10 steps to simplify your transition to BIM
So you’re convinced that BIM will be a good addition to your firm. Unlike more conventional CAD, BIM is composed of intelligent 3D models which make critical design and construction processes such as coordination, communication, and collaboration much easier and faster. However, for these reasons BIM is also seen by many as a more complicated software with a steep learning curve, with the potential to take a large chunk out of a firm’s operating budget during the transition period. So how do you actually transition an entire firm’s process to BIM? Here are ten steps to guide you on your way.
1. Get to know BIM
Before making the big transition to BIM, it’s important to understand how the switch will affect the way your team works. Try to designate 1 or 2 people to investigate any changes which need to happen in order to accommodate the new workflow. A common example of just such a change is that design details often have to be worked out much earlier in BIM than in the 2D world; this is the type of adjustment that will require a change in mentality from your employees, and which your early testers will be able to alert you of.
2. Get The Whole Team on Board
It is important to get the entire staff invested in making the full transition. One way to achieve this is to stress the benefits of BIM for the firm and the clients rather than talking too much about industry changes which “require” the use of BIM on projects. A compelling future vision is more exciting and leaders within your firm should take the initiative to influence the entire team—the message should be: “we are moving to BIM because it’s critical to our future” and not that “we are just trying out BIM to see if it works for us.”
3. Assume Software and Hardware Updates
Compared to workflows in standard CAD, BIM is a more collaborative process that relies on intelligent 3D models. A new suite of software will be necessary to create the models and it’s important to consider the operating requirements of these programs. It might therefore be necessary to upgrade to more current hardware with sufficient processing power. If this is the case, it’s best to assume even further software upgrades down the line and opt for hardware that is a step above “sufficient” to current BIM requirements.
4. Develop a Plan
After these preparatory steps, it’s good to plan the remainder of the process accordingly. Like a building project, the transition to a new workflow also needs to be planned in detail to avoid disruption and to ensure proper execution. In this change management plan, it’s important to take note of which team members need training and when they’ll get it. Most importantly, there must be space in this plan for issues and questions from your staff; organizational change happens much faster and more successfully when you help staff adopt new ways of working.
5. Begin with a Pilot Project
For most firms, it makes more sense to begin with one project to act as a pilot rather than immediately using BIM on every project. It’s best to begin staff training with just a pilot team who will take on this project and go through the “growing pains” of the transition. From this experience, the pilot project will inform best practices in adopting BIM for incoming projects, and the pilot team will lead the encouragement of the entire team’s transition.
6. Document Preferred Processes
It might be tempting to enforce standards at the beginning of the transition, but often these could slow the team down, and the output may not be best suited for your firm’s needs. It’s better to begin with an open process. As one team takes on the pilot program, have them document their preferred methods of working. This stage will reveal the firm’s preferred outputs and how BIM can be used to support these outputs. Documenting the process will help the entire team to develop efficient standards in the future.
7. Cultivate BIM Champions
Some people will be more excited about BIM than others—maybe they already have experience, or learned about BIM as part of their education. These people should definitely be part of your firm’s pilot team. Consider giving these team members additional training so that they can support the rest of their teammates in adopting BIM.
8. Gradually Transition Your Teams
Training the entire firm all at once is not considered best practice, especially since the transition to BIM is best done one project at a time over the course of a year of two. In most cases, people on later projects will have forgotten much of what they learned in training by the time they have to apply it. Begin training separate teams as they are about to start a BIM project.
9. Integrate to Collaborate
The benefits of BIM are utilized best when a comprehensive model is shared between MEP consultants, engineers and other firms that are also involved in the project. A shared model accelerates the coordination process and opens the door to a new level of collaboration between teams.
10. Innovate and Expand
BIM empowers firms as it enables new visualization, coordinating and analysis capabilities. The challenge for your firm is to develop ways to capitalize on these new capabilities into value and service offerings for your clients. Communicating BIM’s advantages for clients can serve as a marketing tool, and also shows enthusiasm for BIM to those clients who increasingly see it as a mandatory requirement for their projects.