BIM for SMEs through higher education


Professor Jason Underwood, Marina Machado & Andrew Fleming outline the importance of enabling BIM for SMEs through higher education knowledge transfer…

The UK Government Construction Strategy launched in May 2011 has brought about a real commitment from the UK Government to drive change and transformation within the industry. It has been acknowledged as far back as 1944 in The Simon Report: ‘The Placing and Management of Building Contracts’ prepared by the Simon Committee, chaired by Sir Ernest Simon. Through government and industry engagement this transformation is now being enabled through the provision of a set of supporting standards, protocols, classification system, documentation, etc., that define Level 2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) for the delivery of public procured assets.

The UK construction industry is represented by 99.7% of SMEs. Therefore, SMEs are vitally important in transforming the whole UK construction sector through the adoption of a BIM approach to asset delivery. According to the National BIM Report 2014 Survey, the adoption and awareness of BIM has continued to grow over the last five years in the UK construction sector with 54% of practitioners currently using, and 95% believing that they will be using BIM within the next five years. However, the pace of engagement of SMEs within the sector with BIM remains slower and the interaction less beneficial in contrast to larger organisations. Implementing innovation within SMEs is a complex and non-linear process that is constrained by limited financial and human resources, a lack of skills/confidence and inadequate systems to measure and demonstrate the benefits, which in turn, can lead to frustration and ultimately the failure of the BIM implementation/ adoption.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) initiatives are providing a mechanism to support SMEs in their adoption and implementation of BIM by enabling the development of their organisational capabilities and competencies. KTP is a 40 year programme partly funded by the UK Government (Innovate UK) with the objective of supporting businesses that want to incrementally improve their performance and competitiveness with innovative solutions by accessing the knowledge and expertise of Higher Education Institutes (HEIs). In contrast to consultancy, where the knowledge and expertise predominately remains with the consultant, KTPs work on a three-way relationship between an industry partner who requires the knowledge and expertise, academic institution possessing the knowledge and expertise, and a KTP associate responsible for enabling the knowledge transfer. Therefore, the KTP mechanism, through a process of knowledge transfer, ensures that the knowledge and expertise becomes embedded within the organisation; thereby developing an organisation’s internal capabilities and increasing their implementation success.

To date, a number of BIM-related KTP projects are supporting a variety of organisations in developing their BIM Level 2 capabilities across the asset lifecycle. Moreover, an initiative being led by BIM4SME (a BIM4 communities collaborative specialist interest group) is currently bringing together a number of these KTP BIM-related projects and their associated partners with the aim of further enhancing the knowledge transfer across the whole BIM Level 2 delivery process and KTP projects through assessing the overall BIM Level 2 process on a demonstrator project.

The School of the Built Environment at the University of Salford is currently engaged in one of the KTP projects with Links FF&E who are market leaders of full turnkey solutions; providing contemporary, high quality living environments for student accommodation, hotels and the private rented sector. The KTP is focused on implementing BIM to ensure the organisation has the expertise required to operate in a BIM Level 2 environment from design to manufacture and installation, integrating the three core areas. While there is no single recipe for success on the implementation of BIM (i.e. BIM means different things for different organisations), a route map has been proposed to assist organisations with beginning their BIM journey based on the knowledge and experience from the project to-date.

Firstly, best practice knowledge in BIM should be established and consolidated to avoid costly mistakes by understanding what BIM means to the organisation. Next, and possibly the most important step in the process, is to conduct a detailed review and analysis of the organisation’s current ‘as is’ situation, i.e. processes and workflows, to establish ‘to be’ areas of improvement and quick gains (this is a good way of getting the organisation engaged in the process). In addition, a review of the current business strategy can assist with establishing the strategic importance of BIM for the organisation in relation to their vision.

The next step is to develop a plan (BIM Strategy) based on the information established about the market and the organisation, and aligned with the business strategy together with reviewing available software, with the identified improvement gains through BIM in mind, to enable more informed decisions on software needs and requirements. In implementing the formulated BIM Strategy, following the necessary initial planned training, a BIM pilot project is advised to test the new processes, workflows, technologies, etc. along with measuring the results based on KPIs established. Finally, after a review of the pilot project, the BIM implementation can then be systematically rolled out. Also, as BIM is constantly evolving, a cycle of continuous improvement should be adopted to capture lessons learnt, reflect on current processes and explore further the use of BIM to increase organisational process efficiencies. ■

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Professor Jason Underwood

Marina Machado

Andrew Fleming

School of the Built Environment, University of Salford

Tel: 0161 295 6290


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