COBie the bane of the contractor or their biggest opportunity?

Working for a main contractor as an Information Manager is a tough job, as he or she must deliver COBie to the clients at handover, as part of the Asset Information Model (AIM). The reason this is difficult, is the huge amount of time and effort required to collect the data that has been asked for by the client. N.B. COBie is just a data schema that has been designed as an information exchange format at handover i.e. the data from COBie should then be used in the Facilities Mangers software to operate and maintain the asset. COBie has Operation and Maintenance data attributes that must be collected such as the Warranty Duration of the parts and labour. The trouble for the Information Manager is that the people that have access to the data he/she needs are the sub-contractors, and many of them are just not willing or able to give the data needed. That is understandable, as for the last 100 or so years they have just given the main contractor paper or PDFs (at the end of the project) about the products and systems that they have installed. This information then goes into the Operation and Maintenance manual. To go from this way of working to supplying data is a huge step for them. This all leaves the poor Information Manager struggling to get the data they must deliver in COBie. So, they have to resort to begging the sub-contractors to fill in the data in excel or do it themselves from the PDFs, that he or she manually writes in the COBie. All of which is time consuming and wasteful.

So why is this so important? An Information Manager recently explained to me that his directors are asking why does BIM Level 2 take us so much time and money, and where is the benefit? This is a fair question, especially as BIM is meant to reduce costs. However, COBie should not be a seen as burden, it should be looked at as an opportunity. Especially as the COBie schema can collect any data. COBie can therefore be used by the contractor to collect data that adds value to their business. But in order for the true benefit of COBie to be realised the following question needs to be answered. How do you collect and deliver the data required by the client as easily and affordably as possible, in order to reduce any cost burden?

The simple answer here is to get the data directly from the manufacturers for the systems or products that the sub-contractor installed. For this to happen, manufacturers need to structure their data in machine readable Product Data Sheets, based on Product Data Templates that are created using European and British standards. The sub-contractor and main contractor can then collect the data they need directly from the manufacturer. This will significantly reduce the time taken for the sub contractors and information manager to collect the data for the project, as the sub-contractor or main contractor does not need to manually enter the data for every product or system for every project. Also as the data is coming directly from the manufacturer, it should be accurate and up to date.

Now that we can easily access manufactures data how can this benefit the information manager and contractor?

Instead of seeing the delivery of data (in COBie) as a bane, why not think about how you could collect data that will help your business i.e. utilising the value of data. Think about it, Google, Facebook, Amazon are making businesses out of data and have profit margins contractors would die for. The raw material for the businesses i.e. data, is collected from all of us at no cost. So why don’t contractors have data acquisition and exploitation strategies? They are being made to collect data, so why not exploit it? So, what data will help your business? The use of data in cost, purchasing and procurement can provide significant business opportunities, as the data in models and the interaction with data from the sub-contractors, manufactures, and merchants can be used to improve procurement decisions, so that real time purchasing and logistics can be delivered whilst aggregating data and utilising machine learning to continually improve the decision-making process. This provides opportunities such as improved ‘just in time’ purchasing and delivery, improved cost management, and collaboration with your supply chain. Other areas where data can support the contractors with improved performance is with Health and Safety, Environmental, and Whole Life Cost analytics. Therefore, if you determine the data that will support your businesses and then mine it from suppliers like manufacturers you can start to exploit it to improve productivity and create new business opportunities.

So how do you get started?

1 – Collaborate with the subcontractors and manufacturers that you often work with and ask them to start supplying data via machine readable Product Data Sheets.

2 – Each contractor should develop a data acquisition and exploitation strategy. The UKBIM Alliance have developed a guidance document and data matrix to get you started in selecting data requirements for the construction and operation of buildings. This will be launched at Digital Construction Week 18th/19th October.