The Role of the Manufacturer

Premises and Facilities Management (PFM) Magazine recently interviewed the teams involved with the Birmingham City University BIM project. Here are the key points from the article and the implications for manufacturers.

Level of Definition

This project is one of the first to deliver fully integrated modelling in a BIM environment across design, construction and facilities management (FM).

The university wanted a single source of information on the building that everyone could access. It also wanted electronic management of files linked to 3D models to give it a well-organised database.

Part of the client’s Employer’s Information Requirements – (EIR is another acronym you will come across in BIM circles!) – were to establish a library of components down to the detailed level of wall sockets and radiators.

This provides opportunities for managing each item throughout its life – from design to maintenance of the building.

Meeting the EIR here would not be possible with generic BIM content. The required Level of Detail (LOD) and Level of Information (LOI) – together known as Level of Definition – is only achievable with manufacturer specific data.

For me, this is further proof that manufacturer content has a key role to play in the future of BIM.

BIM – The Manufacturer’s Role

The PFM article included an interview with Martin Phillips from product manufacturer Thermoscreens.

BIM is largely underpinned by the availability of building product models, but the work required by manufacturers often gets forgotten.

According to Phillips, manufacturer BIM objects offer many benefits, including:

  • Increased efficiency
  • Collaboration between all parties involved in the construction process
  • Improved building design and facilities management
  • Reduced on-site clashes

Phillips stated that the move to BIM radically changes what manufacturers need to do.

Instead of offering a set of 2D drawings, manufacturers will need to provide 3D files with metadata attached. Speaking from experience, moving from 2D to 3D modelling requires new skills, investment in new software and extra resources.

We’re already seeing requests for BIM content on tender documents, and since they become mandatory for publicly funded projects in 2016, this trend is only set to increase.

Level 2 Deadline

David Davis of G&H Group told PFM that while the government’s deadline requiring all public sector projects to use Level 2 BIM is now just six months away, the need from a practical level has never been more acute.

Davis says BIM is going to play a more intrinsic role in the future and being an early adopter has great benefits.

We have used BIM to coordinate services and highlight pinch points that we may have missed with a conventional 2D design. These are the issues that can crop up during site installation, often resulting in wasted staff hours and extra materials.

Davis notes that many manufacturers are already getting on board with BIM. There are still a number without 3D model information available though.

This is not a showstopper, but it does take time to create a BIM ready ‘block’ to use to Level 2 standards.

We believe that as the 2016 deadline draws closer, more manufacturers will need to endorse BIM allowing for easier design and modelling of their products.

I agree with David on this point – BIM content creation is not a two-minute job. There is a process of learning and implementation so my advice to manufacturers is – Don’t wait until the last minute!

Read the Getting Started with BIM article for further advice.

There’s more to BIM than 3D

For manufacturers to succeed with BIM I believe it is vital they understand the bigger picture.

Duncan Reed of Tekla (UK) and thinkBIM – summed this up well to finish the article. Reed says there are many misconceptions that BIM is just some type of fancy 3D modelling software.

It isn’t.

You tell ’em Duncan.

BIM is a process that can bring efficiencies to businesses to deliver projects quickly, competently and reliably for clients. Essentially, BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility.

Reed also added:

Compared to traditional designs, 3D models are much easier for everyone to understand – particularly non-construction professionals.

Models help quicker decision making as data is accessible, about all aspects of the asset.

Reed observes that regardless of the government 2016 mandate, there are many companies embracing BIM and implementing the process across a variety of projects they are working on.

What has the Birmingham University project shown us?

It’s all well and good debating what is the best way to progress with BIM but ultimately, the client / building owner should drive this.

Design has led BIM in the UK for the last few years. I have said for some time now this is the wrong way round. The industry needs more input and direction from clients and FM.

The Birmingham University project shows that if a client wants detailed model information to manage their facility more efficiently – this is what we must deliver.

Manufacturers have a key role to play in this by providing the necessary product data, in the required format – at the right time.

With this in mind and the 2016 deadline around the corner – I’ll repeat my advice to manufacturers – Don’t wait until the last minute!

Let’s be realistic. When the deadline arrives, the construction industry won’t change overnight. But, wouldn’t it be nice to be ahead of the game and get on with what we’re all good at – manufacturing.


My thanks to Dan and David at Premises and Facilities Management Magazine for allowing me to share the content. You can read the article in full here

The image used in this post was designed by Freepik

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2 Comments

  1. Carolyn

    Excellent reading. Thanks for sharing

  2. Rebeca

    I agree that BIM is changing the way construction projects are managed. Great post!


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