Modernise or Die

24Nov16

by Mark Farmer

It is clear to me that scaling up the digital agenda, with BIM at its heart, is crucial to how the industry addresses its systemic problems, of which I would highlight the following selection here:

  • Productivity – The ability to ensure coordinated and integrated products designed with manufacture and assembly in mind. BIM can enable the link between “right first time” design and manufacture/construction. It can also underpin the fundamental imperative that I highlight of more value being delivered in a “pre-manufactured” environment that benefits from better controlled delivery conditions.
  • Collaboration, adversarial working & structural fragmentation – The concept of a federated Level 2 BIM model or Level 3 Open BIM single model, by implication, will drive a step change in collaboration between all players in the process and force challenges in procurement norms and how design and construction value chains are formed. This could be seen as a threat in terms of reorganising traditional roles and hierarchies, but in my mind is more of an opportunity for those that look at where value is delivered.
  • Predictability – The ability to derisk delivery by overlaying separate 3D models, even at Level 2, BIM is the beginning of a move to the robust coordination that the industry so desperately requires. Combined with increased pre-manufactured value (PMV) delivered through a BIM enabled CAD/CAM interface, the scope for onsite final workface delivery failure reduces. With the future advent of BIM using 4D and 5D models, the key dimensions of time and cost also stand to be embedded into a much more transparent and certain environment.
  • Industry image – The ability of the industry to use digital design and construction techniques is absolutely critical if we are going to increase both the number and calibre of new entrants into our industry. Continuing to force an image of traditional labour-intensive working that relies on prototyping every project is doing nothing to make the industry attractive to a new generation who live and breathe digital. The more the industry is analogised to a technology-led manufacturing environment, the more chance we have of offsetting workforce attrition risk.

Of course, all of the above is easy to set out as a set of ambitions for how we might achieve the modernisation that our industry so desperately needs. However, what overarches all of this is the crucial need for leadership of change in the industry. There are far too many vested interests, behavioural and cultural pockets of resistance and other barriers to change that will be obstacles to the reforms I suggest.

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