10 key questions to ask yourself before you take the plunge into BIM

Are you BIM Ready?

Before you start on the road to becoming a competent and certified BIM READY manufacturer, here is a practical summary of how best to use BIM, and a guide to the best way to start or manage your BIM project, in the form of 10 essential questions to ask yourself. Are you ready?

1)Why do you want to get into BIM?

The construction industry has not escaped the tidal wave of digital transformation. Even though it is not a legal requirement, you will find that moving to BIM is made essential by design consultants or by your competitors who already use it.

For a manufacturer, BIM allows closer links with your prospects, your partner agencies and your clients thanks to the collaboration between all those involved in the same project, starting at the construction phase and continuing throughout the life of the building. In that sense, BIM is often looked upon as a “lead generation” tool. It is also a means of continuously improving your products

Don’t forget, though, to define your aims before moving forward. Do you want to become a major supplier of data? To take the stance of a forward-thinking player? Get closer to clients and to your partner agencies? Gather longer-term data on the use and life-cycles of your products…?

2) What does it mean for my business?

For you as a manufacturer, to get into BIM is part of your digital transformation. It means that you will become not only a supplier of products, but also a supplier of data. It means a decision to make the most of opportunities to interact with your clients, your partners… moving towards a different, more collaborative approach to business relations.

This implies certain adaptations to your systems and your organization:

– Your products must be modelled specifically for BIM.
– Your product data must be identified, stored, transformed if necessary, and made available.
– A cultural change must be made in the way you work with all interested parties.
– To make the most of this new type of interaction, you will need to appoint “relationship managers”.
– Finally, new tools and/or programmes will be required.

3) What use will be made of my BIM objects?

To make sure that you are going in the right direction as far as the needs of all interested parties are concerned, contact the architects, design offices or installers with whom you are used to working, or with whom you would like to work. They will appreciate this. Take the opportunity to ask them about the programmes, data and classifications that they use. This will allow you to define your project, choose the right formats, and identify the data that you will need to supply in your BIM objects. Keep in mind that BIM standards can vary across the market. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Cobie standard is indispensable. Make sure that you have taken this extra dimension into account before you start.

4) What products should I start with? Should I launch my whole range?

Each BIM manufacturer is different. Some have already modelled certain objects, others whole catalogues, and others have not yet made a start.

To begin, you have three choices: 1) model your best-selling products so that you are on familiar territory, 2) model one product only per category, then you can later unroll the whole catalogue in each range, or 3) start with the most complex products with the aim of gaining the maximum experience in the shortest time.

To identify which approach would suit you best, don’t hesitate to talk to those around you who can give you the benefit of their experience, or discuss it with us.

5) Where do I find the right data? How can I make sure it is up-to-date?

The preparatory phase implies that you know where to find the technical and commercial data relevant to your products, and how to assemble this data.

The accessibility and the structure of your product data is an important part of your BIM project.

Good news! You don’t need to start from the beginning. You already hold most of the necessary data; what’s most important is that you learn how to structure that data and organize it into a form recognized by the digital model. To that end, the ideal solution is to turn to PIM (Product Information Management); this will help you draw down the data required to update your BIM objects.

6) To whom should I entrust the modelling? 

Once your specifications are in place, the question of modelling raises certain questions. Do the necessary skills exist within my business to carry out the modelling internally, or should I outsource the work to a specialist? With BIM, you can certainly make the most of a partner company’s expertise. If you do entrust the task to a third party, make sure they fully understand the brief, take the opportunity to train some-one from within your own team, and check that you will remain owners of the objects involved and that their updating will be easy and inexpensive.  

7) Can my CAD files be used in the creation of BIM objects?

Some manufacturers rely on a CAD database in their industrial processes. A recurrent question is to know whether one can use these formats to create BIM objects… You can indeed generate an .rvt file, i.e. a Revit file, from a .dwg file. But it’s not a good idea! In fact, the resulting BIM files are often too heavy and stripped of usable data. Also, doing this means that you can’t exploit the power of the native BIM files to create configured objects.

8) If my products are very configurable or made-to-measure, should I develop a configurator or a dedicated plug-in? 

The ideal answer is to offer both solutions. Keep in mind however that with a made-to-measure product, the client may sometimes be reluctant to install a configurator for each of his suppliers. What’s more, you would be committed to a development process that is sometimes long, technical and costly to maintain.

In fact, you can exploit BIM objects to create configured and configurable objects directly within BIM modelling programmes. Programmes like Revit or ArchiCAD today allow a level of intelligence to be brought to objects, and thus offer ultra-configurable artefacts that are the response to difficult professional issues.

Illustration from Transair, where all the products of the range are integrated in the same, entirely configurable Revit object.

9) Where to release my BIM objects?

You should choose a publishing platform adapted to your clients and your prospects, but which allows you to easily distribute your BIM objects via various plug-ins or APIs. Some major players in construction use content-exclusive management tools, like ENGIE with Onfly, from BIM&CO. Certain professions such as thermal design consultants need data that is more specific to certain calculation programmes. Don’t forget, by the way, that one of the most important shop windows for your brand is your own website, where your BIM objects should also appear.

10) Once I’ve done all that, how do I manage my BIM objects?

BIM does not stop there. What interests your clients and partners, is to have up-to-date BIM products, with up-to-date data! When you have created your BIM objects, you must then manage the updating of them, the adding or modifying of references, or complete them with technical information sheets or other documentation. This is where your choice of partner platforms is important. Make sure that you can easily make modifications, or ideally connect your PIM so that updates are automatic.

If you would like to talk to us before going ahead with your BIM project, or want to optimise the way you work at present, don’t hesitate to contact the BIM&CO team. We will be delighted to help.