How BIM will improve your Supply Chain

The requirement for BIM and the potential benefits from a streamlined flow of accurate information is now firmly established within most 'Tier 1' organisations – the lead suppliers on projects, contracting with clients on engineering and construction projects, and in operations, maintenance and facilities management.

The large contracting organisations have invested significantly in developing their approach, and increasing numbers are now achieving BIM certification to provide independent verification of their capability to clients.

All good. And yet increasing maturity in the understanding of BIM is leading to unease amongst lead suppliers.

How BIM will improve your Supply Chain

They feel increasingly exposed, vulnerable even. Why? Because they realise that they do not have a supply chain that can deliver BIM requirements on their projects. Lead suppliers cannot work in isolation and the need to find capable suppliers is becoming a critical priority.

Information is now a key contractual deliverable in design commissions, construction projects and operational contracts, so whilst the lead suppliers can develop their own approach and systems, they now recognise the need to define requirements to key suppliers and seek an integrated, collaborative approach with the 'Tier 2' businesses which they depend on.

The benefits of a supply chain with BIM capability are clear to most lead suppliers:

Reduced risk of failure

Top of the list for many 'Tier 1' organisations is ensuring that they can deliver on contract requirements, now including structured information. Increasingly stringent clauses are emerging to ensure BIM deliverables are taken seriously, with financial penalties resulting from failure to meet information deadlines or levels of information detail. This presents an unacceptable risk.

Effective, efficient delivery from aligned systems and procedures

A key benefit of BIM capability within the supply chain is the alignment of workflows. Great rewards can be reaped, not only in exchanging timely, accurate and complete information, but in the co-ordination of processes for delivery of all aspects of design, construction, operation and maintenance. The BIM process can facilitate a wide range of opportunities.

Collaboration, improved project performance and reduced cost

Working together is just better. It's more rewarding for individuals and can open up all manner of opportunities for organisations acting as lead suppliers or with downstream supply chains. True collaborative working is not easy, it takes real commitment to a challenging combination of relationship development and commercial interest. But the win-win solution is the most valuable. Simply removing duplication of effort is a great place to start. With more time and application, you will uncover other opportunities to innovate, reduce cost and increase profitability. BIM might just be the catalyst needed to spark the flame.

To enable these benefits, lead suppliers are now looking to eliminate barriers:

Simplified procurement and prequalification

People in procurement have struggled with BIM, perhaps unclear of how to define requirements, unsure how to measure competence, and unwilling to create more work and barriers in an already challenging marketplace. However, things have moved on and the Government's mandating of the Standard PAS 91 for prequalification, alongside BS/PAS 1192 for BIM, has provided the clarification needed. Procurement now has a simple model to follow.

Compliance with supply chain requirements

Lead suppliers are now clear that they must take the supply chain requirements of the BIM Standards seriously. Compliance with BS/PAS 1192 requires assessment of the supply chain and agreed methods of collaborative working to produce the information needed for projects and operations. Lead suppliers must work with their supply chain to comply with BIM Standards and commercial contracts.

Independent verification of capability

No lead supplier wants to assess the competence of its supply chain. Why? Because assessment takes time and resource, so costs money. It also takes a systemised approach and trained assessors to assure standards and consistency. Without the experience and resources required, lead suppliers prefer to rely on an independent third-party assessment. Audit and verification from a UKAS accredited Certification Body is the approach now being adopted for BIM (BS/PAS 1192), just as it has been for some time for Quality (ISO 9001), Environment (14001) and Health & Safety (OHSAS 18001). Certification can provide you with exemption form the prequalification process.

So, what next?

It seems clear that a tri-partite approach is required, with lead suppliers working with BIM Consultants and Certification Bodies to provide encouragement and support to key suppliers:

Lead Supplier

Clarifying the lead supplier's BIM requirements for pre-qualification, procurement and project delivery – the commercial and technical issues.

BIM Consultant

Providing access to the support available to suppliers from specialist consultants to develop the practical, aligned systems that will meet these requirements and comply with 'Level 2' standards.

Certification Body

Giving an appreciation of the value of BIM certification that provides independent verification from a UKAS accredited Certification Body.

The synergy is clear for all to see. 'Tier 1' organisations need capable suppliers. Suppliers need work from organisations higher up the chain. BIM consultants and Certification Bodies are looking for new clients and can offer the support and verification that both lead suppliers and the supply chain need. With collaboration the name of the game, perhaps it's time to 'walk the walk', with a joined-up approach that benefits everyone.

Finding the right partners is key to success, but there is increasing evidence that lead suppliers are waking up to the need to act, and the potential for improved results. They recognise that supply chains are just better with BIM. Those relying on their suppliers realise that they have a vital part to play in encouraging those other organisations to provide the results.

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