Among the people who live and breathe in the BIM world it is very easy to fall in what we call ‘The Great Black Hole of BIM’. The symptoms of this state are: striving to know and understand all the specifics and intricacies in the latest BIM PAS or ISO documents, being too focused on details and falling victim of the focusing-effect (bias) that keeps you away from a wider understanding of the bigger picture.
This ‘ Great Black Hole of BIM’ is as common in meetings and BIM seminars as it is in BIM software marketing blogs and websites. In a sense, everyone can be sucked into that black hole!
That is why, in an attempt escape it, we have prepared this article about the importance of construction product data in BIM, this time with a completely new, grander perspective.
From atoms to bits in the Construction Industry
In 1995 Nicholas Negroponte wrote Being Digital, a non-fiction book about the future of digital technology. In his award-winning work, Negroponte predicted that the world economy will shift from atoms to bits. He was among the first authors to discuss that businesses worldwide will shift from selling physical objects to selling information.
Have we seen this change in the construction industry today? Yes, indeed we have.
Business thrives where value can be created and passed on to those who are willing to pay for it. It is simple as that. Some simple proof is that since the construction industry has opened up for digitization, the value of better information-enabled building has gone through the roof. Whether it is value incurred through knowledge management, better streamlining of processes, waste control, standardization or optimisation of the factors of production, information has become a primer business asset for everyone involved with construction.
In the digital world, however, information becomes valuable only through the management of meaningful data. Many types of valuable data are associated with a construction site. Data means the representation of facts as text, numbers, graphs, images, sound and video. (The DAMA guide to Data Management, 2009)
There is graphical data and non-graphical data, there is data about products, about customers, about projects, about locations, about transactions, and there is master data and meta-data.
So, in order to manage these data assets and make sure it can derive value from all this data that is generated at a construction site, the construction industry has turned towards the IT industry, towards Data Management Service Providers who can help with extracting value from data.
Product Data in the Construction Industry
Here in Cobuilder we specialize in a fraction of Data Management in the construction industry – the management of construction product data. We make sure it is meaningful, by ensuring the data we provide has a context. Contextualising data means that we ensure that the data is defined as to fit different kinds of standards, we make sure that data is relevant to different kinds of usage, and is presented in the right format and managed according to a specific timeframe.
In order to achieve this we put our Product Data Templates to work. They allow us to create product master data (data developed through a single ‘golden’ standard) so that anyone, anywhere can take advantage of clean, high-quality product data that has no duplicates and can be referenced by any software.
This brings value to manufacturer businesses as they can link this master data with other types of valuable data like client data and transactional data and keep a well-managed repository of integrated information assets. They can then deliver this valuable data to any of their clients and increase the value of their products by augmenting them with data services.
Managing construction product data also brings value to contractors as they are responsible not only for the delivery of physical product but also for the delivery of their ‘digital twins’ at the construction site. From the efficient management of purchasing process according to the organisational and specific information requirements, and validation of what was designed against what is actually installed to the production of asset information models used through the long stage of operation, digital data, when managed correctly, can be used to optimise many of the functions in a contracting business. Naturally, this is exactly what we are good at.
Escaping the black hole
As an IT and a construction industry business, we at Cobuilder like to say that data is the smallest building block of any building. We also believe that data brings value to a business only when it is used. In a nutshell we employ a number of both R&D and IT experts that enable us to provide usable construction product data to all the actors in the AECO industry. We make sure all our clients leverage the potential of their data assets and thus build a solid basis for their business in the digital economy of today.
BIM is, of course, part of everything we do, but the bigger grander story we try to covey to all of our clients is that DATA Management is central to everything they do.