Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been a hot topic in this industry ever since 2011 when the government announced its intention to require collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) on public sector projects by January 2016.
This meant that any catering equipment manufacturer which wants its products specified on public sector contracts and other projects where BIM or its design tools are being used, must ensure that its product portfolio is translated into the appropriate digital 3D models.
While the noble intention behind the ruling is to ensure that all equipment correctly fits into the space allocated for it and links up with a building’s amenities, the issue has caused some confusion among manufacturers.
One company that has tried to ease manufacturers through the process is software designer, Render Image. It has partnered with more than 280 manufacturers to provide them with CAD models, however only 15 of these have partially or totally converted their catalogues into native BIM (Revit) models. “In our MasterChef4BIM (a Revit plug-in) we have developed a lot of items via software (such as tables, cupboard, shelves, hoods and cold rooms) in order to overcome the problem of lack of items,” said Fabio Tantaro, Render Image’s BIM/CAD manager.
“Some manufacturers may have seemed slow to respond but the investment they need to make is higher than a normal 3D CAD library. Furthermore, not all of them are interested in big or public projects or are focused on consultant projects.
“Some are focused only on their needs and they don’t understand this new concept will help them as a marketing tool. Also, BIM will only be mandatory in a few countries and manufacturers based in countries where this is not the case are generally waiting to see what will happen. It’s understandable, but this is a worldwide industry and BIM requires collaboration.”
Tantaro feels that the confusion is still not resolved as there is not a single worldwide foodservice BIM standard.
Stewart Millar, CESABIM consultant from another software provider, Schematic Ltd, commented: “The government directive is in the interest of British manufacturing to ensure these are prominent in all BIM projects at home and for export.”
He believes that hesitancy in BIM adoption is due to a debate as to which file type should be used to form the models, between the US-originated Revit, which can only communicate with other Revit systems, and the UK government-backed IFC open file format which communicates with all design software. He detailed: “As a comparison, the IFCs in CESABIM are up to 80% smaller in file size compared to other converted BIM formats.
“Another reason for the slow uptake is due to ‘bootleg’ BIM models, which are cheaper models created on the fly, derived from existing 3D CAD models which were not initiated in BIM formats. This results in system crashes and refusal of content from BIM project teams,” he warned. [[page-break]]
Some manufacturers are well ahead of schedule for converting their product portfolio into BIM models. Brands including Williams Refrigeration, Winterhalter and Frima have all completely uploaded their BIM-compliant models to the CESABIM database.
Malcolm Harling, Williams’ sales and marketing director, commented: “Williams was first refrigeration manufacturer to offer fully BIM-compliant models to the industry, in July 2014. BIM has been made a lot clearer as it has been the subject of many workshops at CESA/CEDA/FCSI conferences, but there is still some way to go. The data protocols for the UK have been agreed by a tri-partite working group and, as such, all manufacturers on CESABIM will produce the same information in the same format.”
Graham Kille, managing director, Frima UK added: “We were one of the first companies to join the CESABIM database at its launch. Our BIM models include a variety of product data, to give the most accurate planning and control information. We have followed the industry recommendation from CESA. There is no point being a member if you are not going to support the association.”
Winterhalter’s marketing manager, Paul Crowley agrees that the industry associations’ work has done much to clarify the situation, and one of the firm’s directors is part of the FCSI/CESA team steering BIM, so it is up to date with the latest developments. “Perhaps some manufacturers didn’t think BIM would take off, so they have sat back to see what might happen. There also seems a degree of ignorance and a lack of understanding of the huge importance BIM plays in getting specified. The centralised European Library is a great idea and those that have finally got their heads around IFC files can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Fellow warewashing manufacturer Meiko is also well on track to meet the government deadline. To date it has around 75% of its premium group 1 and group 2 models available to its client base via CESABIM. For requests that fall outside of this catalogue, it can create fully compliant models, as needed, within relatively short turnaround times.
The firm has been monitoring the government requirements from an early stage. “This has afforded us time to consider the full implications of the new requirements on our business,” explained James Leech, Meiko UK’s CAD operator. “Working with our parent company in Germany, we have been able to engineer a complete software solution which will be in place ready for the 2016 deadline. Work has been underway for some time to compile a database of our entire product portfolio and later this year we will upgrade our software from AutoCAD to Revit.”
In the initial stages of its evaluation, Meiko sent a questionnaire to number of dealers, suppliers and consultants to gauge their reaction to BIM. “We received a mixed response, ranging from companies that were already providing fully BIM compliant packages, to others that were adamant the changes would not impact their business in any way and they would therefore not be implementing any changes to their current system,” Leech reported.
“The majority believed that Revit was the only package available that met BIM level 2 and, given the cost of the full software package, many were deterred from the outset. But the government is not mandating any specific software platforms. Through attending several BIM seminars and conferences it is now clearer that there are a multitude of software packages available, many with no initial cost. [[page-break]]
“As the deadline looms, I think the requirements are being taken more seriously by the initial sceptics. But some companies have not understood the full impact that BIM will have on our industry moving forward. If you can’t provide your equipment or services in BIM format, your equipment may not be specified or even considered for a government project.”
Hobart UK is on course too, with all its glasswashers, undercounter and pass-through machines complete, and the larger rack and flight-type models to be ready by July. For its cooking equipment, 90% of the Bonnet brand is now in Revit2015 format, and the balance is due in May. It has invested in new software and upgraded its computer system so that its in-house CAD team can work on creating the models with minimal cost for third party support/involvement.
However, Steve Wallace, Hobart’s projects director, detailed a further issue with file formats. “Whilst a high number of projects appear to be Revit-based, not all projects use the same Revit version/year. This presents a problem as Revit is not backwards compatible. But in our experience, IFC files are command line driven and the actual quality of the model image may not be as good for rendering/pictorial images, although we understand that this is being addressed. High quality imagery is not something which is necessarily called for by the project, but is something that we as a manufacturer feel is beneficial for our dealers and useful in other areas of project design and presentation.”
The manufacturer understands that CESA, EFCEM and FCSI have recently agreed to form a working party to establish a single BIM standard. “However in the short term we are having to cover all bases and try to ensure compatibility with the major formats. This could mean us having three versions available for 2016 unless we are convinced that the IFC format anomalies are ironed out – something which we have not as yet seen completed satisfactorily.”
Induction cooking equipment manufacturer, Grande Cuisine, also doubts that the BIM confusion has been cleared up. “Currently, manufacturers don’t understand what is expected,” said director, Steve Hobbs. “We’re lacking clear, top down direction – there’s no official explanation as to what the key benefits are of early adoption, or what the consequences will be for those who don’t meet the deadlines.” He believes that the firm can meet the deadline, but only if an agreement can be reached about what information needs to be included and what software is required to build the models.
Some of Grande Cuisine’s Adventys induction range has been 3D modelled in the European system (Masterchef), but it remains unclear how compliant this is with regards to the UK’s plans. “There is a lot of uncertainty about the direction we’ll be taking, but Masterchef is widely used across the European markets,” commented Hobbs.
Hubbard Systems, which distributes the Scotsman range of ice machines, has a little further to go for full conversion, as 25% of this range is currently available as BIM models. However, it believes the whole range will be available by the end of May and all new products are now automatically made available with BIM modelling.
“Sorting out BIM is a costly and time consuming project for manufacturers but they and consultants now understand it,” said Simon Aspin, commercial director.