Your project is complex. You manage an entire network of contributors handling data every day, all working towards your goal of finishing within scope, without going over budget, and on time. Making efforts to ensure that your teams collaborate efficiently is critical to project success, otherwise you run the risk of failure.
In the context of your project, failure doesn’t just apply to the case of your structure collapsing under heavy load (granted this may be the most catastrophic example), it applies to other cases such as design overlap, scheduling conflicts, inaccurate cost analysis, and personnel injuries. For example, if design updates are not properly relayed to the contractors, pricing disputes may arise, causing delays. If stress test results aren’t updated properly, you may have workers unknowingly entering hazardous areas. These are a few instances of how your project can be hindered by poor collaboration, and goes to show that ensuring that your teams are collaborating using current, single-sourced data is vital.
Architects, design teams, engineers, sub-contractors, technicians and the like are all susceptible to the way the data for your project is set up to be managed and shared. In an ideal world, collaboration between these parties is fully integrated within a cloud-based environment. Although most companies do not operate at this level, understanding where your company sits within the spectrum can help you reach this promised land.
A popular workflow is Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM is a process that emphasizes data collaboration throughout the lifecycle of your project. It focuses on collaboration from the design stage all the way through to the construction stage while using a single 3D model. BIM gauges maturity levels based on the shared availability of your models between parties. There are currently four BIM maturity levels applicable to the construction industry.
- No inter-team collaboration
- No Common Data Environment (CDE)
- Unmanaged 2D CAD (drawings/blueprints)
- Data exchange mostly physical
At the lowest maturity level (Level 0), there is little to no collaboration. Data collection is rudimentary, and team members are working with 2D CAD drawings and blueprints.
Most importantly, there is no Common Data Environment (CDE) at this level. A CDE is a digital platform that serves as the single source of project relevant information. Without a CDE, there cannot be meaningful collaboration amongst teams.
This lack of collaboration isn’t sustainable within the modern construction industry. It’s outdated and mostly obsolete.
- Intra-team collaboration
- 2D/3D CAD
- Data stored as files in Common Data Environment
- Partial common data structure
- No full inter-team collaboration
Most companies operate at Level 1, which requires that you integrate a CDE and encourages partial data collaboration. The introduction of a shared repository allows for better data exchange (2D/3D CAD models) internally within your discrete teams, but there is still no collaboration across different project disciplines. Stakeholders still manage and control their own data, but the data has started to formulate some type of structure.
- Inter-team collaboration
- 3D CAD only
- Common Data Environment shared between teams
- Data stored as files within libraries
- Time and cost dimensions added to models
Level 2 requires full collaboration across parties, and 3D (no longer 2D) models are shared. This level also introduces new project management aspects to the model concerning time and cost management. As you add these new dimensions to your model, you begin to gain control over more of your project’s components. Scheduling becomes easier, and things like addendum costs become clearer. File types must be common so that time isn’t wasted by having to convert files when they are checked out. At this stage, parties are not yet working from a single model, but there is a collaborative data flow in place.
- Fully integrated collaboration
- Cloud-based Common Data Environment
- Single project model shared between teams
- Data accessible by all parties
Level 3 is the desired maturity level for your company, where there is full integration within a cloud based CDE. The goal of this level is to have a seamless data flow between all parties. Rather than working from multiple models within the CDE, everyone uses a single, shared project model. This provides benefits such as avoiding scheduling conflicts, the ability to avoid hazardous events before they occur, as well as clashes in design.
The BIM process is popular in construction industries across the globe, and many countries require companies to meet a specific BIM level throughout the duration of a project. In the United States, however, there is no official mandate and alternative processes are sometimes used. For example, Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a workflow that places emphasis on collaboration in the design phase of a project. However, unlike BIM, there isn’t a push for CDE integration.
Whether your company follows the BIM method or not, it’s important to understand its biggest advantage. Having all of your data in one place. Better timelines, reduced costs, and the global availability of performance and safety data are just a few of the benefits. The first step in reaping these rewards is assessing your current data situation.