Operance is a mobile-first application from Humberside, UK-based BIM consultancy BIMSense. It is designed to enable anyone to easily search, share, update and use BIM (Building Information Modelling) information, without needing to know anything about BIM.
Based in the UK at the Centre for Digital Innovation (C4DI), a private technology incubator in Hull, Humberside, BIMSense was co-founded in 2016 by Scott Pilgrim (COO – on left in photo) and Ian Yeo (CEO). Pilgrim’s previous career included spells as a bricklayer before becoming a construction planner and developments manager at Sewell group, working alongside Yeo. At C4DI, they met Tim Mutlow who became CTO. Identifying that project clients found it difficult to to store, search, update and utilise building information, they began to develop Operance – aiming to help facility managers and building owners better manage their facilities and reduce the costs of building ownership.
Operance for smart building management
Operance was initially developed as a digital operations and maintenance application. It provided a simple upload platform for BIM consultants and contractors to upload and handover as-built O&M information while helping clients easily visualise the value and benefits of BIM data prior to defining asset information requirements. However, they recognised that too many O&M manuals remained unused and quickly became outdated – what end-users needed was a simple-to-use tool that delivered key information that could quickly be used. As Yeo says:
“Whilst BIM is great and undoubtedly the future, the everyday school caretaker isn’t interested. BIM is technically complicated, requiring a lot of personal investment in terms of learning and changing of habits and corporate investment in terms of training and software. It’s simply unrealistic to expect a caretaker to utilise BIM models and COBie anytime soon, unless you serve it up in a manner they are comfortable with.”
The platform, accessible via Android and Apple iOS mobile applications, enables consultants, contractors and modular builders to upload BIM models and information such as COBie data. It also provides clients and end-users with all their building information in their pocket, accessible anytime, anywhere, without the need to navigate complicated 3D models.
The Operance platform has evolved into a “smart building manual”, enabling users to easily search, share, update and use their building and asset information to create simple tasks and notifications to manage operations and maintenance workflows. Development plans include the ability to auto-classify BIM models and legacy assets utilising AI (Artificial Intelligence) and adding IoT (Internet of Things) digital twin abilities in the future.
However ‘smart’ it becomes, the goal is to keep it simple says Pilgrim:
“It’s a bit like an everyday consumer purchasing a smart phone, they don’t generally care what technology they contain, they just want a smart phone to do all the usual things. It’s the same with building information management, most school caretakers don’t care or know anything about BIM, they just want their building information to operate and maintain their facility, so we are helping consultants and contractors give it to them”.
The Operance ‘Digital O&M’ upload and handover costs main-contractors and modular builders £2,500 per project, with no further cost to the client should they simply want access to their information as per traditional O&M’s, albeit digitally and mobile.
Should the client want to then edit, update, share and utilise their information for simple facilities task management along with every other feature available now and in the future, they simply upgrade to the ‘Smart Building Manual’ license, choosing between a ‘single-building’ license for just £250 per month or create substantial savings across their estate with a ‘multi-building’ enterprise license. There is also additional savings available for longer-term commitments.
Each of the ‘Digital O&M’ contractor upload and client ‘Smart Building Manual’ licenses provide a 30-day free trial, unlimited users, unlimited features, priority customer support and BIM model uploads. Free trials also include access to two example buildings with data for inspiration.
The Extranet Evolution view
The digital O&M market has been expanding for some years. UK point solution providers such as Dome expanded beyond commissioning and handover to launch a defects management tool, iSnag (2013 post), while O&M provision was also something offered by the leading extranet/EDMS providers. In the pre-smartphone era, BIW Technologies was among the first to produce digital Health and Safety Files; later (2012) Australia’s Aconex acquired Grazer to expand its O&M capabilities; Ireland’s Zutec (post), floated on Sweden’s Nasdaq First North stock exchange two years ago (post), specialised in this field too.
The BIM push into facilities and asset management has not been as extensive as it has been for design and construction (and even here it has yet to drive processes across the majority of UK projects). However, government construction strategy focus on delivering better whole life value and on measuring the performance of assets is starting to rekindle FM/AM interest in BIM – and the publication of ISO 19650 Part 3 (covering BIM for asset management) later this year may well boost this interest still further. While such documents may excite some BIM aficionados, BIM also has to be made intelligible and meaningful to those at the frontline managing and maintaining built assets every day (“Dave, the caretaker”). Given a quick demonstration of Operance at BIMShowLive 2020, I was hugely encouraged to see a simple and intuitive-to-use mobile app that could be quickly adopted and used by caretakers and facilities managers with no knowledge of BIM, and with little training requirement.
Update (12 October 2020) – In 2020, BIMSense received £250,000 in funding via a grant by the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund – Mercia Equity Finance. The grant will allow BIMsense to commercialise its operations and maintenance software, Operance, and create 10 new jobs over the next two years (BIM+ news item).