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Should manufacturers invest in BIM?

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Specifi looks after the BIM blocks for many major manufacturers.

Now that all public sector projects require manufacturers to have BIM models available for their entire portfolio, it has caused a bit of a divide in the catering equipment industry. Some brands have jumped whole-heartedly into the technology, while others have been discouraged by the steep investment cost.

BIM software provider Specifi believes that more manufacturers should get on board, with the firm’s vice president of sales, Stuart Campbell, remarking: “The work Specifi continues to do on behalf of an increasing number of manufacturers provides possibly the clearest indication of the industry’s belief that investment into BIM is necessary and will have a positive effect on business. To have this data created and available in our world database gives manufacturers a higher level of capability and means BIM compliancy can be achieved far more easily for all businesses involved in the supply chain.

“By being BIM capable, those manufacturers who have made the investment have a genuine competitive edge over those who have not. BIM compliancy is a prerequisite of projects across all markets today and it’s only going to grow.”

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Specifi manages the CESABIM and EFCEMBIM databases, working closely alongside CESA in this regard. CESA agrees with the assessment than non BIM-compliant firms will lose business, and chairman, Glenn Roberts emphasised that the CESABIM platform can help those who want to make the move. “CESABIM is a cost-free platform to host the models, and we’ve made it as easy and inexpensive as possible to create and upload BIM files. In fact, CESABIM is becoming a key benefit for CESA members, since manufacturers, suppliers, consultants and designers are using it as an important resource.”

Furthermore he underlined that the models should be fit for purpose: “As a manufacturer, ensure that you have at least got models for all of your leading products. Meanwhile a simple product data template, filled with the relevant data, will give designers all the information they need if they have to draw the BIM model.”

CESA and Specifi will be publishing an e-newsletter, Foodservice Design News, to address issues and keep the market up to date with developments.

This may be of benefit to manufacturers such as Hobart, whose cooking solutions projects director, Steve Wallace, feels it is too early to judge whether BIM offers enough benefit versus investment. However, he acknowledged: “BIM is here to stay and manufacturers need to get on board sooner rather than later. CESA has encouraged manufacturers and has been key in facilitating working with interested parties to formulate a standard and make it easier for manufacturers to understand BIM and its benefits. In addition, we are starting to see a greater demand from ‘BIM educated’ clients, architects, consultants and dealers working on more ‘BIM projects’.”

He believes it is essential that BIM models need to be set up to an industry-agreed standard, citing the CESA, EFCEM and FCSI collaboration as producing a workable template.

Over at Frima UK, part of the Rational group, technical sales director Graham Kille feels: “What’s important is to make sure consultants and planners have the tools they need – including BIM – and that the models are consistently updated to include the latest information. We offer a complete range of design models via the Rational Portal. Options include DWG and Revit.”

He added: “Planners and consultants want to work with quality manufacturers who are capable of providing the latest specification sheets and design models. BIM is an increasingly important part of that. We pride ourselves in not only providing what we believe is the best kitchen solution but also the best design materials.”

Temperature monitoring equipment maker Monika is very positive towards the technology. “We see the investment made to convert our hardware into BIM compatible files as well worth the initial outlay,” said technical manager Simon Wood. “We are seeing the benefit of 3D CAD technology from initial conception and when it was introduced into the foodservice sector, Monika has been an early adopter to a host of different computer-based programmes and as such, converting our existing diagrams into BIM drawings was a relatively simply process and one which required minimal investment from our business.”

He added: “For the BIM system to continue to grow and develop there would need to be a sustained, high take-up by consultants, specifiers and dealers. This would in turn encourage greater investment by manufacturers across the industry. Models should also be routinely updated to incorporate any changes, developments or additions to a product portfolio.”

Winterhalter UK is equally as enthusiastic, with marketing development manager Paul Crowley commenting: “Companies can’t afford to ignore investing in BIM as it is being rolled out as a standard. To be considered in public sector kitchens it’s a ‘must offer’. If manufacturers don’t invest in BIM they won’t get specified by consultant-led projects.

The warewasher manufacturer wanted to ensure it had BIM knowledge in-house and so creates its own BIM models. Crowley pondered: “We create and publish our BIM models in .rvt, but there is an argument that there should be a centralised, wider-ranging software solution. We’re currently undecided on which we prefer. However, we have also created BIM files in the exchange format .ifc, so our customers who don’t work in AutoDesk Revit can use .ifc instead.”

Elsewhere, Germany-based combi oven manufacturer Küppersbusch invested very early in the creation of BIM data for its two series: PremiumLine 850 (for hotels and caterers with more than 250 meals per day) and CombiLine 750 (for hotels and restaurants up to 250 meals per day). “In order to stay competitive, manufacturers have to offer BIM data for their devices,” said CEO Marc-Oliver Schneider.

“Our maxim is to move forward constantly, to recognise important trends and to actively take part in them. The more countries assume BIM data for their public tenders the more manufacturers have to provide this data for their devices.”

He further cautioned: “As a manufacturer, you have to choose the right partner for the construction process of BIM data. Furthermore it is very important that the different BIM data are compatible to one another.”

Back in Britain, Lincat MD Nick McDonald conceded: “The creation of BIM models is a costly additional overhead for manufacturers to bear. However, they do contain valuable, additional information which should facilitate equipment specification and purchase.”

Nevertheless, he detailed: “BIM files are already mandatory for public sector schemes and are becoming a frequent requirement elsewhere. We have therefore invested in BIM to ensure that there are no barriers to Lincat products being specified across the board.”

McDonald advised that if BIM files are to be fit for purpose, it’s important not to cut corners. “We have recruited Specifi to help us to create BIM content for our Lincat and FriFri product ranges. The quality of their blocks is first class. Our advice would be to follow suit!”

For Wexiödisk, it was essential to have its warewashing appliances converted into BIM models, as BIM is being used more and more for private projects as well as public schemes. UK and Ireland country manager John Shepherd stated: “In many ways, investing in BIM is already an essential part of the manufacturing process, and is a priority when it comes to winning new projects and keeping existing customers on board.”

Advising that manufacturers need to keep models up to date, he added: “The more information specifiers and designers can access, the more likely a company is to be included in projects.

“Without BIM, manufacturers will be continually excluded from projects as opposed to being able to reap the benefits where new proposals are concerned. Wexiodisk invested in BIM when it first came to the marketplace – it’s important for us to be forward thinking and it is very much in the company ethos to look to the future in how we can keep improving ourselves as a business.”

At Foster Refrigerator, senior development engineer Andrew Hodges commented: “We’re keen to work on projects for government buildings, so for us using BIM is absolutely necessary and worth the investment. I also feel it shows our customers we’re really committed to working in their sector and want to offer them the best we can.

“As with the introduction of anything new into an industry, it takes a while for things to settle down, but as we’re coming up to the 2 year mark, we’re glad that we have BIM at our disposal.”

He underlined: “For BIM to be fit for purpose it needs to be designed with the user in mind. It’s important that the official bodies involved with BIM continue to work alongside the people who are actually using the programme.”

Cooking equipment manufacturer Welbilt backs BIM too. “BIM is certainly the way forward,” said UK and Ireland sales director Steve Hemsil. “Welbilt has invested heavily in BIM, which is in part because we have a wide portfolio of projects, and it will continue to be an ongoing investment for us in order to keep our portfolio up-to-date with any new products being added as and when required. This is definitely something that we will need to plan carefully going forward for both financial and time investments.”

The firm is also potentially looking at a third party to run its BIM capabilities. “With such a large portfolio of products it could be incredibly time consuming. With this in mind, we are currently looking at a number of options which we hope to make a decision on in the near future,” revealed Hemsil.

However, at Victor Manufacturing, the firm is not so sure about the benefits. “The investment in a digital BIM model is significant and the returns, so far, are not,” said marketing and communications manager, Peter Brewin. “However the initial investment is a one-off so the return needs to be considered over the long term. As well as the financial investment, there is also the cost of internal resource to collate the drawings and information in the required format.”

He reported: “It is only in the last few months that I have noticed an increase in the number of people asking for BIM models of our products. Additionally, there appears to be some confusion over which is the best method to make your BIM models available to the industry. Until this is resolved and the majority of designers are using the same method, then manufacturers will be reluctant to invest in BIM through fear of getting it wrong.”

While manufacturers may be undecided on whether to invest in BIM, many dealers are in no doubt of the benefits. According to GastroNorth’s design engineer, Ross Pears: “Our ability to be able to say that we can comply with BIM requirements in tender packages has allowed us to continue working with huge contractors which make up a large percentage of our business. On private projects we have also seen the benefits – although it is not required, we can show our customers a 3D plan of their proposed kitchen and even create 3D walk-throughs to better explain space and work flow.”

And while he realises that BIM is a significant investment for manufacturers, he warned: “When we specify a job now we look for whether we can go to a manufacturer and get a BIM model sent to us. If it’s not available we do look to produce the model of our own accord, however, it is time consuming. There have been cases where we don’t have that time and have used a supplier who has been able to provide a similar product with their model to us.”

Tags : BIMbim modelsDesign
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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