by Vicki Holmes
In early 2018, Multiplex internally mandated the use of BIM and digital construction on all new projects, regardless of client requirements. We decided that this level of commitment was the only way to deliver our projects in the most efficient, safe and timely manner.
As a company that mainly delivers private sector developments, we often find that our clients are still learning how to instruct digital processes appropriately, and so we have taken the lead and defined our own.
Our first steps towards rolling out this major process change across the business were to consolidate all of our digital platforms, make the building information models (BIMs) central to project delivery, and standardize all of our internal processes and procedures.
This led to the development of ‘The Multiplex Minimum Digital Standard’ (Figure 1).
Right: Auriens Chelsea, 2 Dovehouse Street
Bottom left: The Broadway: a development of luxury apartments for client, Northacre.
Delivering to this minimum standard places the model and its data firmly at the centre of every project, giving us a precise understanding of the design and construction process that could not be achieved using only traditional 2D information. This provides us with the tools to make more informed decisions faster, and allows us to test solutions in a virtual environment in a safe and cost-effective manner. This inevitably leads to a reduction in risk and waste associated with on-site problem solving and rework.
Our minimum data requirements are a major pillar of The Multiplex Minimum Digital Standard; they are aligned with existing industry standards such as Uniclass 2015. Every building component within the model carries a standard set of data for a precise understanding of design, which in turn leads to improved decision-making.
These four simple data requirements are:
- Project Name.
- Project ID.
- Supplier Code.
- Uniclass 2015 Code.
Our intention is simple: to know the ‘what’, ‘where’, and ‘by whom’ of every building component that we are responsible for.
The feedback from our supply chain so far has shown that our minimum data requirements are easy for consultants and subcontractors to understand and clearly communicated in our BIM Execution Plan – a short, practical document written in accessible language. Our digital deliverables are also tied into all subcontractor and consultant agreements, using our own amended version of the CIC BIM Protocol, and supplier capability to deliver the BIM requirements is assessed thoroughly during the procurement process using our capability assessment form. As part of each subcontractor’s tender response, we require sample files that demonstrate an understanding of the required level of geometry and information detail, as well as the technical skill to deliver those requirements for each relevant stage of the project. If a supplier lacks the in-house capability to deliver BIM as required, Multiplex has a list of capable preferred BIM consultants who will integrate with, and upskill, the supplier organization upon appointment.
Often, we do not receive client’s exchange information requirements (EIR). This means that it is essential for us to be clear in our own digital requirements, and for consultants and subcontractors on our projects to understand that BIM is a critical part of our standard process, and not a complicated or expensive add-on. When we are clear about our digital requirements from the beginning, our suppliers are better equipped to provide the correct deliverables, meaning that we can then spend less time chasing and checking, and more time using the data and information on our projects effectively.
By standardizing our minimum requirements, we have also been able to establish a stronger process for data management. This, in turn, has allowed us to develop more innovative solutions, such as automatic dashboarding for project performance analysis, and virtual mock-ups.
Our project teams can freely access information at all times because all models and drawings are available to site staff on their phones and tablets, which reduces the time taken to locate specific information when required. It also improves productivity and reduces the risk of inaccurate information reaching the construction site, and as a result considerably reduces the waste that results from rework and inefficiencies.
Although we are still in the early stages of implementing these procedures, the way that we are trialling systems, hardware and processes puts a very heavy focus on ease of use for our subcontractors. We are continuously collecting feedback from our suppliers to ensure that we are collaborating to find the best systems, rather than simply enforcing tools.
All of our projects have a dedicated Digital Manager to manage the models and data integrity, and to define and audit processes in the BIM Execution Plan. Our Digital Managers also support the project team, and all Multiplex staff (regardless of role) are now being trained in the use of Navisworks Freedom and Synchro Open Viewer, our nominated project model viewer platforms. This makes the model accessible to everyone and helps us move towards our goal of using 3D (rather than 2D) information as the default communication tool in meetings.
Each of the pillars outlined in our Multiplex Minimum Digital Standard contributes to an environment where design coordination is managed efficiently and issue resolution is pre-emptive. This progressive approach to design management allows us to explore the best possible construction methods virtually, including possibilities for off-site construction and better logistics management. Rather than the BIM process being integrated with design management and construction, it is the central focus of those functions as part of Multiplex best practice.
This has been a major change in our organizational process, and has obviously resulted in challenges. The review and consolidation of all of our processes and software platforms was no small feat, requiring a number of centralized full-time resources that could not be absorbed into project costs, as well as an initial investment in hardware, software and IT infrastructure before we saw any kind of return. Achieving this was only possible with the full support of our executive teams and senior management, who understood the longer term benefits.
A change of this magnitude also had to be led by our own people on-site, and although a top-down approach was initially required, it was only by empowering our own employees with the right tools and harvesting an atmosphere of openness, collaboration and skills sharing that we began to see real change. This was led by our Digital Managers, who put in incredible time and effort building strong relationships with their teams. We learnt early on that people respond best to personal engagement, not to the technology.
Multiplex is focusing on the root of innovation, not technology for technology’s sake. We are creating strong digital and data-driven foundations that are simple and clear, and that will allow us to continue to build bigger and better. To date, this has only been achievable using standardization and industry classifications, and there is still a long way to go. Approximately 60% of our sites are now delivering in some degree to our Minimum Digital Standard, and there will certainly be new lessons to learn and challenges to overcome as we integrate this process into all new projects. So far, the outcomes have been incredibly positive, with clients, consultants and subcontractors alike communicating their appreciation for a set of standards that are simple, practical and fit for purpose.