Travis Althouse shares his advice on bridging the gap between BIM and the field.
We’ve all dealt with the growing number of products in our “tech stack”. Most of them sitting there like nuclear waste after one or 5 GCs required us to purchase and use their solution of choice for a single job, and failing to implement anything worthwhile or “sticky”.
So what do we do with this tech now?
Do we try to make the solution work? Do we buy yet another solution that’s supposed to make the first solution work better?
First off, ask yourself this, is it saving you more time than you are putting into it? Does it require someone with a “Mike Jones” skillset (if you have ever worked with Mike you will very much appreciate his skillset!) on staff to babysit it and keep it up to date? Lastly, are you willing to pull someone away from production to maintain that tool? We definitely have tool maintenance and repair in the shop, and frankly some digital tools out there are going to require a very similar approach of maintenance and repair. The question is, which ones?
What do you access the most as an organization? Models? Databases? Hanger stickers? My guess would be that your most accessed items are the documents that go into creating that model, the specs that guide what’s in your database, and the output from those items. So improving your process should start with streamlining that delivery and output, and finding a way to make sure the info is ALWAYS right and ALWAYS up to date.
The secret to the field adopting BIM seems obvious: It’s about trust
It’s about developing a level of trust that your BIM team is competent, and vice versa. What better way to establish trust than to always guide proper documentation at the proper time? Modeling and coordinating a 6” pump header is super cool and rewarding, but if you and the PM are working off different submittals, you are going to have a rough time. I swear I have never made that mistake myself (🤞).
Most of the time, failure is about failing to meet expectations. I have seen really bad jobs with really good people on them, so you’d never have known it was a bad job. Those A-players were well equipped, motivated, professional, and built what they needed to build. I call them the sledgehammer people. The get-er-doners. They hear all that negative talk and say, “let me try”.
Those are the people you need to cater to. Those are the people that you need to set up “knowledge extraction paths” or KEPs for Nate Wood over at CPC. You may not ever get them to view a model by asking them, but if you put the right document in their hand, at the right time, they’re going to be much more receptive to working with you.
I can’t stress this enough: earn trust, create value, and the strategic conversations just start flowing. You learn things you never dreamt of learning. I had an argument about a chiller submittal turn into a strategic session about 20-foot spools not fitting on the man lift, while two 10-footers would, saving us $6000 a day in crane rental. All it took was opening the door, making myself valuable, and listening to the experts.
So how do you go about building that trust?
It can be hard, especially when you’re in your dark BIM closet in the back corner of the building, and never get out on site to talk to these folks. First off, this is why early site visits are so important. It doesn’t matter how “low on the totem pole” you are, get out there, shake hands, and put a face to the name. It will pay off tenfold, whether the job goes great or not. If it goes well, you’re the hero, and you will want that credit and praise.
I actually prefer the jobs that don’t go perfectly, especially big jobs with lots of our team involved – because now those field personnel that I made myself accountable to will come right to me with complaints or concerns. It’s quite literally like drinking from the hose when this happens, and I can’t stress enough the need to listen, document, and plan around this “venting”.
It’s easy to become demoralized and demotivated, but trust me, by following this approach you’ll get a second chance to be the hero. And you’re much better equipped for round two. Be confident, direct, and humble, and you’ll definitely get more opportunities to make an impact on your teams and in your company!
If this resonates with you, reach out to me! While DADO can’t solve all of your issues, it can eliminate a lot of them and lessen the burden of the others.