BIM for FM - Closer than yesterday

In his great article on the thinkBIM blog Paul Wilkinson make the case that BIM for FM is “still not quite there” despite there having been a big coordinated effort the last years and many standards, tools and guides have been made available.

The main telltale signal for not having arrived at the destination was the limited turnout of attendees actually being FM professionals at the latest thinkBIM (FM focused) conference. These observations closely mirrors our experience. BIM for FM spokespeople are usually either vendors promoting their wares (as are we), “generalist” BIM experts or government officials with a role to play. (there are exceptions however as we will see). We also relate to the hint that BIM software companies have raised uninformed expectations that may come back to bite when the rubber hits the road.

“I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.”

Before we give up and declare defeat it is important to set the situation in context. It is also important to take the observations and turn it into a positive discussion about what can be done to engage the FM community (as Paul does).

PAS1192-3 which was the core (and one of the oldest) tool mentioned in the article was released in 2014. It describes a process to build an asset information strategy for your portfolio, use the strategy to inform the specific asset information requirements for your individual projects and then use that to inform your contracts starting early in new-build projects. Who expects quality handovers based on PAS 1192-3 to start rolling in during 2016? It is only natural that what we see are some “first pancake” projects where progressive owners have been trying to adjust the course and add BIM for FM requirements along the way (not easy with existing contracts and limited budgets).

The timing issue do not in itself explain the lack of participation though. FMs should be eager to learn and participate from where they are on their journey. I think there are multiple reasons for the no-show. FM is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines. Currently BIM is covering only some of these - e.g having an easier way to populate asset databases and having 3D geometry to enrich current CAFM systems. Combine this with handovers consisting of models stuck in the “as designed”-state and missing links between O&M documents and the BIM objects and you indeed have a challenge living up to the expectations.

The standards/ tools mentioned have not yet decided if BIM for FM mean using BIM data to populate traditional CAFM systems (level 2) or if there will be a paradigm shift in how asset databases are structured and utilised - the smart facility model as opposed to the intelligent floorplan. The FM industry (professionals and vendors) need to figure out what “modelling” means in an operational context and what data and capabilities are needed to make it work. Want to model the long term results (opex and user happiness) resulting from alternative predictive maintenance scenarios using your models as the driver? Better have some quality data to back it up.

Also we need to think about what we are expecting the FMs to do. Are we expecting them to throw out the investment they have made the last decades in FM technology? For many it has been a long journey of data collection, training, upgrades etc etc. Do we have a way for them to augment the existing tools and mix in new expert systems coming online in the near future?

Technology Adoption Lifecycle

Have a look at the technology adaption lifecycle above.The big majority of any market are either pragmatists or conservatives. You may preach the gospel to them but the only thing that make them make the leap (cross the chasm) are visionaries getting back from their journeys with solid reference stories and hard cash ROIs. Again a sign that this will take time.

The good news is we have visionaries. Their strength is not in numbers but in shear determination. They have seen the light and they will not be stopped. They are plowing through the disappointment of early exponential growth (see image below) taking lessons learned from pilot projects and continually improving their next initiative. The good news for them is that their curve will trend upward and they will get their reward. When the pragmatists finally get down from the fence they will have some benefit of learning from the pioneers staking out the path and taking the arrows at the front. They will have no free lunch however. They will then have to start their own journey investing in knowledge, skills and data. Any "major work" milestone where you do not specify a BIM for FM deliverable is going to be a missed opportunity and a case where you have to play "catch up" in the future.

BIM Exponential growth - disappointing at first

(If you are at AU Las Vegas this year you should definitely check out The theory of everyBIM to see more details on how the chart above fits into BIM adoption on a broader scale).

There are potentially many low hanging fruits in BIM for FM. Almost all FM processes can benefit from having an intelligent asset information model with a combination of geometric and structured data and documentation linked to the correct objects. You need a foundation of open data, open APIs and knowledge and skills. Then you can pick the low-hanging fruit. Without data you can trust there is no tree and all you get is fruit lying on the ground. You can poke around and pick it for a while but soon it will rot and the value will be negative.

Back to the technology adoption model and back to Paul's post about all the frameworks and tools not currently in use. We have to remember that the pioneers are not necessarily guided or motivated by rules and frameworks unless they see immediately how it can help. They rather remind me of this quote popularised by Steve Jobs :

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

We need to allow them experiment and thereby pushing the world forward. Then we need to build what they learned into our rules for the rest to be guided. We have to continuously look for ways to simplify and cut fat from the procedures and guidelines. A solid foundation however should stabilize and be backwards compatible for this to work in the long term (multi-decade life span of facilities).

BIM for FM pragmatist coming down from the fence

BIM for FM pragmatist coming down from the fence

Back to the original article´s title. When someone is “still not quite there” they do not agree but they are open for persuasion. The correct argument may win them over. To win the FM crowd over we need to meet them on their turf, we need to speak their language and we need to share how someone from their tribe have had success implementing BIM for FM. We have to be open about the challenges and that there are many ways to start the journey. Let's share our experiences and help each other along. The tipping point may be closer than we believe. In the meantime, we are getting closer every day.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below, or tweet us @areo_io.

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