Getting the most value out of model management. By Frank Weiss

Construction is a complex and multi-faceted undertaking, requiring input from many different stakeholders, such as designers, engineers and planners through to project administrators, contractors and subcontractors. In such a system, the slightest problem in the process can cause bigger challenges down the line – in this case pushing projects over schedule, blowing out budgets, and compromising quality and even safety.

That is why engineering and construction professionals need to rely on methodologies such as building information modelling (BIM) working within a common data environment (CDE) to bring greater control and efficiency to the project.

At its heart, BIM working within a true CDE – that is, one with neutrality and security at its core – should enable collaboration; it’s the foundation for the next phase of digital transformation in our industry. It should operate through a common set of standards and values bringing together different project teams and allow them to work together in the same way through shared technology and processes.

However, a challenge for the BIM methodology that must be overcome is that it is often incorrectly regarded as being just for design teams. This continues to impact adoption across wider project teams.

Model management and the challenge with complexity
Although the importance of open and transparent collaboration has become a well-known and addressed topic in construction – certainly over the last two decades – the model management process in BIM projects has tended to be overly complex. This is due, in part, to often being limited to specialists who use proprietary modelling tools and come in only during certain phases of the project. This can prevent the systematic participation of other parties (e.g. the client, i.e funder [bank], etc.) because project information isn’t captured in a single place and therefore isn’t transparent or complete.

The use of multiple proprietary tools without one central base creates inefficiencies and problems by definition. Especially in the model management process, it can be challenging to keep the data together and provide an accurate view of the whole process. So, for example, issues and clash detection out of federated models are shared as PDFs or Excel document formats, partly from one platform into another platform. In practice issues and clashes are instead administrated, then managed. At least the main potential for the project can’t be addressed properly. This results in more errors, more rework, more quality issues, etc., and can impact the entire project.

The industry needs a solution, a process that flows better through a single platform capturing all the relevant data and information in one place and encouraging a more collaborative approach for all teams involved on a project.

The move to Model Co-ordination
Model Co-ordination based on a true CDE is the next generation of model management. A cloud-based approach, it enables all team members to access the same central platform. It allows for seamless integration with common authoring and model checking tools, reducing the need for numerous applications in favour of project wide BIM participation. What’s more, because the process operates through a single platform, it enables all relevant information and data to flow into the CDE, helping to build a high-quality digital twin, a true picture of the entire project.

A cloud-based approach to Model Co-ordination and the entire BIM process, all within a true neutral and highly secure CDE, provides projects with an unprecedented level of efficiency, precision and foresight to the entire construction process. It also helps to reduce problems caused by duplication or versioning issues.

Using shared models helps different teams optimise the processes they are responsible for. For example, team members can track the progress of the build more closely throughout the project, while responsibility clearly stays with the owner of the model. All of this can lead to full transparency over the entire lifecycle, from materials tracking and management, through to safety monitoring and design reviews. Approvals are easier and quicker to obtain at every stage as team members have access to the most up-to-date information they require on the project.

The future of BIM
Through the further evolution of BIM standards and greater adoption of true CDEs, all stakeholders involved in the construction cycle will be able to take a step back and truly look at the big picture. In fact, things become easier. Better access and visualisation of possible scenarios can create more 9transparency and trust during a building’s construction.

Under such an approach, all parties are working from a single source of truth for project information, so project teams are able to easily plan the most efficient workflow and identify issues and clashes during early planning stages.

The future of BIM – and the digital transformation of the industry – lies in greater openness and the use of true CDEs. Only then can we achieve higher levels of integration across applications and technologies. This allows teams to work with the best tools for their job and redefines how teams work.

Robust collaboration bridges the gap between the design team, construction workers, and building owners, ensuring all parties involved are reading from the same blueprint from the minute the project starts to its close. New technologies like virtual reality (VR) and other applications within the process can offer even greater visibility and increase the quality of work. Taken together, these developments can and will profoundly improve how assets are designed, built, and operated, with model data at the centre of it all.

Frank Weiss is senior director of BIM and innovation at Oracle Construction and Engineering. Oracle Construction and Engineering delivers best-in-class project management solutions that empower organisations to proactively manage projects, gain complete visibility, improve collaboration, and manage change. Its cloud-based solutions for global project planning and execution help improve strategy execution, operations, and financial performance.
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