Digital design transformation

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Building Information Modelling (BIM) seems to be gaining traction amongst catering equipment dealers keen to access a seamless and accurate digital design process, but the amount of manufacturers and suppliers providing these models looks to be lagging behind demand.

In public sector projects BIM Level 2 is mandated, requiring all project and asset information, documentation and data to be electronic. But BIM also ensures accurate design and eradicates clashes in terms of appliance dimensions and utilities locations, and so is useful across the foodservice industry. So how are the platform providers in this sector ensuring that the provision increases?

Specifi is one of the main names for digital foodservice design platforms, operating the CESABIM digital model repository. According to CEO Bob Wolters: “From our close interaction with consultants and designers, we have identified their biggest BIM pain points. It starts with setting up company standards and creating company templates which may require they hire a BIM specialist to accomplish. Worse, once they get up and running in BIM, they find themselves with a tremendous amount of work to manually build models they need on any BIM engine.”

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Therefore he revealed: “So, we will be making their life easier by developing the automated tools they need to manage configurable blocks, bespoke fabrication, and other items they often need that would require a designer to spend time modelling. Additionally, we have a number of tools to automate everyday processes such as numbering, scheduling and many other time saving features for their projects. Specifi will release a new plug-in for Revit, called Sp Design BIM, by June to provide these tools and wizards to drastically reduce the complexity and time requirements.”

Furthermore, the lack of current and complete BIM data available from manufacturers has made it difficult for dealers to populate their designs with properly configured blocks that contain all the parameters to make BIM useful. Wolters detailed: “Over the last 2 years, Specifi has provided a new content creation service and 30+ UK manufacturers now have their entire catalogue available, including accessories and connections, in Revit. To distribute this content and make it available even outside of the Specifi ecosystem, we developed a browser-based configurator that (with the manufacturer’s permission) anyone can use to access all of their data free of charge.”

Specifi has spent the last 2 years designing software that enables blocks to be created on-demand in any requested standard, with the chosen options and accessories, in any language, currency or units of measure and with the right connections.

As Wolters explained: “Now a consultant or designer can receive the exact block they want without building it themselves. Not only is this a huge time saver for the designer but also makes it very easy for a manufacturer to keep their data up-to-date. Instead of thousands of static files dumped into a repository, any changes or updates to their data can be made in one place in the database. It then propagates throughout the system. The old method of dumping static files into a repository would require someone to go in and manually open and update every file – it’s just not feasible which is why there is so much outdated information out there.”

When asked what dealer feedback has been on Specifi’s systems, he responded: “What we have heard from both manufacturers and dealers is that they want all the important and useful data for BIM, CAD, spec sheets, installation instructions, pricing, etc in one spot. They also want to know that this information is up-to-date and reliable. What they have now is BIM data in one place, CAD data in another, pricing data elsewhere and are never sure that it’s current. Then there are various BIM standards, languages, units of measure and currencies. Not to mention other repositories that have been popping up in other countries. It’s become unmanageable. This is why data repositories have to be completely reinvented.”

So the platform provider is, in partnership with CESA, creating a new data repository for the UK market called Sp Share. Wolters explained: “This will be a browser-based interface where dealers and designers will be able to find all the data they need. This will replace the CESABIM repository and will also include the configurator for the manufacturers that have properly created their content.

“With the launch of Sp Share in partnership with CESA, once the manufacturer provides all its data to Specifi, Specifi will take the responsibility of uploading the data and organising it properly. This will take an enormous burden off of the manufacturers so we think we’ll see data flowing in at a very high rate. This is finally the right solution for data distribution and maintenance. But the manufacturers still have to create the data in the first place. However, the manufacturer can have Specifi manage even the data creation.”

From CESA’s perspective, director Keith Warren commented: “As with anything new, BIM has had its teething issues. The whole point of Sp Share is to make things as easy as possible for dealers and other users (and for manufacturers). We believe that having all the correct, up to date data about equipment in one place, combined with basic training on Sp Share, will make this a really easy to use and effective resource.

CESA director Keith Warren believes the new Sp Share has future-proofed BIM design.

He concluded: “We have a critical mass of companies who placed their models on CESABIM and those models and the accompanying data are certainly being used by distributors specifiers and designers.

“However, BIM, and platforms for BIM, are evolving issues. Manufacturers are looking for some level of certainty in terms of what they invest in. The advances that CESA has made with Specifi in developing Sp Share address the issues – giving distributors, consultants and manufacturers confidence, knowing that the systems and software are future-proofed.”

The shared way forward

CESA members will soon be able to store and publish all equipment data and support materials, including CAD and Revit symbols, spec sheets, manuals, price lists and catalogues, in a new online information source developed by Specifi and CESA. Called Sp Share, it will provide customers, designers and distributors with a single point of access for CAD and Revit symbols and product information, via a free portal. Sp Share will go live in June 2019.

In addition to perpetual free use of Sp Share, CESA members will be able to publish their price lists and catalogue information to Specifi’s UK Quote products for free through to the end of 2019. In 2020, members can continue to publish their entire price lists and catalogues to Specifi Quote, for an annual cost of £1,500 per brand.

Keith Warren, director of CESA, said: “Sp Share is a very exciting development. Having access to a single online resource covering all product information used to specify catering equipment will be a major benefit to distributors, designers and operators.”

Sp Share is a natural development of the CESABIM database, which it will replace. “The new system offers a comprehensive library of product information, whereas CESABIM was restricted to files that could be used in BIM-based designs,” said Warren. “Furthermore, Sp Share is a browser-based interface that will be intuitive and user-friendly.”

Specifi will be in charge of organising and uploading the data for CESA members. CESA and Specifi will request that global IFSE and FCSI standards are used by companies submitting their product data. However, Specifi has agreed to accept whatever the supplier provides, and publish it without discrimination, with the exception of outdated pricing.

Bob Wolters, CEO of Specifi, commented: “Creating, managing and distributing multiple CAD and BIM files, as well as multiple price lists, in multiple languages, currencies and units of measure, is an increasingly complex business. Sp Share is designed to make the management and distribution of all this much easier for manufacturers and suppliers.”

Warren added: “Currently, equipment specifiers have to gather information from different sources – one for prices, another for BIM or CAD models, another for spec sheets, and so on. It’s a real headache. Sp Share brings it all together: we think it has the potential to be a game-changer.”

Tags : BIMCESADesignSpecifi
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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