OK, so it’s not all your fault personally, but you’re probably contributing to the problem unknowingly.
All too often I hear Revit users / ArchiCAD users / BIM Managers lamenting that manufacturers’ BIM content is “far too detailed”. Of all the mistakes that manufacturers make when creating BIM content, over detailing the geometry is the one I hear about the most. I’m happy to put my hand up here and say we made this same mistake early on in our BIM content creation journey. We even went as far as to model the thread on waste outlets (refer image above). Ridiculous.
So why do manufacturers continually make this mistake?
The general school of thought is that manufacturers want their BIM content models to look as ‘real’ as possible. A sense of pride if you will. Most manufacturers invest a great deal of time and resources into the aesthetic aspects of their products to make them appealing to specifiers. So it stands to reason that the thing a manufacturer would want removed from their BIM models are the intricate, aesthetic details that differentiate their products from all the others. “My product doesn’t look like that! This BIM model looks terrible! What sort of content creator are you?”.
There’s also the fact that some manufacturers will use the same geometry to create their BIM content that they use to model or manufacture them. Using AutoCAD, Solidworks, Inventor, 3DS Max (etc) geometry, even if it’s recreated natively in a BIM platform, will probably lead to content that is far too detailed for the purposes of BIM processes. Why go to the effort of information if it’s already there right? More information is better isn’t it?
There is another key reason why manufacturers are so particular about the finer details of their products. It’s because have trained them to be this way.
For the past 8 years I have worked with Architects, Interior Designers, Engineers (Hydraulic mostly) and contractors on a daily basis, assisting them with project specifications and technical queries. I have simultaneously been responsible for the creation of all our technical product data (data sheets, CAD/BIM content, catalogues etc). If there’s one thing I have learnt it’s that just when you think you have detailed every last, innocuous bit of information on a drawing or data sheet, you inevitably get a query from a client asking “What is the dimension of (X)? It’s not shown on your drawing”, or “Do you have more information on the water connector? I need to know the thickness of the back-nut on the inlet because I have limited cavity space and need to know if it will fit”. Do you know how frustrating this is? You probably do. If you’re an architect or an engineer or a draftsperson you know all about the devil being in the detail. You know how annoying it is to spend ages producing technical documentation, only to have someone ask for something down the track that you didn’t implicitly detail. So what are we trained to do? We’re trained to over-document the hell out of our geometry to avoid having to go back and re-measure or re-draw a detail later on.
Here at Britex, having worked with architects, engineers and contractors for the best part of 75 years, we’re taught to leave nothing to chance. Make sure all ‘shop drawings’ and product data shows as much detail as possible. Avoid any ambiguity. Designers want to know with the click of a mouse everything there is to know about our products and whether they fit their requirements. They don’t want to call us or e-mail us to find out. That takes too long and who wants to deal with a ‘sales person’ anyway? We put as much information as we possibly can into our technical data so you can find it online right away and get on with your job of designing. This is the culture that exists for us and rightly so.
BIM content is not ‘technical data’ as manufacturers have previously known it. Manufacturer’s BIM content has various uses by various project stakeholders at various stages of the BIM process and it needs to be created with this in mind. The problem is that most manufacturers don’t currently understand BIM and the way their content is used in the BIM process. They don’t understand that it’s not necessary to show all of the information in the model. In fact, it’s entirely detrimental. Rather than all the characteristics in the geometry, additional details can be included in the product data (not geometry) or linked to an external location (e.g. a data sheet on a website/cloud) that can provide far greater amounts of information. Creation methods like this (just to name two) help keep the file size/complexity manageable in a project model and avoid ‘weighing down’ the process. Obviously some content will need more detail than others in certain parts of the process, such as valve or pipe components in Revit MEP or Navisworks Vs. similar fixtures in Revit Architecture or ArchiCAD, but generally this intricate geometry is unnecessary. BIM Managers, architects, engineers, contractors and BIM content creators understand this. Generally speaking, manufacturers don’t. They think that simplified geometry is an excuse for laziness or an inability on the part of the content creator to re-create their ‘spectacular design’. Nothing could be further from the truth. A good creator understands that reducing model complexity will actually increase the likelihood of the content being used by specifiers and help the manufacturer achieve their sales/marketing objectives.
Manufacturers need to learn more about the BIM process. Until they do, they will continue to insist that their content be created to the same level of detail as their ‘for manufacture’ data. Here’s a tip. Whether you’re a content creator, a BIM manager, contractor or specifier, rather than simply telling a manufacturer “your content is useless to us”, take the time to explain the BIM process and you want your content a particular way. If you’re a manufacturer, listen to your content creator (and your clients!) when they say not to stress too much about the intricate aesthetic, or component detailing of your models. They’re just not that important when it comes to BIM projects.
Once manufacturers better understand the BIM process, they’ll be far more likely to provide decent content that can actually be used. I know that was the case for me anyway.
Far more education is needed…
Luke Johnston is the Marketing and Development Manager for The Britex Group (Australia).
A self-confessed ‘BIM Addict’, Luke commenced working with Britex in 2006 and has extensive experience working with a vast range of key stakeholders within the AEC supply chain, predominantly Architects, Interior Designers, Hydraulic Engineers and Building Contractors. In recent years, Luke has coordinated the creation of the Britex BIM library, Britex website, social media pages, specification manual and auxiliary technical literature. Luke has a particular interest in BIM content generation (Revit + ArchiCAD) and the key role that manufacturers play in advancing collaborative BIM processes.