What is BIM?

Alexander Lang

A construction project has the classic characteristics of a project as defined in project management. Complex objectives, completion on schedule, and a fixed budget are the key challenges that must be taken into consideration during the planning phase. In the construction industry, the responsible persons typically use waterfall approaches. However, there’s also an alternative project method: Building Information Modeling (BIM).

BIM is not exactly new, but it’s still been gaining in popularity. So what does Building Information Modeling (BIM) mean, and how does it relate to the ERP system?

Building Information Modeling in the planning phase

Building Information Modeling is an important tool in the planning phase in order to obtain a model relating to the feasibility, requirements planning and cost estimates. That way, you’ll be able to get the first few drafts in CAD systems, to which more details and additional information are added as the project progresses. Thus, the BIM model established in the planning phase is continually updated from the construction phase up to operation. BIM is based on the idea of creating a digital twin of the construction project.

However, it’s not just about traditional 3D CAD drawings - it’s also about component-specific CAD models that describe the individual elements precisely. For instance, a wall is made up of multiple elements which must be captured accordingly in the BIM model. Based on calculations, quantities can be determined in accordance with DIN 276 (in Germany) and can be used for cost calculation. In addition, the processed data can be used to derive bills of quantities.

The collaboration between the companies involved and the specialist planners is another challenge that must be tackled - both in BIM and non-BIM projects. The advantage of BIM is that the data to be exchanged is of higher quality and is directly accessible to those involved. However, it’s important to specify a few rules and to make sure that they are adhered to. The BIM manager is responsible for this task, as well as for coordination.

How does the data get into the ERP system?

For information exchange and communication based on BIM, the organization “buildingSMART” has defined a standardized IFC interface (Industry Foundation Classes) and has added the “BIM Collaboration Format” (BCF) for the purpose of model-based communication. By means of these interfaces, data can be exchanged between BIM-enabled CAD systems, for example if individual specialist departments or specialist planners work with different systems.

But via this interface definition, the exchange of data with the ERP system is also possible and useful. A possible application is transferring the quantities from the BIM model to a linked bill of quantities for awarding building contracts. In addition, commercial tendering and order processing can be planned on the basis of the IFC data. A further example is linking a BIM element with purchasing, such that there is a precise reference to the construction project in the purchasing and production process and it is immediately clear upon delivery to the construction site where the material is intended to be used. Let’s take an individually manufactured window, which is delivered to the building site, as a concrete example. Thanks to the reference to the order or the construction contract in the ERP system, combined with the IFC data, the exact installation point of the window can be determined and can be visualized on site using a mobile end device.

Which possible applications have you identified?

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Alexander Lang
Industry Manager Project | COSMO CONSULT