BIM and ‘lean construction’

Further to Monday’s post on BIM, I see Nigel Davies at EatYourCAD has written about (Mis)understanding BIM. Helpfully, he starts by explaining what BIM is not – in short, BIM is not 3D, or Revit, or a single database or “single building model”, or Project Lifeycle Management, or even Building Information Modelling (instead, Nigel prefers to call it Building Information Management). He finishes:

So what is BIM?
In simple terms BIM is the management of project information, both the construction of that data and the iterative process of exchanging it. BIM is the added intelligence to project data that allows anyone to interpret that data correctly, removing the risk of assumptions. BIM is the process by which the right information is made available to the right person at the right time.

I was struck by the last part of this definition. It reflects something I saw yesterday. At the Constructing Excellence BE Members Forum in London, during a seminar on “lean construction”, we learned (from the excellent Brian Swain of Rubicon) that being “lean” involves:


  • the right things (including information)
  • to the right place
  • at the right time
  • in the right amount
  • and in the right condition”

That the same kind of words should be used in two different contexts is not surprising, as I think ‘lean’, ‘collaborative working’ and BIM all have some degree of overlap. Certainly, the case study examples of efficiency savings given yesterday arose from early engagement between designers, contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers (“everyone from the architect down to the muck-shifter and the cleaning contractor) and the early sharing of problems, ideas and information – ie: the right information to the right people at the right time.

In the Shepherd Construction case study, which looked at ‘lean’ delivery of a Leeds apartment block, this early involvement of people “at the workface” led, for example, to the design of new integrated services plates (combining power, TV and telephone sockets), door detailing that dramatically reduced waste of plasterboard, and eradication of needless packaging for some central heating components.

Clearly, these examples came from simply sharing information through face-to-face meetings, etc, but I have also seen examples of teams using construction collaboration technologies (aka ‘project extranets’) to identify issues and develop similar ‘lean’ design improvements and efficiency savings. In due course, BIM will surely take this still further.

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    • Vishal on 17 April 2009 at 7:48 pm

    I would say BIM is a tool that supports implementation of Lean Thinking on construction projects.

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