Even these days, with our reliance on digital information in our everyday lives, construction projects still fail to embrace it, resulting in risks and delays. Stuart Bell, sales and marketing director at GroupBC, looks at some of the common issues surrounding poor information management and sets out some simple steps to encourage digital adoption
It is impossible to imagine our everyday lives without digital technology when we are so familiar with 24/7 access to information, can interact with anybody in the world and even rely on it to turn on the lights.
However, digital adoption is still struggling to get real traction in the construction industry, mainly due to fragmented and antiquated processes, and lack of education about the benefits it can deliver. While innovations such as drones and augmented and virtual reality are being embraced as point-solutions to surveying and engineering challenges by the thought-leading companies, it’s often not feasible for smaller companies to invest in such cutting-edge technology.
One investment that does pay dividends for all involved – global, regional or local, from asset owner to contractor and supplier – is better information management.
A fresh impetus for digital adoption may be the UK government’s consultation around regulatory information management for high-rise buildings (see BIM Today March 2019 – The Golden Thread) in response to the Hackitt Review after Grenfell Tower fire. This could be the shake-up the industry needs to bring all parties on board.
Currently, many designers are comfortable with sharing and working from digital models, although problems can occur along the supply chain due to a poor understanding of the client requirements and similarly, the client not communicating their explicit information needs from the start. Effective communication on both sides is critical to the success of any project.
For example, a project team may start designing and constructing a new commercial office building based on the client’s brief, with each supplier inputting into the design review process, creating and issuing information for stakeholder review. If the client then makes additional requests (design changes), the prior information can quickly become out-of-date. This creates silos of information, with no clear ‘golden thread’ to decisions. This uncontrolled information causes problems and is one of the main causes for risk and delays to project delivery.
A project Common Data Environment (CDE), the backbone for BIM Level 2, addresses these challenges and enables teams to capture the required information, validate and check it by following the information standards through an approved platform, adding governance and assurance to a project and its information deliverables, not just during delivery but operation too.
A client that has communicated their precise information needs from the start, through a project CDE, can be assured that the supply chain has their latest and approved requirements to hand, contributing to a smooth and secure digital handover. Given the recent Carillion demise, the in-sourcing of assured and verified built asset information by clients into their own licensed CDE is vital to ensure long-term access.
Equally, if each supplier works on their own project CDE, feeding it into the client’s asset CDE, they can guarantee ownership and access to their information, even after information has been handed over to the client. This requires information management to begin at ‘home’, following industry standards for file naming, codification, version control and templates being business-as-usual from the outset.
Enforcing this from the start has many benefits. Owners are able to do ‘more with less’ if the approved digital models used during construction are readily accessible and allow the client to make better use of space. Armed with accurate and trusted information, there is a reduced need to repeatedly survey an estate and thereby save money.
This can benefit single projects but offer greater benefits to repeat projects so as more projects are completed, more information is fed into the client’s own asset information system, creating a digital estate that will continue to deliver business insights that will drive investment plans.
Designers, contractors and engineers are also able to demonstrate their collaborative working capabilities, opening them up to bid for commercial contracts where early involvement of the supply chain is required.
Setting the standard
GroupBC offers a powerful, yet user-friendly Common Data Environment scalable from a single project through to enterprise-wide programmes of project work and entire digital estates.
We support companies as they progress along their digital adoption journey and advise on the best route for you. Our solutions support your digital strategies whether you’re aiming to improve internal collaboration, achieve a level of BIM compliance or have a clear vision for your digital journey and are looking for the right technology partner to help solve your precise need without compromise.
Our industry is experiencing a rapid move towards digital and those who embrace it will gain a competitive advantage and benefit from bottom-line improvements across every stage of a project and asset lifecycle, as well as your organisation.
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