Monday, July 3, 2017

Let them play BIM or force them to ditch paper?

Sometimes, I find that the most useless word, when discussing BIM implementation strategies, is the word ‘useful’.
People tend to over use it to justify ‘playing with BIM’.
Like, ‘BIM was so useful to reduce RFIs’ or ‘BIM was useful for clash-detection’ (my all-time favorite) or ‘it was so useful for our client to visualize the project’ etc. etc.
I don’t know, but for an approach (science?) to be only quantifiable as ‘useful’ after 30 years of active promotion and truckloads of money invested into it, sounds a bit weak to me.

I guess, I have no problem, with people playing with BIM, if it is acknowledged, that what is happening with most BIM-enabled projects is still, a sort of ‘made up play’. A small percentage of people on projects do activities that can be loosely called BIM and loosely qualified as ‘useful’.

But it does no good to the industry nor BIM, when people in high position of global AEC organizations claim ‘you know, we are all BIM’ and ‘it is very useful’. Sure.
And the sky is blue. That can be useful too.

On a parallel topic, a couple of days ago, I read an article from Balfour Beatty (one of my ‘favorite’ companies) predicting what construction will look like in 2050, all robotics, automation, smarts and glitz.
I think the year of 2050 they aimed for, safely places me in the group of ‘unlikely to be around’, yet I would rather happily bet a buck or two now, that none of that will happen, even then.
What any average biscuit factory is able to do now, will still be a struggle for AEC to achieve on a large scale for decades of years to come.

But, hey, we can be optimistic, positive and play with ideas.
Take 3D printers, as an example.
Many visionaries are predicting the true revolution of the AEC industry to be realized through these gadgets.
Just for fun, let me quote a Hungarian comedian’s joke about, how in the future, not only could we just buy a 3D printer and print everything that we need with it, but even better, borrow a 3D printer from someone else and 3D print our 3D printer to print then everything we need. And so on.

Cool stuff. Easy to sell as an idea.
What is not cool is my ‘mighty strategy of the secret weapon that COULD truly change the AEC industry, the strategy of going ‘paperless’.
Not cool, because it is simple, but bloody effective.

For those that like things told honestly, I will spell it out:
Want to change (improve AEC), go paperless!

There is NO better motivation for people to get off their bums, starting top down, from Project Directors all the way down to Document Controllers and change their behavior, then taking away their little ‘helper that helps them survive’.
It is ‘paper’. It is the magic ‘please print me off……’
mantra that gets them off, time and time, from being forced to  perform some true naval gazing and start innovating within the industry.

Get them off their bums and start using, searching, developing, demanding to be developed tools and systems that will assist them doing their core jobs in an environment that does not know of the command ‘Can you please print me off these CAD drawings..’.

For those that like mighty parallels I will spell it out that way too:

Imagine people buying meat in supermarkets. Cool.
Imagine, someone coming in (BIM department head) saying, that, ‘from now on, we will no longer buy meat at the supermarket but will need to hunt’.
Still, will do nothing to stop us going to the supermarket.
Would people suddenly be forced to hunt? No, sure not. (and a one day ‘hunt training’ means nothing either)

OK, maybe not a good parallel, but there is a message to ponder.

Yes, in a ‘mandated’ BIM company, people will parrot the mandated BIM mantra, because they are told to do so and it is good for the image of the company, from Project Directors down to Document Controller.
But none will change their own behavior, unless really forced or inspired.
They will remain to rely for their ‘BIM department’ to preserve the image of BIM-ness, and greatness and innovativeness,  while secretly (or not so secretly) go on with ways they’ve worked by, for ages before.

Using PDFs. Printing PDFs and marking them up.
Getting the few modelers of the BIM Department to create PDFs.
Getting them the print them out so higher ranking engineers and PMs can mark them up.

And you know what, there is nothing wrong with this behavior. But it needs to be acknowledged for what it truly is.
Bugger all ‘Change management strategies’ – ‘BIM uptake campaigns’, change makers and
catalysts, if all they can achieve is to make grey headed PD’s crawling around offices hoping someone will make their projects mandated, ‘easy to use’ 6d+ model somehow palatable and understandable.
(gosh, mate, do me some screenshots of it, would you please?).
But face it, this is not true BIM. This is pretending.

On the other hand, take away the paper and give them some time, and they will find their footing …and… innovate.
Not all, but most. The ones that will not survive in this enforced paperless environment, you will not need/want anyway.

The ones that do, will search and thrive.
Will search for tools that actually work (they will be seriously surprised how few of them do exist) – they will put pressure on developers to make tools that are truly useful, they will strive to continue to work in this new, paperless environment and be successful.

The concept of ‘Paperless’ is not cool, on the surface.
It is only about creating an enclosed environment and banning paper from it.

But would do wonders to the Global AEC industry.

Trust me.


  1. Last year a hydro electric project in Norway was completed totally paperless.

  2. Expectations in AEC Industry are often referred to big companies which have the resources to implement BIM "as it should" therefore they're being used as a standard goal to achieve. Unfortunatelly what most papers, research, and literature forgets is that MOST of the companies, are still trying to understand the difference between BIM and Revit, ie.
    So until the BIM concept is clear enough, well there are some struggles to go through. Besides, understanding the concept per se, is even so very different than actually put it into practice. So yeah, long way to go there.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi Zolna,

    I will not go 'paperless' until a specific functionality is added...

    That capacity is a digital format that honours BOTH individual drawing numbers for update, etc. AND bound link functionality.

    Currently the industry uses pdf. We have several thousand digital 'drawings' that are all issued, tracked, approved and constructed from, yet not available bound in one document (or a useful subset of) with 'full linked functionality'

    Autodesks' .dwf format came pretty close, yet died (well nearly).

    Any suggestions??!?

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