What is the cost of BIM for a manufacturer?

What are the main expenditures, fixed and variable?

Trying to quantify the exact cost of moving to BIM is a completely fruitless exercise that we will not even attempt here. It would be like trying to determine the price of a factory without considering a whole range of parameters such as the industrial processes concerned, the surface area, the location, etc... It is possible, however, to identify the main sources of expenditure, both fixed and variable.

The three-letter acronym BIM stands for "Building Information Modelling" and it is important to note that the "I" is in the centre. The Information is the cornerstone of this system, the heart of the process. The provision of essential and correct information is fundamental in ensuring the success of a project.

Thus, estimating the cost of BIM is first and foremost assessing the cost of being able to collect and automate this valuable information.

Looking from the other side, the value of BIM to a manufacturer lies in being able to share its data and in collaborating with all the players who will have some form of contact with its products, namely the specifiers, customers and users. Manufacturers have already undergone phases to implement high automation of their design and production process. It is now up to their customers to automate their processes. This has implications for the customer-supplier relationship, which is now being fully digitised and optimised.

The fixed costs

BIM requires several types of information (technical documents, images, structured data...). This collection requires the involvement of several actors and software packages. Gathering and automating the collection of this information takes real time, and therefore money.

In order to save time, and as a consequence money, it is necessary to very precisely identify the objectives of the manufacturer when moving to BIM. Is it to meet the specific needs of existing clients, to participate in certain projects, to position itself with particular specifiers? In effect the requirements for BIM may vary.

Aurore BRZEZINSKI, Innovation Manager in the R&D department of SKYDÔME, a BIM&CO customer, said "We have integrated data such as the power of the cylinders and their electrical consumption. Indeed, we learned during the study phase that this data is relevant for the use of the electrical BIM."

Additionally, it is crucial to identify a person or group of people to be responsible for the internal management of the BIM project. This manager needs to be given the time and means for this project.

The variable costs

Variable costs are strongly related to product modelling, the management over time of these products and their sharing. When the project is launched, the main priority is the modelling.

"We started from scratch and had to make it clear internally that CAD is not BIM, and that it is not sufficient to 'Save as' and pass it on!" adds Aurore BRZENZISKI.

These costs vary according to the complexity of the products and the number of product ranges concerned. They can also vary according to whether or not there is a modelled version of the object in question and depending on the type or quality of the existing models.

Modelling costs vary primarily according to the BIM implementation strategy adopted by the manufacturer. There are two main strategies, these being to perform the modelling internally or to outsource it to a provider.

Performing it in-house allows the manufacturer to augment its skills and keep control of the project, while outsourcing requires less internal resources but requires the involvement of a provider for any modification or maintenance. Even if at first sight this choice offers flexibility at the beginning of the project, visibility becomes more opaque later. Producing your BIM objects is not like creating a website, it is not so easily outsourced because it is a process that is fundamentally linked to the main activity of the manufacturer. In the case of SKYDÔME, the manufacturer was able to save more than €40k by modelling and managing its catalogue in-house.

Another variable cost is related to the choice of the BIM object management platform. Autonomy, capacity for partner support and the ability to update and evolve products are areas that help optimise budget. "Having a suitable platform to manage your objects is essential. We can enrich our objects to reach a new market or increase our chances of being specified, we can add data, an additional format or data sheets, publish our objects privately or publicly, etc... We are independent but not alone." relates Theo NEVEUX, SKYDÔME BIM Manager.

Start with a small budget

The best way to understand BIM is to start small in order to understand all the dimensions that need to be taken into account, and with minimum risk. With BIM&CO, for example, it is possible to react quickly to certain customer requests and at a lower cost, especially with the "Take Off" or "Fast2BIM" programmes. The latter relies notably on the use of a generic object for the creation of objects with the particular data of a manufacturer.

By adopting these offers, the customer acquires a BIM mentality and learns about the BIM&CO platform, which will allow it to continue issuing its products in "self-publishing" mode. For example SKYDÔME started with three products modelled with the support of BIM&CO. A year later, the company has 247 more that it has modelled, managed and published autonomously. Note also that this is a sustainable investment since each object belongs to the manufacturer.

The BIM return on investment

BIM is first and foremost useful for manufacturers as it can play an important part in getting their products taken into account by specifiers. If design teams have the data they need and the geometry of a manufacturer's products to hand, they are more likely to select these products for their projects.

The same applies to the construction teams who will actually order from the manufacturer. If they can easily obtain information on specific products and data, they are more likely to make an informed and timely decision to choose these products.

FInally, the maintenance teams, who are increasingly using the BIM model as a reference for the existing model, have access to updated documents, in particular the maintenance instructions or the data that matters to them, such as warranty conditions.

For their part, manufacturers have the opportunity to directly contact these stakeholders. Indeed, BIM promotes collaborative processes in the building value chain. The manufacturer is therefore in direct digital contact with the specifiers and customers. This allows it to optimise its processes related to the time spent by marketing or technical-commercial teams with respect to standard information exchanges, and frees up valuable time that it can devote to its customers.

There is much more to come from BIM related processes in the future. For example, BIM&CO works with its construction company customers to implement workflows that allow direct ordering with the manufacturer via the digital model. Once again, this is about connecting the data, including integrating data from the company's ERP into the manufacturer's data.

face Damien ESCOLAN