Digital Engineering, and BIM for Asset Management

The infrastructure projects, globally, are marred with inefficiencies, health and safety incidents, assets’ operational risks, and unclear value to business, end-users and the broader society. Modern day infrastructure projects are being increasingly supported by Digital tools and technologies in the search of improved efficiency, effectiveness and collaboration. The Digital way of engineering and delivering infrastructure projects is called ‘Digital Engineering’, or ‘Virtual Engineering’.

Australia, taking an inspiration from the UK’s demonstrated benefits from Digital Engineering or BIM, has

The National Productivity Commission’s report relating to the public infrastructure projects, recommend that complex infrastructure projects, government clients should provide concept designs using Building Information Modelling (BIM) to help lower bid costs and require tender designs to be submitted using BIM to reduce overall costs. To facilitate the consistent use of BIM by public sector procurers, Australian, State and Territory Governments should:

  • facilitate the development of a common set of standards and protocols in close consultation with industry, including private sector bodies that undertake similar types of procurement
  • include in their procurement guidelines detailed advice to agencies on the efficient use of BIM.

The Australian Government supports the use of modelling technology, as it is likely to drive down costs and provide detailed information for whole-of-life infrastructure. There are some Commonwealth and state agencies that are already using BIM for a variety of projects including social infrastructure, defence and land transport; and the move to a technology-based design system will be required in the medium future.

The state governments are increasingly mandating the use of BIM for better efficiencies and greater outcomes from the public infrastructure projects. For instance, QLD Government has mandated that any major projects, greater than $50m of budget, starting Jul 2019, are required to capture asset information during the project phase and maintain the information for the life of the asset in a Digital information format.

What is Building Information Modelling (BIM)?

BIM is a new, coordinated way of working to manage the essential building design and project data in digital format throughout the building’s life-cycle.

  • It is not a singular tool, process, software platform or protocol dictated by standards.
  • It is a way of digital asset information management. Specifically, it is about cohesive coordination of asset information that empowers the way in which assets are designed, modelled and managed on a live, collaborative basis.
  • It is a way to align various change initiatives that enable better design, construction and operation of assets in the built environment.

The spectrum of BIM capabilities

BIM capabilities are the specific tools, processes and technical functionalities that can underpin a very specific aspect of BIM process. Five general categories:

  1. Design: Detailed design processes, including analysis and simulations
  2. Information Management: Knowledge and data management that underpins model integration and interoperability, thus supporting BIM design processes
  3. Construction: Relating to procurement, construction management and physical delivery of new asset
  4. Asset Management: Relating to operational management and maintenance of built asset
  5. Project Management: General planning and management, including cost management, that does not specifically align with any of the other categories

Clash Detection

When actively changing objects in a model, automated clash detection is about the capability for the software platform to know when a change physically conflicts with something else. Software can actively monitor and notify of logic flaws in real-time as the designer actually makes the change in the design, rather than when the construction contractors are on-site stopped by a drawing that’s physically impossible or illogical.

Construction

All designs must be built somehow – and constructability analysis is an entire field of its own. Software that has constructability analysis capability embedded can enable understand and visualise how things can be achieved on-site. This informs not only expected time to construct, but also expected contract costs, and this information can be gained far earlier in the design phase.

BIM in Action

There are several usage and application of BIM in the construction and design space:

  • RFID tags enables the easy scanning and identification of objects, which can be expanded not only to transmit information from sensors, but also to connect to a live BIM model itself. This provides ready efficiencies into asset management, including monitoring, tracking, practicality and maintenance labour time.
  • Beyond models that embed schedule modelling (4D) are ones that can also embed cost estimation and planning (5D). A sufficiently data-rich model can have within it the volumes of concrete and steel used, and necessary excavation and so on. With the click of a button, the model uses the properties of the digital elements within it, multiplies by certain rates based on their quantities, and thus creates you a live, on-demand picture of what your asset is going to cost, as you develop it.
  • There is not one program that can do all things BIM – typically there are many which specialise in doing certain things well. How do they talk to each other? Uniform data formats and standardised processes. This is where international standards come in. By setting data exchange standards, you mandate file formats and thus govern how disparate software packages output their data, thus enabling merged, cohesive models.

 

Common Data Environment (CDE)

Even though the concept has been around for a while, there is still a lot of confusion around the Common Data Environment (CDE). While some areas consider CDE as a software implementation project while others believe it is an exercise in aggregating the existing asset and operational data.

In our experience, every client, every project is different; each supplier has different ways of working and as a result, the CDE can take many different forms.

The most common misunderstanding is that the CDE is a single technology, platform or system that you buy off the shelf. The reality is very different of course, a CDE is actually made up of a number of information management systems, that when it comes to practical implementation, are often owned by a number of different participating organisations

We have worked with our clients in implementing tailored CDE solution that has seen interconnection and interoperating with the existing systems, and leveraging such user-intuitive software tools, such as Tableau and MS Dynamics.