Utilising structured BIM data in offsite construction


Ensuring that you utilise structured BIM data in offsite construction is a vital aspect of BIM as Peter K. Foster Jnr, Director of Manufacturers and Merchants at coBuilder UK explains…

Having worked in the modular construction/offsite industry for 16 years and since moved onto working for a business that delivers data solutions, one of the messages I seek to get across when discussing BIM, data and processes with an offsite construction business is for them to utilise structured BIM data for their own benefit.

Without a doubt structured data is a vital aspect of BIM and if an offsite business has not been asked to develop or provide such information already it will certainly be asked within the next one to three years.

So, instead of waiting for the request to be made, it is of a great advantage for businesses to take the initiative and develop and use this data in a meaningful manner.  Through this article I will provide you with a few aspects that such businesses would be wise to consider; not only will it assist in developing and improving internal process solutions, but can also be used to develop metrics to benchmark and measure improvements against the investment costs.

Disadvantages of silo data in the manufacturing process

Silo data, be it in Excel or PDF form is hard to find, hard to control, difficult to ensure the correct versions are being used, error prone due to this fact, and labour intensive due to too many people either looking, re-creating or struggling to find this data source.

One particular aspect that causes risk is the transfer of data between internal departments within an offsite business, this can be a fragmented process, especially if Excel is the data software of choice and each department has their own ‘version of the truth’.

Additionally, obtaining information from the supply chain can compound this area of concern. Receiving data in PDF form, or via mediums such as Excel or even email, will generate further internal labour content for the offsite business, and in turn generate risk due to errors and the possibility of a material not meeting the client’s needs (U values for example).

Internal Benefits – What the data can do for you

So, what to do? Structured data is clearly of an advantage to the offsite construction business, however integrating this internally, and upskilling the supply chain to assist with this can be quite a challenge.

Businesses such as ours assist with this by providing BIM data tools (goBIM) that provide the easiest and fastest way for manufacturers to ‘BIMify’ their construction data.

What is meant by ‘BIM-ifying’ is simply the process of digitising all of the manufacturers product information, by getting it from their PDFs, Word, Excel, etc. and structuring it as product DATA according to a master Product Data Template (PDT).

Once a business has their structured data, goBIM allows them to share this in BIM formats so that the contractor can then collate and use this data via our ProductXchange solution. The system also allows the designers and contractors to select product properties that they can then check against when the actual products are uploaded, so as to make sure the products being used meet the design requirements.

However — and I can’t stress this fact enough — the biggest benefit is that the FM receives rich, accurate as built data about their building or infrastructure.

Once the data is structured and is part of the offsite constructors working process, the internal gains can start to be benchmarked, measured and achieved, using the data internally to assist with processes such as:

  • Estimating to Design to Manufacturing to Site communication
  • Procurement for manufacturing needs
  • Site and sub-contract procurement needs
  • Automated scheduling for shop floor communication (including via software such as Inventor/Revit, ArchiCAD, etc.)
  • Environmental and performance data, validated against the client and project requirements.
  • Health and Safety data sheets, Declaration of Performance documents
  • Reducing Risk, improving efficiencies, reducing remedials
  • Reducing waste for both material and labour elements.

External Benefits – What the data can do for you

Passing the data on, via tools such as the Revit plugin from coBuilder that links to the product manufacturer’s data, means that not only will the structured data benefit internally, but it also fits into a BIM process, enabling actors such as architects, specifiers, contractors, etc. to utilise the data.

Some data is needed/required

As well as the internal data there is a need for documents that are required for every project, such as Safety Data Sheets, Method Statements and Declaration of Performance. Managing these documents is a process need for the offsite business.

There is the need for additional data too, be it from client requests, data to suit important aspects such as environmental, or calculation data (again such as U values). Receiving this data in an unstructured format will compound the work required by the delivery team.

Finally, language requirements have to be considered, not only for import/export needs to assist with communication and clarification, but also the language of various software once the need and delivery of structured data is considered.

Peter Foster

Director of Manufacturers and Merchants

coBuilder UK

+44 7467 949976



Twitter @kantrellk  


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