by Lee Jones
Ideal Standard International is the world’s leading manufacturer of bathroom and washroom solutions. The company provides bathroom furnishings, fixtures and shower enclosures for residential, commercial and institutional buildings. UK brands include Armitage Shanks, Ideal Standard and Sottini. Celebrating 200 years in business this year, the Company based in Staffordshire is the only remaining large scale sanitaryware manufacturer in the UK.
Ideal Standard has been at the forefront of new technology for many years, making use of 3D CAD for almost 20 years. Specialised software is used to design products, which allow us to simulate the effects of firing clay through the kiln. The reward in simulating production of any type, prior to full manufacture is indisputable: reductions in errors, time, costs, whilst increasing sustainability are among some of the key benefits. These are ultimately the same holistic promises that BIM offers a whole project.
Ideal Standard began their BIM journey back in 2013. The CAD element quickly turned out to be only a small piece of the puzzle, for us it was where we started. We had a single seat of Autodesk Inventor at the time which was used for some specialist project work alongside our main software. At the end of that year we began to receive requests for Revit files and as we knew that Inventor could export to Revit (.rfa) format, we began there.
As the company progressed with the Revit family creation methods, using both imported CAD and eventually native modelling techniques, it became apparent that the key to an efficient functioning BIM model was the file size. A production CAD model for a toilet pan is around 40Mb upwards. Most of the projects (entire building designs) we came across in Revit were only three times this size and as the average basic house contains around 3,000 individual components, it was obvious that the original CAD models needed to be much lighter for BIM use.
For the company’s product today, it is currently not possible to manufacture from the BIM models (though this is possible for other building elements). The product geometry for our BIM models would be used solely for architectural planning, rendered visuals and as a place holder for specification only by the Architect or Designer.
This allowed us to settle on geometry that just resembled the finished product externally and with no functional detail within, aiding IP security at the same time. Advances in processing capability, will no doubt result in the ability to one day increase file size. It is likely that this will not always be an issue in the long-term, but for now though the situation exists. For anyone considering doing their own BIM, the important thing to note is that even as a secondary process, it was not highly labour intensive. For the SME, things like monthly subscription software packages could theoretically make this a ‘short-term project’ scenario for one person, with certain ROI.
By 2014 BIM was quickly becoming the ‘buzzword’ amongst the industry. Early that year, Ideal Standard made the decision to roll out BIM for the specification side of the business. A BIM champion was employed.
The first task was to kick start a research project, to fully understand what BIM was, what it meant for the business and importantly what it meant for our clients. In the UK, there was a handful of criteria we quickly understood we had to satisfy:
- The object geometry needed to have high visual quality but be small in file size.
- Concise data within our models was needed.
- To aid BIM Level 2 compliance part of this data had to be COBie UK compliant.
The data within our models had to come from us. Leaving the data to someone else to find and federate could result in errors or even a competitor’s data being used and specification being lost! All manufacturers have product data, structuring this is therefore the only effort within BIM content creation. Data was then mapped to COBie and other data sets. The NBS shared parameters file contains all the necessary fields, so it was used for this purpose to speed up the process. At the time this was a script file that required linking to Revit. It is now offered free in an easy-to-use downloadable Revit app. Through applying some simple work streams, the company’s BIM creation became a very efficient process and quickly became an asset. When the journey began BIM was relatively new to the industry and knowledge was short. Today, there is a lot of industry knowledge, alongside publications from numerous organisations that can be relied upon.
Ideal Standard officially launched their BIM entity in spring 2015, receiving an extremely positive response. BIM has opened doors for the company with numerous contractors, architects and other industry professionals. It has resulted in remarkable results, including being awarded sole supplier agreements with contractors and taking share from competitors on various projects. BIM has positioned us as leaders in this digital arena.
On an internal level it has helped structure product data far more effectively. Today objects are created in multiple formats including Revit, ArchiCAD and IFC. Content is hosted online, from each download made, analytics are captured to understand the use of our BIM models in more detail, aiding us to build a relationship with users. We are now fast approaching some half a million downloads since going live.
To reflect on the company journey and the historical data capture from analytics, it is obvious that BIM is continually growing. There may not have been the overnight tidal wave that many were expecting following the 2016 mandate, the response to the government deadline was a little underwhelming, however it is progressing. Whether it continues to be known as BIM, digital construction or something entirely different, one thing for certain is that; in the not too distant future we will look back and it will have become the norm. The BIM journey is one which Ideal Standard are excited to be part of, one with clear rewards and one which we will continue to progress.
This article features in the NBS National BIM Report for Manufacturers 2017 - download our full, free report today!