Building information modeling, or BIM, has come a long way in a few short years. For precast concrete producers, and anyone involved in design-build projects, BIM software is dramatically changing the way building construction is conceived, managed, and executed. More ready-mix producers and contractors are also tapping into BIM software as they recognize its value as a project management tool.

In fact, recent BIM developments reflect broader technology trends that are impacting the operations, and interactions, of concrete producers and their partners. Here’s what you should know:

#1 – BIM is more than a design model.
While BIM uses interactive, 3D architectural models similar to computer-aided design (CAD) models, it is a collaborative design-build method. As more data has been integrated, BIM software has become a valuable information hub for all project partners. Within a project model, each partner can record and pinpoint critical data. Concrete producers and contractors can see concrete mixes, volumes, QC data, and track project progress. This visibility helps streamline delivery and project management.

#2 – The days of data hoarding are over.
Software compatibility has always been the biggest hurdle for implementing BIM systems. Cloud computing, in which data is handled and parsed by remote servers, has removed some communication barriers. Demand for digitization, or automating manual processes, continues to drive more aspects of the construction process to the cloud. Now there is no excuse for keeping information from different systems in separate silos. Software providers who hold their customers’ data hostage will be out of the game within the next five years.

#3 – Consumer technology is merging with enterprise technology.
Although we may have earned a reputation as late adopters of technology, concrete producers and contractors are becoming as dependent on mobile devices as anyone else. From Millennials to C-suite executives, professionals in the construction industry expect the technology they use out of the office to be available on the job. (Why can we buy a car with an app but not order concrete?) Project partners are using mobile BIM software to work through complex jobsite processes in real-time, including concrete and rebar coordination, construction layout, and creating working documents for onsite teams.

#4 – Data barriers still exist.
As new software systems and applications continue to develop for building design and construction, BIM software providers face the challenge of keeping data flowing. Much effort has gone into creating universal code and file formats. Although BIM doesn’t encompass every possible data source, there has been significant progress in connecting users with valuable information. For example, concrete contractors can provide more accurate estimates and schedules when they can see specific construction details, and even building material inventories, all in one place. It’s clear that collaborative tools such as BIM are fostering an understanding of technology as an enabler, rather than a necessary evil.

#5 – BIM isn’t just for the greater good; it impacts your bottom line.
In the early days of BIM, project partners participated in sharing data for the good of the team. Now designers, contractors, and materials suppliers are realizing measurable time savings and process improvements. Costly mistakes are avoided, just-in-time deliveries preserve material quality, and time spent recreating drawings is all but eliminated. Not only does the collaboration relieve common pain points, but the entire project team saves money. The success of BIM to-date is built on a collection of wins for each partner; knowing they can work better together than apart.

Editor's n

ote: BCMI consulted with Adam Gardner, Product Manager for Trimble Navigation Limited, and Andy Dickey, Business Development Manager for Trimble Structures Division, for this column. Trimble produces Tekla Structures BIM software, and is a customer of BCMI.