Global product data management – Interview with Paul Surin, Head of Built Environment at Wienerberger AG
At Digital Construction Week (DCW) 2018 in London, Wienerberger will demonstrate the organisation’s BIM-readiness by launching their new product data platform – a result of a collaboration between Cobuilder and CADENAS. The platform showcases a new approach uniting interoperable, standard-based product data with 3D CAD models. Focusing on the data side of the solution:
Paul Surin, Head of Built Environment at Wienerberger AG provides his insights into the manufacturer’s side of BIM and the decision making process at Wienerberger UK, and their rationale for choosing cobuilder goBIM as the solution to support their construction product digitisation initiatives.
Could you describe Wienerberger’s BIM journey so far?
At Wienerberger we started the BIM journey 3 years ago. As most of our industry counterparts, we were seeing BIM as a lovely marketing exercise at the time. However, only when we pushed BIM further and away of the purely marketing perspective straight to our technical team and production, we saw the real value of BIM. We started looking deeper into manufacturing processes in terms of how we managed data internally and how we could translate ‘BIM-readiness’ to efficiencies within our organisation and benefits to our customers. In other words, we started our BIM journey by looking at BIM issues at the enterprise level.
What was the ‘the data issue’ at Wienerberger?
Let’s look at an example. If we issue a new naming strategy for our products, we have round 30 000 products, it takes about 3 months to update all of them. That is a pretty minor process, but the ramifications are great. Imagine generating every single DoP while everything is manual (even in the SAP databases).
It is all like the good old paperwork – you have to input every characteristic by hand and double check it. You can see that this is a massive, massive problem and there is obviously a great room for error – so for us, a great driver towards BIM was this idea of making these processes more efficient internally. The digitalisation of our data with the help of the digital data experts such as Cobuilder was the only sensible step towards the automation and standardisation of the whole process of delivering data to our clients.
How do you plan to automate the way you communicate information about your products to your customers and why have you chosen coBuilder as a service provider?
Historically, we used our PIM – Product Information Management system and of course we used SAP for our pricing and transactions. What we were missing and what we are working on with Cobuilder is creating a sort of standard-based digital information management system, which interacts with our SAP and PIM systems and that unites our client and product databases.
This standardised approach will give us the possibility to allow any client to request any information at any time. This is the end we desire – the possibility to provide a standardised data service to our clients, to enable them to receive the most up-to-date data about our products.
Additionally, one of our requirements was to ensure that our product data complies with all harmonised, national and local standards. We work in more than 30 countries, and we needed a system that is applicable across our Group. If we are selling our products in a country like Belgium for instance, we need to have our data structured according to the harmonised EU standards, the local standards and mapped to local needs, their marketing needs. That is very important for us and that is what Cobuilder goBIM helps us to do. It localises our data so that it fulfills the local requirements (this also means translation) and thus allows us not only to lift our data from where it is today and distribute it within the digital world but also have it fit-for-purpose to the different markets we are active on.
We chose Cobuilder goBIM, because it is important that we ensure we give the users of our data what they want and cater to their specific data needs. When they come to the Wienerberger website and enquire about documents such as the EPD or a specific attribute such as the comprehensive strength of our bricks, a system should be able to produce it – no questions asked. That might be a vital information to them and not the whole DoP or the whole COBie dataset.
Our integration with goBIM allows us to manage data in a structured way and use smart filters when exporting information to whoever needs it. It also allows us to unite data with 3D models such as the ones provided by CADENAS and their innovative BIMcatalogs.net technology so that we can provide both data and geometry to asset information models – the most essential BIM deliverables.
A preview of Wienerberger’s product data platform: CADENAS (3D BIM models) & Cobuilder (attributes)
‘The digitalisation of our data with the help of the digital data experts Cobuilder was the only sensible step towards the automation of the whole process of delivering data to our clients’.
The BIM level 2 mandate is now a reality in the UK, what is its importance for manufacturers?
When interpreting BIM Level 2 for manufacturers, it is quite clear that we must clear the issue of providing data to various stakeholders in a digital format. BIM Level 2 for us is a change in terms of information requirements, in terms who wants what and how can we best deliver it. It is obvious that the specifier needs one type of information and the client needs different information than the contractor or the BREEAM accessor. It is important that our data is available to anyone of these construction industry professionals at any time or at any point across the RIBA stages – that is what we are aiming at with Cobuilder and CADENAS.
I must note that also an important part of BIM Level 2 for manufacturers is focusing on the FM side and how our products align with the life-cycle of the building. Having our data available at all these points helps us deliver services to clients that we might not have necessarily reached in the past. So what these Facility Managers would do when they have information about the Wienerberger products used in a building is that they are much more likely to continue using the Wienerberger products when building an extension or expansion. Getting into the “In use” stage is essential for driving repeat sales – so the benefits are obvious.
Lastly, smart data management goes far beyond the scope of UK BIM Level 2 compliance. Information Management has become an essential part of any business today. Wienerberger recognizes that managing a single source of truth for all its data assets both internally and externally plays a paramount role in the consistency of all further business processes. That is why, strong partners such as Cobuilder help us bring numerous efficiencies to our business and help us future-proof our data.