is complete and up-to-date with attributes such as labor and pricing values, dimensions, parametric data, and more—because the last thing you want to do is make decisions using bad data. When powered by a common content source, the model can be leveraged by multiple people all working from the same data set.
Understanding the role of shared managed content between the model and the estimating, procurement, and fabrication phases of a project can lead to improved collaboration and increased profits. Just-in-time project estimates, change orders, bill of materials, spool assembly instructions, project status, and more can easily be generated and accessed. All it takes is the click of a button to send that information to the necessary stakeholders and software.
By connecting the model to the estimating software, the estimate can be continually updated with pricing and product information directly from manufacturers and suppliers as the project progresses. With this tool at their disposal, contractors can be sure that the items and prices they’re including in today’s job estimates and restrips are as up-to-date as possible.
Using BIM models for estimating does not replace the 2D model, but rather, it ties the 3D model back to the estimate to help with execution and visibility. Although the initial bid price on a project is typically fixed, contractors can use model-based estimating to track their projects against the original bid estimate throughout the life of the project.
This visibility and insight helps contractors make adjustments while executing the project to ensure that the project comes in on time and on budget. Model-based estimating is also a valuable tool in communicating and quantifying project change orders. Over time, the ability to compare a model-based estimate against the original conceptual estimate helps estimators to improve future bid accuracy.
Traditionally handled via manual, offline methods, the procurement workflow often results in waste and friction in contractor supply chain operations. A digitized workflow shares the bill of materials seamlessly from a BIM model to an online procurement platform that a purchasing manager can use to submit quotes and purchase orders to their local suppliers through a reliable digital connection. This results in less friction caused by disconnected systems and data and means faster and more accurate project handoffs, while also ensuring the right materials are ordered for the project.
Contractors can leverage the model to make fabrication more predictable and efficient in unprecedented ways. For example, now project stakeholders can work from the same BIM model and integrate it with software to access spooling and modification capabilities without the need to be trained in VDC software. Previously, only the detailer could make spool modifications and adjustments within the VDC software—resulting in time consuming back-and-forth communication loops between the detailer, fabrication, and installation stakeholders.
By creating a single source of truth, fabrication and installation stakeholders can ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page and empower teams to collaborate with maximum transparency. This also helps streamline traditionally cumbersome workflows and enables stakeholders to quickly execute data-driven decisions throughout a project’s lifecycle.
The future of construction and digitization is happening now. Model-based workflows help contractors obtain better insight into their project execution which leads to better decisions and control throughout the project. In the end, having greater team collaboration, transparency, efficiencies, and bid and change order accuracy improvements result in more streamlined and efficient project execution.
David Derocher is the Portfolio Manager for Trimble MEP’s North American VDC Products. For more information, visit: mep.trimble.com.