Over the last few years, BIM-related careers have evolved to be much more than simply managing model coordination and clash detection. Intended to be a strategic technology-leader role, the sheer amount of repetitive work and additional demands has increased workloads for our BIM managers across the board — making them responsible for far more than they were even just five years ago.
BIM and VDC managers tackle a long list of tasks like collecting and maintaining project files, team members (typically across organizations), managing information and making critical BIM data useful to all a project partners, all while collaborating with multiple teams. However, as the workload of BIM managers increases, it’s critical for teams to implement new processes and technology to increase collaboration and productivity, break down siloes to increase transparency and democratize the workload to enable teams to be more self-sufficient.
So how can we return the BIM Manager role to something more strategic again, enabling teams to be more equipped to independently solve problems and be empowered to make real-time decisions? Here are three ways technology is taking that next step to make this a reality, and generally making the lives of our VDC and BIM managers a bit easier.
1. Cloud-based technology builds collaboration into the DNA of your team.
The construction industry is experiencing a massive shift to cloud-based technology. In fact, 85% of construction contractors use or plan to use cloud-based solutions, and for good reason. Moving to the cloud allows teams to break down silos and continuously collaborate with one another. Adopting cloud collaboration technology has shown amazing results: 98% of engineering and construction companies agree that digital solutions are critical to the future viability of their company.
Moving to cloud-based technology helps break down silos and promotes a single source of truth — ensuring that everyone is working from the most up-to-date documents. Providing team members with the same set of up-to-date information empowers team members to independently fix smaller issues, which in turn frees up time for BIM managers to focus on prepping for coordination meetings and solve more complex and potentially more costly and risky problems.
Cloud-based technology also allows teams to build a document management process directly into their day-to-day coordination – baking in approval processes and design reviews all in the same place, in real time. This enables proper version control, with visual representations available of all models in a given project. Shifting to the cloud can help reduce the number of issues that you face, improve the quality of design, reduce the number of RFIs and ultimately get you to site faster.
2. New technology can automate your manual processes.
Automation is another powerful tool that can improve how you collect, manage and analyze data. It reduces the most tedious and manual tasks teams face throughout a project — like uploading and downloading files from servers, manually entering and reviewing data by hand or having to personally notify someone when an action is needed. On top of being cumbersome, manual processes are often fraught with human error and duplication of tasks, which is time- and labor-intensive. Automating these steps and related processes can increase the accuracy of your data, reduce significant administrative burdens and streamline communications and tasks.
Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are also playing an increasing role in the construction industry to help teams automate standardization, improve analysis and identify patterns in data ultimately helping to reduce risk. In fact, the market for AI in construction could reach $4.51 billion by 2026. As our industry progresses, we will surely see this type of technology playing a larger role in helping take more manual, tedious analysis tasks off our plate, allowing teams to focus on more important tasks and analysis that require a higher level of human input.
3. Technology empowers teams to take ownership.
Part of a BIM/VDC manager’s role is to empower teams and allow them to take ownership, and a big part of that is enabling teams to check their own work. By using the right technology, teams can upload their files to a common data environment and review changes as they happen, which opens the door for immediate feedback. For instance, rather than checking work and identifying issues during a coordination meeting, teams can identify hot spots with a high number of clashes and detect issues before you even get to your end of the week coordination meeting. This frees up time during the meeting to discuss how to resolve issues efficiently rather than who is responsible.
Empowering your team to take ownership of their own work helps them improve their design quality, mitigate risk, and lets the BIM manager focus on other information management responsibilities and work on higher risk issues that have been escalated.
It’s time for VDC managers to abandon the mindset of being responsible for the entire weight of their projects. By adopting the right technology, building collaboration into your team, automating your processes and empowering your team to take ownership, you’ll see big changes not only in your day-to-day workflows, but in the overall quality of your work as well.
Lee Mullin is technical program manager for Autodesk.