BIM Implementation and Workflow: Finding The Right Fit

BIM Implementation and Workflow: Finding The Right Fit


When you need BIM shop drawings, or it’s time to work with a BIM Coordinator, are you considering outsourcing the project or hiring and expanding your employee base? If outsourcing, do you know what questions to ask before making that hire? Once you’ve made that hire, do you know the best way to keep communication moving forward?

BIM shop drawings are a huge support to building projects. They remove the guesswork and give you a virtual version of your project before costly installations happen. But, all that incredible support and help won’t mean much if you don’t hire the right person or team for the job who can work together successfully. 

So, I’m here to take out the guesswork. 

Before you make a final decision, here are three basic questions to consider:


Should I outsource my BIM needs or bring a BIM Specialist on staff?


Financial Considerations.

With any new hire, you need to consider the financial implications on putting a person on payroll, of course. Beyond that, however, you also need to consider the specific and costly software needs BIM requires. Once you’ve made that hire, you’ve now got a specialty guy sitting in an office with expensive software and special skills that may not be useful for something else. So the big question to ask is, will you be working enough BIM-required jobs in the future to make it worth the investment?

With outsourcing, you’re hiring a company already equipped, trained, and ready to take on the project immediately, while also presenting the cost upfront. Once the project is completed, you have no additional cost requirements. Not for equipment upgrades. Or training. For Integrated Design to stay innovative, the cost of that expertise is a cost of me doing business. So that burden is on me. 


Productivity Considerations.

There’s no way around it. When you hire someone, you’ve got inner-office politics as a challenge to manage. It’s just the nature of the business. That means, should complaints come, you now have to deal with an employee who, as I’ve seen happen, may pull out the “no one else but me understands these issues, so the complaints about me are wrong.” BIM coordinators aren’t walking the streets looking for jobs. So, if you want to keep your employee, you may have to deal with the issue and hope for a better outcome on the next job.

When the work is outsourced, you can focus less on the politics and more on the results. A top-notch BIM provider can address issues, cut directly to whatever is holding up progress, and get the problem solved without any complications. It’s that professional distance that allows a team like ours to troubleshoot any stumbling blocks and get the project back on track. Quickly. Without melodrama.  


Technology Considerations.

When your BIM coordinator is in-house, they get whatever equipment the IT department provides. I’ve attended too many meetings where the BIM coordinator is on a laptop in a trailer parked at the job site and attempting to maneuver through a 3D model. The connection drops. The computer stalls. It’s a major factor in moving production ahead. Good equipment is key, so if you do decide to bring someone on staff, make sure not to limit their productivity with mediocre equipment. 

Here at Integrated Design, our computers are custom-built specifically to produce the highest-quality virtual design construction drawings. Smoothly. With power to spare. We’re equipped with the best because BIM is our job. It’s our expertise. When we’re hired to provide BIM shop drawings or to manage the project, we’re expected to offer the best service and best results imaginable. That takes the best technology, as well as staying up-to-date on the latest software updates. 


What to look at when hiring a BIM Coordinator?


A solid BIM shop or specialist can withstand some healthy background research before hiring them onto a job. To make sure that’s who you’re working with, here are a few questions to ask. 


What’s the Coordinator’s reputation?

Ask if you can call their last general contractor on their last completed project for a referral. If they’re hesitant, there may be a reason. If not, the contractor can give you details on what kind of job they generally deliver.


Are they doing the work or farming it out? 

If you’re only hiring the middle man, you’re likely to have issues down the road. Some BIM companies outsource the actual work internationally, which means problems with the work or on the job won’t get a quick answer due to time zone differences.


How many years of experience do they have?

You want your BIM Coordinator to understand the problem areas of a job so they can work to prevent them, not only address them when it happens. The more knowledge and experience in their background, usually the better they’ll be at troubleshooting.


Do they specialize in plumbing, HVAC ductwork, and electrical drawings?

BIM is all about bringing all the moving pieces together. That means knowing the details about each of these specialties, too. 


Can they speak the trade languages?

Any company or person who provides BIM shop drawings must be familiar with the codes. Otherwise, all you’ve purchased are fancy drawings. They must be relevant, comprehensive, and actionable.


Are they using software that works with real parts and pieces?

Success with BIM drawings is all about the little details, like the varying sizes of plumbing elbows depending on the material used or the brand. Yes, those kinds of details. In a lot of the work we coordinate at Integrated Design, we’re down to the inches. If you drop pipework down an inch and a half, can it clear the ductwork and allow for tolerances? It may all come down to that plumbing elbow, which could make the elevation two- or three-inches higher in certain brands. If your BIM guy can’t plug in real parts and pieces, the accuracy of those drawings can’t be guaranteed. 


What are best practices to ensure good workflow and communication?


Set workflow standards from day one.

How will the project be broken up? In what area should everyone focus first? Then second? And so forth? Everyone needs to be on the same page. There are so many moving parts and moving specialties involved in constructing a building. If there isn’t cohesion, there will be chaos. 


Set communication guidelines.

There’s a lot of information required between parties to keep a building project moving forward. In the beginning, the BIM Manager should clearly outline how he wants files formatted, named, and shared. If not, the multiple versions, addendums, and changes as the job continues can be lost or missed. 


Set the coordinates.

Architects set the coordinates of exactly where the project is located. However, many times, a project manager may choose to reinvent those coordinates. This can cause issues down the road, especially when creating BIM drawings. Specific, unchanging coordinates means, for example, when the fire protection guy posts an updated file, it is aligned with the other shop drawings. Everyone is working with the same core information. 


Overall, when it comes to workflow and communication, the tried and true rules for good business practices still stand: set a plan, stick with the plan, understand the other team’s strengths and weaknesses, be flexible when possible, and have a mindset to work together. 


In the end of the day, building is a team effort. 


Talk to you later.



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