It is clear our industry has latched on to the BIM philosophy and we see more companies across both the design and construction communities adopting BIM for reasons ranging from reduced waste to improved productivity to shortened schedules and even improved safety. However, these are mainly associated with improvements on the jobsite. There are questions in the market regarding productivity gains in the transition from the design process to the construction process. Software versioning is one part of the answer to these questions.
What is Software Versioning?
Software versioning is a formal way to identify and track different releases of a software package as modifications, improvements and upgrades to enhance functionality. It also enables users of the software to recognize when updated versions are available. But what happens in a collaborative environment such as BIM when project team members are using different versions?
According to the SmartMarket Brief: BIM Advancements No. 1 authored by Dodge Data & Analytics, (Software) Platform Challenges receives the highest scores (second to Team Support and Collaboration) as a key success factor to BIM. The report also indicates that architects and engineers are more concerned about software compatibility than their contractor team members, but suggests this may change as the design and construction processes become increasingly integrated.
I would suggest that the mechanical and plumbing trade contractors are very in tuned to the importance of software compatibility and even more importantly the software version. Much of the authoring software development over the years has been focused on the design side of the process and the software is relatively mature in this area. The functionality on the construction/fabrication side has been lacking and we have seen a shift to development on this side of the process in recent years. As such, contractors are seeing major improvements with each new version released.
The speed of adoption of the new versions becomes a bottleneck to trade contractor productivity. The trade contractors are highly motivated to move to the latest platform to leverage the new software upgrades to increase speed and efficiency. However, the design community may be slower to adopt a new version since the upgrades in the new version are less impactful to their business. This creates a disparity in the process and negatively impacts the collaboration ad interface between the design and construction/fabrication processes.
The author is painfully aware of the challenges with moving to a new software version. However, being able to leverage the fabrication enhancements in a timely manner is crucial to optimizing the transition from design to construction. Improvements on fabrication have the ability to positively impact such items as job schedule, offsite fabrication, and field labor productivity to name a few. This is where we will see dramatic impacts to how we build and deliver projects to our customers.
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