BIM is frequently touted as the solution to all the challenges associated with design, construction, and lifecycle management of a building. Despite its dramatic growth in acceptance across design and construction disciplines, however, perceptions persist that BIM can fail to deliver tangible and objective return on investment (ROI). Yet when implemented carefully and thoughtfully, it can dramatically impact a retailer's bottom line. To achieve that, you'll need to change the way you think about this technology.
Looking beyond BIM
The most frequently cited benefits of BIM have been higher-quality documents and enhanced coordination. These advantages certainly support improved schedule performance on large, complex projects that span months or years. But retail design and construction occurs in a more compressed timeline, thus presents fewer opportunities for major schedule improvements.
For many clients, ROI is achieved from quickly generating higher unit sales at a lower capital expense. The benefit is often derived from considering this impact across the scale of multi-unit development cycles. Whatever the expectation, the goal should always be to evaluate and optimize the overall development process and not limit the investigation to simply implementing BIM.
All too often, a pilot project becomes the mechanism for testing the benefits of a new process. While this is an important step, it needs to be preceded by clear alignment and articulation of goals. The good news is there are numerous opportunities for retailers to use BIM to enhance the store-development process-knowing where to look is the key. By establishing clear objectives and expectations that look beyond construction documents or construction schedules, it is possible to realize enterprisewide improvements that carry a meaningful ROI well beyond the confines of design and construction.
Think building information management
It's still BIM, but considering the process as one of management, rather than modeling, will allow other benefits outside of the traditional design documentation to become part of the conversation. By shifting the focus from modeling to managing building information, new opportunities abound. Adopting a BIM process will yield a tremendous amount of data about the stores and make that information accessible to all channels of the organization. The challenge then becomes turning that data into actionable information.
Imagine the design documents as a rich database of information that can be assembled in unlimited configurations to generate reports with ease. Move past the idea that design and prototype documents are best represented as drawing sets that sit on a shelf. Those documents are simply a report generated from a carefully constructed database. This new approach maintains a single source of truth, thus eliminates duplication, costly errors, and time delays.
Under this management methodology, design variations, alternate specifications, and regional variances can be managed within one model, simplifying change and reducing cost. What may have previously been managed with dozens of prototypes can now be managed with one. The benefits of adopting the management methodology include:
Companies should demand tools that allow for quick and accurate adaptation and enable customer insights and market trends to influence store design and construction-at any point in the process. BIM should be recognized not only as a tool that can manage that change, but one that can give retailers the best execution of their vision through data management at any point in the process.
Develop an execution plan that outlines the expected benefits of implementing a BIM process with clear, achievable goals. Cultivate intelligent, interoperable building content that will grow with each successive project, creating standards that allow everyone to contribute to the content-development process. This will allow for an accelerated, collaborative adoption of BIM.
Andrew Maletz is executive vice president at WD Partners.
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