Establishing a process for digital engineering implementation

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Digital engineering represented in a virtual environment

GUILLIAM OBERHOLSTER presents five crucial tips for FMs to follow when seeking successful digital engineering implementation.

Times have changed for facility managers. Today’s economic climate demands speed, efficiency, reliability and cost-effective design and project deliverables from the built environment. In response, the industry has been turning to Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Digital Engineering (DE). The opportunities provided by such systems have proven to yield substantial time and cost savings, while simultaneously laying the foundations for a digital twin.

Despite this, there has been some notable resistance to adoption of digital engineering software. That’s a real concern, as are cases where processes are implemented without the benefits being realised.

Why is that the case? The following represent some of the most common barriers:

  • Standards – Depending on the sector or region, a complete and specific standard may not exist. If they are, the standard is rarely adopted consistently.
  • Cost – Organisations may be hesitant to make an investment in software and training if they don’t recognise a proven or guaranteed return of interest.
  • Interoperability -Some software providers have proved unwilling to standardise file formats, making interoperability difficult.
  • Culture and skill change – Long-established organisations and operators may be resistant to adopting new technology and the new skills and methodology required to properly operate it.
  • Commercial and legal issues – The continued use of vague and undefined terms related to data ownership, intellectual property rights and professional liability etc. in contracts is troubling. So bad is the situation that the Winfield Rock Report has been written to provide the legal community with a better understanding of BIM legal and contractual issues.

Considering this, it’s important for FMs to establish a process for the successful and cost-effective implementation of digital engineering software. Here are five crucial tips for how you can do just that when bringing the software to your asset:

Set up for early success

All too often we hear of cases in which BIM and other elements of digital engineering have been incorporated yet failed to deliver benefits. In the majority of cases, this is because an advisory stage has not been undertaken prior to the tendering, assessment and engagement of the project team. BIM and DE consultants may use all the right tools and follow the right procedures, but they often forget the most important part: establishing a project goal or requirement. As a result, an asset manager ends up with a 3D model that isn’t suitable for any practical use without significant amendment.

Establishing a goal ensures the BIM is able to meet the needs of the user and that this is reflected in the tender and contract documents. Ultimately, the advisory stage defines the project objectives and overarching BIM strategy.

Communicate your DE requirements

When implementing BIM or DE, the importance of planning cannot be overstated. During this phase, the client is required to compile a document called the Employers Information Requirements (EIR). The EIR establishes the BIM use, goals, drivers and, in many cases, the organisational information requirements. Clear communication of the BIM requirements early will ensure tenderers are aware of the capability and skills required. This will strengthen the uniformity of tender responses and lead to more competitive tender returns. It will also minimise change of scope and the number of variations while ensuring a more collaborative approach.

Appoint the right people to assess capability

Assessing capability is a critical task when it comes to selecting the most suitable contractor or project team and highlights any capability gaps that may be addressed through training.

Tenderers should respond with a pre-contract BIM Execution Plan (BEP) that outlines how, when and what will be delivered. The BEP allows tenderers to address how they will meet the BIM requirements, who they are nominating for specific roles and how they intend to collaborate with the project team. It’s important that that the client or tender assessment panel have the capability to assess the pre-contract BEP and ensure the tenderer has correctly interpreted the BIM requirements. If this is not the case then any deviation should be addressed and corrected or accepted during the tender assessment.

Embrace collaboration

Collaboration has the potential to be affected by a number of the common barriers to implementation. For one example, organisations harbouring concerns about intellectual property and legal issues are less likely to share information in a manner that can foster collaboration. Therefore, it is crucial that any potential issues are identified, addressed and settled early in the process. A number of software vendors have also proved reluctant to collaborate with competitors. As a result, these organisations have failed to comply with industry standards and failed to flame a collaborative approach.

Appoint the right team to implement

Project-related pressures and deadlines often result in BIM goals and drivers being abandoned. This can be avoided by implementing digital engineering protocols and procedures and managing the implantation accordingly. Short-term time and financial costs may exceed those of traditional methods, but the long-term benefits will significantly outperform more common methods and result in greater efficiency and savings.

Project teams need to be structured to support the implementation of DE. This can be most directly achieved when teams deliver in accordance to their respective roles and requirements.

Making the difference

The successful management and implementation of a DE project provides structured and accurate datasets, tool and processes which will reduce the turnaround time of project deliverables and increase its accuracy. This will ultimately result in both time and cost savings.

Simply having access to the right tools and procedures will not guarantee success. A considered and deliberate effort must be made to ensure the intent of the technology and procedures is clear. Delivery of the right data at the right time is also required to drive towards the project BIM goals and objectives, thereby achieving efficiently and savings.

These benefits aren’t limited to just one project either. Capability growth can result in an opportunity to innovate pre-existing business models and open organisations to further possibilities in relation to digitisation, such as data analytics and machine learning.

Guilliam Oberholster is the associate director at Turner and Townsend.


Image: 123RF’s dolgachov, ©

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