The construction industry is highly competitive, and people and companies need to differentiate themselves, to secure their position and careers. As the industry rapidly moves towards using digital tools and processes, such as building information modelling (BIM), we need people who understand, and can work with digital data, but we very quickly recognise the enormous lack of skills in this area. This highlights the importance of education and training, to develop skilled staff and labour who can work with this digital information, a need which is increasing dramatically.
The construction industry has typically been a “low-tech” industry, dealing in analogue information contained in paper-based documents (drawings, schedules, specifications etc.), but BIM is changing all that. To improve productivity and collaboration, everyone involved in the construction process, from clients to the installation teams, and everyone in-between, will require the ability to interact with digital building information (BIM) – to open, navigate, query and comment on information contained in 3D models, using computing devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone). Free and easy-to-use tools are available to allow most people to interact with digital information, but people are going to have to learn the skills to use these tools. And like other areas of life, the rate of change to a digital future in construction, is coming quicker than you think.
But more importantly, those people directly involved in creating, managing and exchanging digital information about buildings, for project planning, design development, analysis, coordination and construction, using these sophisticated digital tools, will take on new levels of responsibility on projects. Having some form of certified training or qualification, to confirm that you have the skill and ability to work in this environment, will become essential. Just as you wouldn’t allow anyone without Microsoft Certification (MCSE) to mess around with your network or server infrastructure, you shouldn’t allow anyone without some BIM certified training and experience, to mess around with your digital building information – there is too much at stake, and inexperienced people can make critical mistakes that can profoundly affect the project workflow. And if you think 2 or 3 days of training will sort you out, think again. BIM is a highly sophisticated way of working and is not a skill you can acquire overnight. While an initial 3 days course will get you going, you will need a programme of continuous learning and support to make sure you don’t fail and achieve the productivity benefits.
Irish Building Magazine sought some advice on this subject from Ireland’s leading BIM consultancy practice, ArcDox:
“There are some challenges in the way the construction industry currently operates, that hinders or discourages a high level of training or upskilling of staff. Firstly, the industry is highly fragmented, with main contracting companies that sub-contract most of the work to many smaller companies, and no one feels directly responsible for training or developing all the people involved in a project. Also, in construction projects, the majority of people tend to come together for short term lifecycles (1-2 years) and then move on to other projects or prospects, so the long-term “return on investment” from training seems difficult to justify. Lastly, the parties who typically need to make the biggest investment into training, support, hardware and software, are often not those repeating the most rewards from a BIM process.” says Ralph montague, managing partner of ArcDox
“The key thing for companies, is to look at how BIM can improve their own internal process or productivity, and in that way improve their own direct profits. This will provide the internal driver. Then look at how you can collaborate and improve interactions with external partners. If you can receive information in a better format, to carry out your task, and deliver information in a better format, to benefit the other project stakeholders, and still gain yourself, then everybody wins, and there is something to be gained for everyone”.
“The investment cost required for BIM, for staff training, support, hardware and software is often a big stumbling block for companies, and the big misunderstanding is that BIM will cost more. But by far the biggest cost to any company is the labour or staff costs – if you are paying staff €200/300 per day to carry out tasks with outdated skills and tools, that take them 2-3 times longer than it would with modern tools and processes, then in fact it is costing you not to invest in equipping your staff with the latest tools and skills. The ROI (return on investment) is realized very quickly. The hardware, software, training and support required for BIM, probably costs less than €10/working day (financing these over 4 years or the life of a computer). Even a small productivity gain in current outdated processes, would more than pay for these costs. So while the investment required for BIM is the biggest perceived barrier, it is actually a misunderstanding of the gains that will be achieved that is really holding people back. The investment costs have to be put in the proper context of the productivity gains that will be achieved”.
“Fortunately, you don’t have to implement BIM the “hard way”. ArcDox, has been working with people and companies for the last 5 years, to help them implement BIM, working directly on over 50 projects, and having trained and supported over 500 people in this period. The partners of ArcDox recognised the need to have highly skilled and qualified people in the industry to operate BIM on projects, and they engaged with Autodesk, the world’s leading supplier of design software, to become an Autodesk Authorized Training and Certification Centre, the only one in Ireland that is both a working BIM practice and training centre”.
“We started ArcDox to share our expertise in this area with other companies, to provide expert advice, production resources, support and training, to help people and companies to implement BIM successfully, so that they didn’t have to start from scratch, but that they could leverage the experience we have gained over the years to their benefit”.
“To complement our BIM consultancy services, we wanted to offer the industry some practical help, by providing a different type of training, based on our real experience of working with BIM in practice. We feel strongly that BIM is not just about learning software, but it’s about knowing how to apply the BIM process to real projects, to help drive productivity gains, to eliminate the waste and problems that typically occur on projects. We also feel it is important to be able to offer a high level of post-training support, to help make sure people can immediately apply the lesson learned on real projects, and have the comfort that they will not get stuck or have to abort the BIM process. Our highly qualified support and production team work together with project staff, to make sure new trainees grow and remain productive on projects”.
With a strong background in architecture and project management, the partners of ArcDox have been instrumental in leading the development in BIM in Ireland for the last 5 years, coordinating the RIAI (Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland) BIM practice committee, the Construction IT Alliance (CITA) BIM Group, and the Revit Users of Ireland (RUIG) group. Besides the direct training services they provide, there is no dispute that their involvement in these industry groups, has allowed ArcDox to influence industry and share their knowledge with the broader construction community.
“Its pretty simple, BIM is coming, and here to stay. Those who are developing their skills and capability, to deliver information, products and services in this way, are becoming increasingly efficient, competitive and attractive to clients, winning more business. And unfortunately, those who are ignoring this worldwide trend of digitizing construction, are becoming increasingly irrelevant and threatened. As Darwin said, “.. it is not the strongest or most intelligent of the species who survives, but those most responsive to change..”.