Outsourcing 3D modeling and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) services can boost a company’s productivity and efficiency by—among other things— freeing up employee time to work on projects that align with their true expertise.
The real value is in what subcontractors bring to the table. Construction companies often look to outsource four types of services: 3D BIM model creation, BIM model evaluation, point-cloud to model creation, and 3D laser scanning.
In this article, we’ll give tips on what project managers should look for and keep in mind when their company is considering outsourcing 3D modeling and VDC Services.
Thanks to technological advances, more companies are outsourcing work, according to a recent Deloitte Global Outsourcing and Insourcing Survey. Construction companies are certainly part of that trend.
Seen in light of these trends, subcontracting often makes good financial sense for construction companies. Workers who command a higher salary due to their knowledge should spend their time on high-value work only they can do, rather than doing the projects that can easily be subcontracted.
1. What are your hardware and software costs?
The need to keep current on the latest software and hardware can be expensive and add unneeded risk to your company. Evaluate the number of software applications and their prices you need and have. Factor in the price of upgrades, training time and costs, the expense of dedicated IT staff, and costs of securing the software against hacks and other risks.
You may find you can outsource these services at costs much lower than maintaining them in-house.
By going with a contractor, you also eliminate the need to maintain several different BIM software applications and laser-scanning equipment that you may not be ready to invest in. The outsourcing company holds onto these applications and the equipment, upgrades regularly, and keeps them secure.
You’ll want to find a contractor that offers BIM for the many industries you do business with—including architecture and engineering. Also, ensure the outsourcing company accesses and has knowledge of multiple BIM packages.
In addition, the subcontractor should offer 3D modeling services based on the level of project detail, from LOD 200 to LOD 500.
2. Do you have hidden training costs?
How much time do you spend bringing employees up to speed on the latest hardware and software? Do they resist IT changes or welcome them? How well do they understand the software or new technology, and is there a learning curve at your company?
The answer to these questions affects how you might use an outsourcing company.
Outsourcing can cut the time and money you’d spend training your employees in areas like 3D modeling, laser scanning, and working with point clouds.
Your company often saves money because the service provider you contract with can complete the tasks assigned by your company in fewer billable hours than can your own employees. Service providers have taken on many types of 3D modeling and VDC assignments in the past—it’s what they do by their very nature— and often know exactly how to best complete the job.
For many services, the company you’re working with needn’t be located in the same area or even the same time zone as your own.
3. Which services should you outsource?
You may find, after evaluating your company’s’ needs, you only need to choose to outsource particular areas of BIM and VDC services (for instance, only scanning services or only modeling services).
Nevertheless, you’ll want to consider the range of services an outsourcing firm offers, as a range offered demonstrates a breadth of skills needed for the types of projects you have across the entire lifecycle.
You’ll need to ensure the contractor you’re choosing has a proven history of completing the kinds of jobs your company will be assigning. Ask about the types of clients the contractor has worked with and the types of work done for those clients. You can also ask for testimonials or references from past clients, as well as examples of work completed.
As with any type of outsourcing agreement, you’ll need to frame job parameters and have an ironclad agreement in place before work begins.
4. How will you stay in touch?
The nature of the 3D software systems alone allows BIM to be more readily done by a third-party provider who—based on their own expertise—can also offer feedback on new or existing projects. BIM files can be passed back and forth between your company and the firm you’ve contracted with. The great thing about BIM is that collaboration amongst individual parties is made super simple.
Platforms like Trimble Connect make it easy for users to receive and work with up-to-the-second information and to pass designs back and forth and ask for feedback. Questions or updates can be also be clarified via email, on the software itself, or with a phone call.
The usual exchange methods can include Dropbox, virtual private network (VPN), file transfer protocol (FTP), Trimble Connect, or product lifecycle management (PLM) systems.
Look for contractors that can assure you they’ll communicate often and set project deadlines. Agree on a means of communication, make sure your company has those tools, and that they’re up to date.
5. Can outsourcing protect or even enhance your reputation?
Of course, you’ll need to carefully evaluate BIM and VDC contracting firms and ask pertinent questions when looking to move those services out of your company.
The reputation on the line is your own.
By asking an outsourcing company to evaluate your models, you’re always assured someone has your back, noting and correcting any modeling mistakes.
When it comes to model evaluation, look for an outsourcing company that will evaluate your 3D model by checking for interferences, noting mistakes and areas where the model could be improved upon, for example, an incorrect connection between HVAC ducts and risers.
By outsourcing jobs, you might even enhance your reputation. You might have the skilled contractor evaluate 3D models for interferences, for example, or even create models. A company with a great deal of experience in this area will aid to your MEP firm and protect its reputation.
With the potential to cut costs, enhance productivity, and boost your bottom line, you should always consider the option of outsourcing VDC services. Being open to this new way of doing business will help grow your company. Simply keep these five factors in mind when you’re evaluating whether outsourcing will work for you.