Ever since Building Information Management (BIM) concepts emerged in the 1970s, Governments and construction companies around the world started to adopt it.
What started as a technology exclusively used in large sites and developed countries got extended to developing countries too. It has now become a standard in the construction industry.
In fact, over the last few years, construction companies in India started to adopt BIM to reduce construction delays and cost overruns. Even Government bodies like the Maha-Metro Corporation decided to use BIM on the Nagpur Metro Rail project to build an integrated environment where data such as project schedule and cost is easily available for managing.
However, despite the proven benefits, not as many companies as should be are enthusiastic about adopting BIM.
Let’s try to understand the reasons behind it.
Although companies recognize the role of BIM, the ground reality is more complex. While we are wholehearted supporters of BIM, we recognize that to evangelize the technology we must understand the obstacles and perception gaps impeding growth. Here are some reasons why companies are being so slow in adopting BIM.
1. Lack of enthusiasm in adoption
In a 2019 NBS survey, lack of demand was cited as one of the reasons for the slow adoption of BIM. Small companies may not consider BIM as a priority. They think there is no compulsion to use it and companies do not consider it to be significant to project completion.
Paul Morrell, the UK Government’s Chief Construction Advisor, blames it on lack of data. Here’s what he had to say.
“It’s (BIM) sort of stalled because I think people are thinking where’s the data?”
If we want companies to prioritize BIM, we need to ensure that there is enough data to prove its benefits. But as Morrell says, unless companies use BIM, we are never going to generate the data to prove its worth. It’s a kind of catch 22 situation for the industry. The fact is, if you seek the data, you will find it!
2. Lack of talent and training
Construction companies face a tough challenge in recruiting skilled people. The primary reason for it is the conventional image attached to the industry. Millennials prefer flexibility and choose companies that are more obviously linked to a technology future. Considering that millennials will form 75% of the industry by the next decade, there will be a mismatch between their expectations and their perception of the way the AEC industry works. Our industry is considered to be inflexible; the office spaces are also not as glamorous as the IT industries. The industry is also perceived to be male-dominated, so gender diversity is low too. Another challenge is that companies aren’t known to prioritize training.
The lack of talent, training, and contextual awareness creates a challenge for companies to adopt BIM. But even experts like McKinsey are confident that a transformation is coming and sitting this one out isn’t an option. Construction companies will have to make significant changes in how they work and in some fundamental processes. This will be essential to keep up and deliver to the expectations of digital employees and customers.
3. Cost vs. benefits
With margins in the construction business being so tight, companies are unwilling to invest in new technology without being assured of the cost benefits of BIM. There are direct costs such as investment in hardware, software licensing, training of professionals, and maintenance involved. Even leaving aside the ability to implement the technology and leverage it properly, the big challenge is to get the construction teams to adopt the BIM output onsite. So, companies are hesitant to invest. Of course, they fail to recognize the benefits the technology offers to the company, designers and engineers, and consultants. And while on-site adoption is a real issue, it’s not an unsolvable problem as we have shown.
4. Lack of defined scope and unrealistic expectations
Companies often do not have a defined scope for BIM implementation. They are unclear as to what objects they want to get modeled in a particular project phase? At what level should they be modeled, or what information is needed to complete a BIM use? To add to the woes, they often do not have the right partner to guide them. Some partners tend to overpromise and set unrealistic expectations, which could be hard to attain. Others tend to deliver projects and walk away without offering any help to the company to indulge their own digital ambitions. For long-term sustainability, companies must have a well-defined scope for implementing BIM and partners who align their goals with the client’s needs and expectations. Any less, and BIM ends up an experiment or a transaction restricted to one project.
Although we have seen some remarkable improvement in the adoption of BIM in countries like India, the full potential of this wonderful technology is still untapped. A country like India has a vast talent pool and access to BIM, which can be utilized to scale the projects and attain an attractive cost to benefit ratio. There is a fertile opportunity for the industry to utilize BIM to transform itself. This needs the willingness to change the way work is done, hire new people who understand technology and make technology a significant part of the overall strategy. It’s time to take the first step, because as Morrell said, “Once you can see the benefits of working in this way, why would you do it in any other way?”