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Building information modeling (BIM) has demonstrated great value for design and pre-construction processes. Yet, technology for the field has lagged significantly behind that of the back office, creating a chasm between the virtual design and its physical delivery.
This presents two problems. First, the divide between the back office model and the field prevents the speedy communication of BIM-related information. Second, a rich data set, created on the jobsite and used to deliver the project, cannot be incorporated into the model during construction and then during operations and maintenance.

The solution requires a bi-directional flow of information, or a round trip from the back office to the field.

Accordingly, the potential exists to leverage BIM for field process optimization in the construction phase of project delivery—a concept called “field BIM.” In its early implementation, field BIM’s benefits include saving money, accelerating schedules, ensuring quality, averting rework and controlling risks related to construction field operations.

Combined BIM-Field Software Solution
Like most jobsite material management processes today, traditional door, frame and hardware workflows involve tedious paperwork, frequent phone calls and faxes, and challenging coordination.

To improve the supply chain management, DPR Construction, Inc., Redwood City, Calif., chose to replace this traditional workflow with a BIM-centered process and material tracking system using construction field software at the University of California, Santa Cruz Porter B College. Prior to construction, the facility’s doors and frames were modeled in 3-D and integrated into the field software. As each door assembly arrived onsite, preprinted barcodes were attached and scanned using integrated barcode scanners and the field software installed on tablet PCs. The barcodes were scanned at various stages during the installation process (e.g., received, installed, etc). Status information, which was tied to color coding, was synchronized from the field software to the 3-D model.

Through this connected project control system, all of the status information was immediately available to every project team member, with or without wireless connectivity. At each step of the process, field personnel could check for a shipment’s completeness and correctness, or identify any damaged products.

Progress reports automatically were integrated in real time with a version of the model that could be viewed using a web browser.

Stanford Research Shows Significant Benefits
Research affiliated with the Center for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE) at Stanford University studied the implementation and benefits of utilizing a combined BIM-field software system. Three key benefit areas were identified: time savings, clear project visibility and reorder rate reduction.
  • Time savings. The researchers studied the door, frame and hardware workflow processes before and after the implementation of the integrated field BIM system. Using the integrated system, DPR Construction realized overall time savings of between 50 percent and 80 percent (depending on the task). More than 28 hours of time were saved in recording, documentation, communication and reporting—leading to a 20 percent improvement in productivity. The time savings came from faster processes and faster information flow, with five steps removed in each phase of hardware receipt and installation.
  • Clear progress visibility. Using web-based BIM, DPR was able to publish the 3-D model to the project website. With regular updates from the field through the field software, this web-based model could be updated in real time. Daily, crews could see in 3-D the current status of each component and what needed to be completed next in the sequence—permitting DPR to calculate accurate progress reports and manpower statistics.
  • Reorder rate reduction. The BIM-field software solution improved visibility into which materials were ordered, onsite, damaged or installed such that zero reorders were needed for the project, translating into direct financial benefit to the owner/team. By making information immediately available to the foreman in the field at the point of construction, better decisions were made about what and when to reorder. Not only did a 3-D view of the project provide immediate insight into reorder requirements, but it also provided a high level of assurance and accountability.

Integrated BIM and field software is streamlining construction industry supply chain management by bringing the BIM model into the construction process so team members can understand what is actually occurring on the jobsite. Owners and developers can track materials along the supply chain; designers can see how actual site conditions are affecting their models; and field personnel can visualize the project as a whole. The end result is a higher quality project, delivered faster and for less money.
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