With the availability of concise and easily applied data consistently being identified as a stumbling block in the widespread adoption of BIM, Alex Small, BIM and digital platforms manager at Tata Steel, discusses a more streamlined approach to sharing product information
Enhancing and supporting the adoption of BIM technology is vital for UK construction. As we know, BIM offers tangible supply chain benefits. It saves essential time and costs, and can highlight any technical issues within the design stage and beyond, right through to end user asset management. Yet for many, the heavy investment cost is prohibitive.
For building product manufacturers, mapping a route through the complicated landscape of BIM objects and data sets is no simple task, particularly given the variety of options and platforms available. From choosing where to host objects to deciding which formats to produce them in, there are numerous decisions that have to be carefully considered. What’s more, generating the data is only the beginning of the story – the information must be accurately maintained to ensure it is as up-to-date as possible, all of which must be implemented across multiple CAD formats.
It’s a true juggling act and getting it right can be tricky. Yet it’s vital to ensure manufacturers’ customers are able to access the information they need, when they need it. Historically, it’s fair to say that many manufacturers have fallen short of the mark on this, providing either too much or not enough BIM data. This then cascades throughout the supply chain and creates further issues when contractors and operators are overloaded with detail or can’t find the information they require.
If BIM is to be properly adopted, the industry needs to provide the design community with the tools it needs. Indeed, for many architects, specifiers and designers, a BIM object is not always the most appropriate solution – sometimes just readily accessible product data is what’s called for.
It’s clear that a different approach is needed, which is why at Tata Steel we have developed our DNA Profiler – a web-based BIM tool that allows users, at any stage in the construction process, to configure any of our European construction products with the precise level of geometric detail and exact level of information they require.
When we embarked upon the project, our intention was clear. We understood the frustrations shared by architects, specifiers, engineers and facility managers around interoperability and data overload. We also recognised that some BIM users want manufacturers to supply objects with a very high level of detail and rafts of data embedded into them, while others want only the basics – and some don’t want an object at all. Our aim, therefore, was to develop a unique, easy to use tool that would aid the flow of information through the construction process, in a wide choice of formats and levels of detail.
The result is a flexible, web-based tool that hosts more than 6,100 of the company’s European construction brand products – including Celsius®, ComFlor®, Kalzip® and Catnic® products – in all relevant BIM software formats, with the option to download data sets, 3D objects or both combined, for continued parametric functionality.
The 3D objects are available in a wide range of native CAD software formats, such as Trimble SketchUp, Navisworks and Inventor. Data can be embedded in objects in Autodesk Revit and ARCHICAD, with Tekla, Allplan and IFC to follow soon. The DNA Profiler also allows users to find a product by filtering on product data and performance characteristics. Architects and contractors can therefore access the data they need in the correct format and tailor it specifically to meet Employer Information Requirements (EIR).
For consistency and interoperability, the data is structured following ISO and CEN requirements and will be connected through API integration with coBuilder. This enables any attribute to be mapped across different standards or national requirements and can be translated into other languages. Each of the DNA Profiler’s data-rich BIM objects features information such as contact details, mechanical properties, performance characteristics, maintenance requirements and guarantee periods. In the future, it will be expanded to include information on lead times, pricing and more.
Tata Steel has made the decision to launch the DNA Profiler for architects, engineers, contractors and end clients while still in beta testing. This is because, although it is very useful, there is a lot more that it could offer and we are hoping to get constructive feedback, which will help us to shape further developments of the tool.
The intention is that this resource will support the exchange of information, ensuring that the right level of quality, safety and compliance standards are met. Critically, as it draws directly from Tata Steel’s database, users can be assured that the data they are accessing is up to date. We also see it supporting client handovers at completion too, ensuring the inclusion of the correct documents, data, models and warranties – all contributing to helping teams to manage and build a project on time and to budget.
The DNA Profiler has been created with a sharp eye on the future of BIM implementation – recognising that while the industry must pull together to support more universal adoption of BIM, not all manufacturers have the means or resources to provide the level of data that is needed. Some 98% of building product manufacturers fall within the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) category – with over 17,000 employing fewer than 10 people. Facing an ever-changing landscape affected by evolving legislation, initiatives, global finances and trends, SMEs have limited flexibility and funds to invest in the latest practices and technologies.
To facilitate the wider adoption of BIM technology, the manufacturing industry needs to support SMEs and we envision that the DNA Profiler could play a role here too. We intend to make it available to other manufacturers under licence to help them develop their own BIM journey. This will have many benefits, such as easier development of systems and assemblies in CAD tools. It could also make development of follow-on software for the construction sector more standardised, as manufacturers would be offering their data to CAD systems in the same way.
As a business, Tata Steel is committed to sharing our BIM knowledge and feel that the DNA Profiler is a major step towards simplifying the availability of complex product data online. We hope that not only will it provide a much-needed tool for the design community, but that it will also pave the way towards a more unified approach to data sharing throughout the industry.
For an online demo of the Tata Steel DNA Profiler visit www.tatasteelDNAprofiler.com.
BIM and digital platforms manager
Tel: +44 (0)207 975 8368