Catering equipment industry braced for BIM

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is set to be a big part of the industry’s future — and something that manufacturers, distributors and consultants are being urged to act on now.

Catering Insight brought together a number of key industry stakeholders for a special roundtable at CESA’s London office to discuss what BIM means for this market.

The panelists included:

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– Tim Tindle, Managing Director, Falcon
– Chris Playford, Market & Development Director, Foster Refrigerator
– Paul Arnold, Senior Design Consultant Tricon Foodservice Consultants
– Kate Gould, Managing Director, KEG Catering Consultants
– Julian Shine, Managing Director, Shine Food Machinery
– Keith Warren, Director, Catering Equipment Suppliers Association

Here is how the debate played out:

The Government Construction Strategy (GCS) denotes that all government projects will require fully collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) as a minimum by 2016. How well placed currently is the catering equipment community to comply with this?

Tim Tindle: Our industry, like everything else, is spread across a normal distribution curve from innovators through to laggards, and with this at the moment, a lot of it is going on at the front end. The early majority have now got an awareness that it is going to happen but there is a great rump of the industry that is still relatively unaware that you need to be BIM-compliant by 2016 — which means being BIM-compliant today because 2016 buildings are being planned or built now.

Julian Shine: I agree. At this time, until the launch of CESABIM, the industry as a whole is not prepared. There are isolated companies currently providing a BIM model for their products or a BIM construction contracting integration, but the majority do not seem ready to roll out.

Kate Gould: I think the manufacturers have embraced it and are working towards getting the models up and running, and the distributors and large consultants are beginning to look at the software they need to make it more compatible. I would say the place where it is lagging behind is the smaller, independent design consultants that have fewer funds available to them and don’t really know where to invest their money.

Chris Playford: There is still a lack of clarity on what the requirements of BIM actually are for a lot of people. We have got these BIM levels of 0-4, and I don’t think it is completely crystal clear what we should be providing and when. Part of the problem is there are some pretty pictures in some pretty BIM presentations — but I don’t think they altogether clarify the situation. This ramp-up through the levels of what you have to provide and how you fulfil that to all of the end-users is quite complicated for people new to the issue to understand.

Paul Arnold: By all accounts, this 2016 deadline isn’t as onerous as I think it is made out to be. I think pretty much most of us are nearly there with the exception that we don’t have a 3D model. That is the only thing missing because the other main requirement is electronic data — well, all the specifications are electronic, all the services can simply be put on a spreadsheet and become electronic.

The information is there, which is no different to the cut sheets or manufacturers’ literature that we currently have — it is just getting that information from there into BIM. It is not something that needs a fully functional 3D model that has these bits in it — it just means a 3D representation and then the documentation and data being electronic. That 2016 deadline comes down to how far you want to take it, and it doesn’t need to be that far.

What is the role of consultants, manufacturers and distributors in the BIM process?

Julian Shine: I see that the consultant community will provide conceptual designs, using the manufacturers’ models, and then the kitchen contractors will have the responsibility of clash detection and full integration with other package contractors for services, fabric and finishes.

Tim Tindle: If you have got a major UK-based manufacturer, such as Falcon or Foster, it is really very simple. We have got to create BIM models for our products and make sure those are updated regularly. That is actually more of a challenge than it sounds because you have to ensure links integrating the BIM model with your production system so it picks up drawing changes and perhaps even Bills of Material changes. Then you have got the companies which are doing the one-off fabrications. In this instance, I think we all accept it will be a very limited BIM model as it tends to be tabling and items like that, but there will still need to be something.

Chris Playford: The benefit that we have as a manufacturer in the UK is that we are in control of the BIM modelling process. I think if you are an importer of product you probably have less control over the process of getting hold of the BIMs and the quality of that data because you are not the direct owner of the product.

Paul Arnold: As a consultancy, we would have to make our own models if they weren’t available. That is what we are doing at the moment, and it is what we will carry on doing until such a time as they become available. If they are available we are more likely going to use them but we just don’t have that choice at the moment.

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What is the size of the financial investment required to get ready for BIM? Are the overall costs that manufacturers, distributors and foodservice design consultants incur likely to be different?

Tim Tindle: If you are a sizeable manufacturer, you are probably talking about an investment of £50,000 to get your BIM models up and running. And then you have got to invest on an ongoing basis to update those. And it sounds ridiculous, but you have got to add that cost to every single model that you then bring out.

Now, some manufacturers who have known about this for some time have been able to put that into their financial budgets and that investment was made this year or maybe even last year. But it is a significant amount of money, so it is not something you can just do ad hoc — it needs to be budgeted, so I think we will see more companies coming on board in their next financial year.

Chris Playford: I think you have picked a figure that we would say is close, but the truth is we probably don’t know what it costs. The real issue is not setting the BIM models up, it is checking them all and maintaining them. Change management is going to be our single biggest headache here. But what kitchen designers need to know is that when they drag a BIM model through from our business into their modelling package, everything associated with that model is current.

Julian Shine: Certainly the initial non-contract specific expenditure will rest with the manufacturers, who will have to foot the bill to develop their models and that will be dependent on the size of their portfolio. Hardware and software costs for the consultant and kitchen contractor will be similar, with the development of the bespoke models resting more heavily with the consultants and the management of COBie (Construction Operations Building information exchange) spreadsheet data more heavily with the kitchen contractor, both of which will require a considerable highly trained resource.

Paul Arnold: From a consultants’ perspective, the size of the investment is a very tricky figure to pinpoint. The only thing consultants sell is time, and it is time that you spend developing this. That is the biggest expense because it is costing you lost business time to develop the information and then you are not able to bill it out. As far as hardware costs go, it will depend on what you go with. I think Revit, with the computer, costs us about £9,500, which is a lot of money but in all honesty I don’t think it is disproportionate to what you would have had to have done as a small business when AutoCAD came out.

Kate Gould: I think the small consultancy companies are just going to hold back for the time being. It might be more cost-effective for them in the long run to look at employing someone or contracting the design out because the investment in Revit-type programs and the co-ordination of BIM and all the things that go with it could end up chewing into their time, leaving them with no time to go and market their business and do the work that is required by the client. Other consultants have said that it might actually bring the demise of the smaller independent design consultants.

Tim Tindle: Or will you see the emergence of new IT-enabled small consultancies? As one door closes, another one opens…

Kate Gould: Well, very possibly. It will certainly develop change, there is absolutely no doubt about that. It is going to challenge the way that the systems work at the moment and produce new systems in its place. There are going to be casualties along the way.

Should companies from the industry care about BIM if they do no or little public sector work?

Paul Arnold: I think it has got more of an impact now on the private sector than in the public sector. If you look at the projects we get through, we are not necessarily being asked to produce a model but all the architects and the MEP consultants are using a BIM model for clash detection and to get the building co-ordinated. So it is currently being used more as a model to detect clashes rather than to convey technical or sales information.

Julian Shine: It doesn’t matter if companies do very little public sector business. BIM is coming, regardless of the sector, as the whole life cost of a building will be the primary driver.

Keith Warren: It is the starting point of creating a central resource of data to bring lots of fragmented pieces of information together and to be able to evaluate what the effects are of changing one item for another, for example, and developing it. It is very likely that the private sector, because of the commercial driver, is going to engage with it to a far higher extent because it can see the value of using that information.

There remains considerable debate over the technology or software that kitchen planners will need to use in order to fulfil BIM-compliant kitchen projects. What is the real situation here?

Kate Gould: I think consultants want someone to step up to the mark and say ‘this system will be compliant and will actually be compatible with all the different facets’ so that they have a direction to invest in. They can start learning now before they have to provide the information. That is going to be the challenge from a consultants’ point of view.

Tim Tindle: I read somewhere that there are something like 153 systems that you can get that will read an IFC (Industry Foundation Class) file, which is what the UK government has specified as the format for our BIM models. And IFC is the industry standard that CESA is endorsing through CESABIM. There is a little bit of confusion in that it doesn’t mean it has to be done with AutoScheme; the files can used by any system — Revit through to anything else.

But I guess it is not going to be as simple as saying it’s Microsoft or Apple. Certainly AutoCAD is in a lot of places so a lot of people will end up using Revit, but Revit is expensive. Other models are cheaper, but it might be that the people you are selling the model onto want it in Revit anyway. Certainly trying to convert a manufacturers’ SolidWorks building model into something that Revit can read is just a nightmare. It is much easier to convert it into an IFC and then move it on.

Chris Playford: We are now in a position where we will start to build up models on an open format (IFC) and then it actually doesn’t matter what architectural system you are designing in — I hope — because what we bring together actually slots into anything. Our understanding is that we have a 3D model, we have a COBie table, and one drives the other. That, to me, is where we are for 2016. But there is quite a lot of work to actually get the attribute table driving the models.

We are still almost two full years away from BIM implementation. What needs to happen in 2014 for the catering equipment industry to ensure it is on track towards the government target?

Keith Warren: While there needs to be a focus on the bigger picture in terms of what it is leading to, it is important the industry takes a staged approach to getting there. I think the first point from CESABIM’s perspective is to get all CESA members with relevant products onto CESABIM. It is a free resource for manufacturers and importers to put their IFC models and data on, and the design community can download from it free of charge. With no commercialism between the two, it allows that freedom of movement of information and development.

Tim Tindle: If you want an analogy, CESABIM is like a train, it has left the station but it is still going quite slowly, so you can actually run along the track and jump on board. But as manufacturers and importers we have got to get on and get this done. The dealers can’t do it themselves and the consultants will find it harder and harder to do it as more and more people are involved. At Falcon we have BIM models available and we are being asked for these every week now, already.

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