Manufacturers’ Content – Is it Required for BIM?

Yes of course it is, end of discussion! That is the easy question, the more difficult and ultimately more important question is WHEN is it required? At what stage of design, tendering, estimating, procurement, construction is it required?


Before we even begin to get to an answer another question springs to mind, what level of detail should the manufacturers content include. I will swerve this question for now as it warrants its own time for discussion and to be honest the questions of when is enough to tackle in one blog.


An easy way to start thinking about when the content will be required is to think about what happens currently when working traditionally with 2-D details and specifications. Often as an aluminium systems company we will be asked for detail drawings and specifications at design stage, once these details have been provided on one project they will often be copied on subsequent schemes. So can this principle be applied to BIM objects? I don’t see why not, as long as the geometry and data are trusted manufacturers content can be used in place of generic models.


There seems to be a perceived problem among some with this scenario that if a contractor chooses a different manufacturer to the one used for design intent then there is the issue of switching out one object for the other. Unless I’m missing something this task still needs to be done if you start with a generic model, assuming at some point you want to include manufacturer content!? The other issue is that there may not be a need for detailed information so why would the designer waste time including content that is no benefit to their design. This I can understand, although there may be benefits to having an accurate system described in the visualisation, in particular with refurb projects where sight lines of window frames can be a planning requirement.


So if design is developed with generic models what are the benefits of having manufacturer content at tender stage. In a traditional tender environment this could be a waste of everyone’s time with main contractors going to their supply chain and getting prices for different systems from a number of sub-contractors. If however there are supply chain agreements in place with systems companies then for accurate take offs (of not only the glazing elements but also the surrounding internal and external finishes) it may be worth incorporating project specific objects.


The next stage is to have manufacturers content placed in the model at construction stage, so when a project has been awarded and probably once a sub-contractor has been appointed. If we go back to looking at how things currently work then this would be the most typical scenario, the fabricator/installer gets and order and then with help from the systems company provides details and performance information specific to the scheme. There is no problem working this way and even providing bespoke objects can be done in the relatively short timescales afforded at this stage of the process.


The above is a pretty simplistic breakdown and none of the scenarios completely satisfy how I would like to work, BIM is all about collaboration and delaying the input from specialists seems to go against getting the most benefit from the design process. I do however realise where the issues are with levels of detail/data/definition, I think this can be addressed by linking some of the data or specification outside the model in an unobtrusive way and if there are relationships between the relevant parties then collaboration can happen in its truest form.


I’m pretty confident in my first sentence but the rest of this is up for discussion, all comments welcome.


Author: Dan Pitkin, Specification Manager AluK Ltd