UK technology service provider CADline is helping customers prepare for the move to Building Information Modelling (BIM).
In the last year we have seen the number of Building Information Modelling (BIM) implementation projects that we are delivering with our customers increase significantly. There is a tangible increase in clients’ requirements for some level of BIM deliverable both in public and private sectors, but also we are also seeing our customers choose to adopt BIM technology now because of competitive pressures.
We are approached by companies that are genuinely concerned they are not as productive as their peers and that they have lost business because the consultant is using a model-based design approach and can deliver the job in less time.
Generally we start our conversation with our aspiring BIM practitioner by explaining our straightforward approach to adopting BIM technologies and workflows and all the associated considerations.
We then run through a typical BIM implementation phase and explain each phase from planning through to delivering the first design or construction project and explain the minimum engagement from both sides. We use our experience to allocate a reasonable amount of our time for training and consultancy services to support the success of the project.
Where a customer finds themselves having to develop a BIM capability because of external pressures they have often not considered a budget for the project. Despite agreeing to our return on investment projections that show the increased productivity they will enjoy as a result of the transition, they will look to cut costs wherever possible. Almost inevitably they will turn their attention to the training programme we have recommended and try and slim it down.
As a result I find myself repeatedly having a conversation that goes something like:
CAD Manager: We want to do this Revit course in two days.
NH: This course takes three days as a minimum.
CAD Manager: My team are experts in AutoCAD; can’t we do it in two days?
NH: Not if you want them to cover all the topics and complete all the exercises.
CAD Manager: OK then, can I take these ten topics out?
NH: No because we structure the course in such a way that the delegates build a cumulative skill set over the duration of the course and they won’t understand subsequent concepts.
The problem is that for many training is treated as a “tick box” exercise, scheduled on a project plan and treated in the same way as a software installation or content creation. It should, however, be considered as an unprecedented opportunity to shake up your team and develop a capability that works the way you want it to.
Assuming that your company is new to BIM you should accept that you will be doing things in a different way to 2D and now is the time to make the changes to the culture and workflow to support the transition.
The flexibility that products like AutoCAD, Microstation and even Microsoft Office provide allows many different approaches to produce similar results. Even the most tightly run teams will have members with differing abilities, interpreting the company standards in a way that suits them and deliver different levels of productivity. Most companies do not have an effective measure of the abilities of their employees to use CAD technology even where it constitutes a significant part of their role.
Arguably then, for an organisation developing a BIM capability, assessment and training are the most important aspects of the project. Consider that you have a captive audience, unable to bring the baggage associated with years of AutoCAD use to the training sessions and who will want to make a success of BIM at your company as much as you do? The reality is that it is the capabilities of your team that will make your adoption of BIM a success and you probably only want to train them once.
What is the best approach to developing that capability in an organisation that is transitioning to BIM workflows for the first time? It is clear that initially they need to become proficient in the BIM authoring or aggregation product such as Revit or Navisworks that they will be using primarily. Invariably that should involve attending a structured, instructor led course, with a predefined set of topics, consisting of lecture and exercise aspects in a classroom environment isolated from office distractions. There is no alternative method of training that gives quite such a rich learning experience as being able to work through a proven subject matter with a subject expert. A good instructor balances knowledge of the relevant industry against product expertise and knowledge delivery skills.
There are many providers of classroom training for BIM products and often local colleges are good place to start if you are on a limited budget and can spend an academic term attending evening classes. However, for an implementation project you will be more likely to be attending short, intensive training programmes with a commercial provider. The training that we provide for Autodesk’s BIM products has been carefully designed to strike a balance between cost and content.
As you have heard, customers tend to want to allocate the minimum amount of time for training while we know that there is a certain amount of subject matter that must be covered to allow the delegate to leave the course with enough knowledge to become productive. A great deal of skill and experience is required to design a course that will deliver the content at a pace that will be acceptable to users of all abilities and yet still be commercially attractive. Again there are plenty of commercial providers offering short, intensive training for BIM products.
If location is not important then choosing a training provider can be confusing especially where pricing is competitive. My advice is to choose a recognised certification provider such as a member of Autodesk’s Authorised Training Center (ATC) programme where you have some assurance of the consistency of the offering. ATC members have to fulfil a number of quality and capability criteria to maintain their place in the programme and their trainers are required to meet minimum levels of experience as well as undergo assessments and demonstrate continuous development.
We find that three consecutive days is the maximum time that even the most willing delegates can sit through a training course at the pace being delivered before losing focus. There is a lot to take in but in our BIM implementation project we hope to have delivered the training just in time for the delegate to return to the office, collect their thoughts and then start work on the first BIM design project.
In an ideal world I would suggest the most effective method of becoming proficient in a BIM product is to embark on the first design project following the initial classroom training with unlimited access to an instructor through to its successful completion.
Of course this would be prohibitively expensive for most firms and so we aim to provide an effective alternative which normally includes further classroom training, regular project mentoring and remote support. Rarely will we have covered all the subject matter for a particular product in that first course and so with Revit, for example, we suggest a selection of users attend a further two day classroom course where we can train a set of less frequently used concepts.
Users need not be limited to an instructor-led classroom to develop their skills. We are finding that we are delivering more and more training using web-based methods. These sessions are normally scheduled to take place around lunch time, are delivered by a product expert, take about an hour and often focus on a particular set of topics that are frequently requested through our helpdesk.
Self-development plays an important role in the implementation project and can take a number of forms. In most of our training courses we use material that covers more subject matter than the course and for those users that are comfortable with working through structured exercises themselves, they can quickly extend the skills they learnt during the course. Similarly we use a number of e-learning or e-training partners to provide on demand sessions using interactive media, hands-on exercises and tests. Then there is our CADline Community portal (cadlinecommunity.co.uk) packed with technical solutions and guidance designed specifically to support new BIM adopters.
My advice is to establish what your expectation is for your users before deciding on how you wish them to be trained. Take into account the human aspect of this part of your BIM implementation project and consider how your team can be best developed to deliver the capability you are looking for. Even the best trainers will struggle to create a BIM expert in a couple of days.