In decades past, the MEP construction manufacturing and supply industry ran dramatically different than it does today.
The change in the manufacturer’s role was explained by Erwin van Schooten, managing director at Spelsberg, during a talk about BIM for MEP engineers:
"In the past, when the world was not yet digitized, the MEP engineer had limited choice in different brands. He went to his wholesaler to buy his products. The wholesaler could only sell a limited number of brands. When an engineer had selected a wholesaler, this usually also determined his preference in brand and product.
Nowadays things are different. The MEP engineer is offered many products from different brands and therefore has a wide range of choice. However, he no longer has time to study all the product details of so many different brands; he simply wants to have a good product for the requested application. This creates a conflict: how does the engineer know which product is most suitable? Especially because he has no time to personally address, for example, 10 different suppliers of a type of product.
The solution to this problem lies in good communication of information. A representative still has a role to play in this, but the digital highway also offers many opportunities to engineers for making a choice. The more details of a product are available, the better the selection will be. BIM plays an important role in this and this role will only increase in the future.”
This summary of the new reality in construction supply manufacturing is backed up by independent sources. For example, this year’s NBS National BIM Survey confirmed that the construction industry is increasingly looking to product manufacturers to provide high quality BIM objects for use in their projects — over 70% of respondents went on the record saying so.
The new reality in construction
Van Schooten’s talk was exciting and thought provoking, and it brings up some very interesting topics that today’s manufacturers really need to consider carefully:
How can manufacturers effectively and profitably work within the new paradigm dominated by BIM, augmented or virtual reality, and the like?
Where do manufacturers fit into the modern workflow, and is that the best position for them to maintain?
The talk went on to discuss those important questions while focusing to a large extent on what he considers a vital factor in Spelsberg’s success in recent years: the creation and dissemination of BIM content.
Erwin van Schooten at the BIM LIVE Experience, an event for MEP engineers
Spelsberg has been a contributor to MEPcontent.com — the largest BIM library for MEP engineers, offering BIM content and productivity-enhancing Revit applications for the installation industry, and now officially a member of the Trimble family of companies.
Here are two additional highlights from his speech, including insights into how working with BIM content has helped Spelsberg continue to thrive.
The need for effective data transfer
One factor van Schooten stressed was the need to move toward what he called, “the ultimate transfer of information.” In other words, providing engineers, designers, and detailers with all the data and 3D content they need to quickly and accurately insert or adjust the manufacturer’s products right within their models, even in real time.
MEPcontent and other similar services facilitate this data transfer, but the challenge for manufacturers is to progress internally in both the technology and workforce development required to take full advantage of what’s possible.
Reducing the cost of failure
While creating 3D BIM content can be incredibly valuable, the value is quickly eroded if the content or accompanying data is rife with errors. Errors in a manufacturer’s BIM content not only creates delays and frustration for engineers, but it harms a manufacturer’s reputation as well. Since competing products are more readily available to every designer than ever before, even minor errors can potentially lead to lost business and revenue down the road.
To help mitigate this challenge, the quality standard for BIM content needs to be painstakingly high. Regarding the effort Spelsberg puts in to ensure accurate product specifications on every model, Erwin explains:
"The purchase of a product is only part of the total cost of ownership. Spelsberg wants to deliver a product at the end of the cycle that fully meets the wishes of the user and a product that is fully appreciated by the MEP engineer.
Spelsberg is convinced that the quality of the product and the installation improves when there is an insight into the costs of the total cycle, for example with regard to ease of installation and service costs. The purchase price of a product can be higher, but due to a reduction in costs, the total installation price at the end of the cycle can be cheaper. Thanks to all the displayed up-to-date product specifications on MEPcontent you can really reduce your failure costs!”
BIM content for Spelsberg on MEPcontent
Where do manufacturers fit into the modern BIM workflow?
Information is — quite literally — at the very center of Building Information Modeling. An entire model and, by extension, the building created from that model, depends largely on the quality of the products and components that make it up. So, using BIM to create better buildings requires quality information regarding these products and components at every stage of the supply chain.
Just consider how fully infiltrated BIM has become into the entire construction workflow. Information and the models that information helps create are routinely used to:
Create Bill of Material (BOM) lists
Create prefabrication sets
Create ordering lists
Make reliable calculations and resulting reports for estimating, takeoff, job submittal, and other interconnected software systems
And who is the most reliable source of information regarding manufactured products going into any given building? The manufacturer.
Yes, in many ways, manufacturers can actually lead the way into the ongoing future of BIM-dominated construction.
It’s important for forward-thinking manufacturers to focus on supplying quality data in the MEP domain, creating and distributing high-quality BIM content as widely as possible.
How will manufacturers benefit from taking ownership of BIM content?
The most obvious and important benefit to the modern manufacturer of focusing now on BIM content is the fact that they stand a chance of remaining competitive and relevant while slower-moving competitors fall by the wayside.
While BIM mandates are still relatively few and far between, the industry is definitely moving in that direction. It’s not a matter of if, but rather when that becomes the universal reality.
The competitive advantage begins immediately, in fact. If design teams have ready access to your product data in the format of their choice, then they’re more likely to select your products and use them when designing and erecting their buildings. The same applies to the construction teams actually purchasing the products they need. If getting your specific product data is easy, they are able to more readily match your products with the project specs and requirements they have to comply with. As a result, they’re more likely to choose your products.
Finally, once product data is fully integrated into the BIM workflow, it creates a feedback loop that would be far more difficult to achieve in more traditional ways. Working with highly structured product data through a library service like MEPcontent, manufacturers can easily find out who has been viewing their products and which of those viewers are actually buying and installing them.
So, not only are the manufacturer’s products being specified and purchased more often, but they are also taking advantage of incredible market intelligence feedback that can help maximize future sales.
For more information regarding how and why today’s manufacturers must invest in BIM content, visit MEPcontent.com.