Perspectives

Innovation through data – The Right Road Ahead

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For the last few years, there has been considerable confusion amongst construction product manufacturers regarding how to make their “BIM” (Building information modelling) information available to the market.

With a lack of standards and guidance, manufacturers are struggling to effectively communicate and keep their product information up to date.  This represents a risk to the digitalisation of the construction sector if this is not resolved.

Taking control of data

There are 17,500 small or micro construction product manufacturers in the UK alone. Although large manufacturers, like Tata Steel, could resource and afford to manage their product information, it is simply not practical to think that all manufacturers will be able to do the same to a common standard

The big issue with unmaintained, product information is that architects are beginning to realise that they cannot trust the content. As a result, they are starting to resort back to pulling information from manufacturers’ websites – a retrograde step in the digitalisation of the industry.

Data you can trust

Last month, the UK BIM Alliance published their report entitled: “A fresh way forward for product data”. This was a report written by the industry following considerable stakeholder engagement. There were several recommendations made, but the ones related to ensuring that product data is relevant, up to date and easy to use are really vital.

Key Takeaways from the BIM Alliance

  1. Manufacturers must be able to easily update their product information no matter where it is stored – their “Single source of the truth”
  2. Data needs to be structured and held separately to geometric 3D objects. Manufacturers should have their own product databases where they can hold, and be responsible for managing, their own data.
  3. Automatic updates and notifications should enable those that have downloaded manufacturers’ information to follow a change control management process.

The key recommendations will allow manufacturers to own and control their own data. They can allow it to be used in a myriad of ways, but only if a link is maintained back to their managed database.

A First Step in the Right Direction – Tata Steel DNA Profiler

Earlier this year, Tata Steel launched their BIM tool: The DNA Profiler. This was developed by IBM and the German company CADENAS and is intended to be the first step towards a better future for digital product information.

The DNA Profiler has many benefits that answer the challenges and meet the requirements of the emerging BIM standards. This flexible approach to product information means that architects, contractors and engineers can be assured that they are using the latest product information.

Innovation in data

Tata Steel and IBM are continuing to innovate in this area and have recently produced an API to enable their product database to connect to wider systems. We are continuing to build the business network and would welcome participation from other players in the digital construction industry.

Although this journey has been challenging, the opportunity now to drive real differentiation through data-driven tools and platforms is truly an exciting prospect. Having the right partners, such as IBM, is key to this success and a bright, connected & enabled future awaits.

BIM & Digital Platforms Manager, Tata Steel

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