Leveraging Building Information Modeling for Facility Management Solutions

A general contractor familiar with BIM and how to integrate FM-specific data can help navigate the interoperability of the two systems, unlocking untapped potential.

Choate Construction Vw Hololens Liberty
Choate Construction

An emerging field in the architecture, engineering and construction industry is the use of building information modeling (BIM) data and information to increase the efficiency of facility management (FM) solutions. Many owners already rely on BIM to save in costs and time during the design and building process, but does that data translate into meaningful information during facility operations?

The food and beverage industry is competitive, and any opportunity to decrease operating costs can translate into advantage in the marketplace and higher profit margins. This developing technology can exponentially increase efficiency in a wide range of FM activities, but potential challenges can quickly render the process impossible to implement or overwhelming to maintain. A general contractor familiar with BIM and how to integrate FM-specific data can help navigate the interoperability of the two systems, unlocking untapped potential. 

Operations and management efficiency: Automation and mobility

BIMs with FM applications is a virtual guide to the building space, monitoring facility operations and assets 24/7. Mobile access to BIM and its integrated data allows the FM team to track facility components, identify inefficiencies in operations and enable quick response to excursion alerts.

Digital tags within BIM connect to a unique identifier on the floor, allowing a full background report on any asset in the system. This visual tool allows the FM team to quickly locate an asset’s exact location in the building. The model also captures how systems connect and relate to one another, showing zones serviced by common components. Digital asset records permit efficient updates of equipment condition assessments, upgrades and manpower calculations. 

A BIM-supported FM system is a proactive approach to facility maintenance, tracking preventive care schedules and reducing the number of unplanned work orders. Tracking performance levels helps establish a benchmark of performance, reducing running costs and refining target outcomes.

Seamless exchange of data

A study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology estimated $10.6 billion was used by facilities in validating, replicating and looking for data during the operations and maintenance phase. When considering all stakeholders in the capital facilities industry (architects, contractors, product suppliers and owners), that total increases to $15.8 billion. Efficiency loss can be tied to manual re-entry of data, duplication of business functions and the reliance on paper-based systems. This waste of resources leads to spending time avoiding problems, filling gaps in information and mitigating delays in operations and projects. 

A potential solution to this exorbitant and unnecessary waste is to maintain a comprehensive, accurate database providing a seamless exchange of electronic data. This means keeping a database that is both accessible and easy to maintain, fully connected to the operations and maintenance of the facility.

The FM team can save time and reduce cost if they are able to incorporate the information collected during the design and construction phase of the building into their own digital system. BIM data holds vital specifications, equipment lists, utility connections and warranty details. At project closeout, the asset data can be extracted from the BIM files and loaded into a centralized database for access by multiple facility management applications. This integration can automate the creation of an equipment inventory list, populate the FM system and reduce redundancy in the facility data. 

To ensure the successful transfer of information deliverables, there needs to be a plan of action identifying the data needed to meet FM requirements. During the early stages of BIM development, primary stakeholders should meet to clearly define components and processes with highest criticality. This is a valuable opportunity to involve the FM manager to understand how the team will use the data and discuss any previous challenges the new system may address. The implementation plan should also assign roles and responsibilities for maintenance during the operations and management phase to ensure its upkeep and accuracy. This roadmap to success can prevent information overload and ensure the BIM data contributes meaningful information to the FM team. The general contractor can then monitor compliance, validate data and ensure the latest information is placed in a central repository until project turnover.

Evolving operations: Looking to the future

Today’s food distribution facility is a complex integration of technology, machinery and staff. Facility managers are tasked with overseeing this high-demand system, ensuring that all elements achieve optimal performance. FM systems integrated with BIMs take the risk out of buying, building or modifying operations. 

When you leverage BIM data, you can achieve greater accuracy in model assumptions. This provides a reliable diagnostic, analytic approach to quickly replicate, investigate and verify a variety of concepts and scenarios. Real-time thermal analysis and manpower calculations help a facility quickly adjust to changing safety regulations and market conditions. Accurate equipment inventories can directly impact the quality of executive decisions and emergency response.

A major goal of BIM models and FM is to take the risk and unknowns out of buying, building or modifying manufacturing systems, using diagnostic and analytic tools that predict the capacity and ability of your current or future system. The owner can successfully pinpoint what’s possible within their current operation through proactive technical insight and then quickly replicate, investigate and verify a variety of scenarios that can impact the performance of their business. Owners are gaining more understanding, in a last-mile fulfillment world, that BIM models and FM keeps distribution facilities and food processing plants from breaking down, keeping the supply moving to the end consumer. 

With more people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual reality (VR) BIM is finding a new value. Even with teams separated across multiple locations, they can virtually access areas of a building together to address unexpected changes or manage complications. When business operations are on the line, the ability to collaborate and make informed decisions is priceless. Wireless VR headsets allow the user to walk through a facility with BIM data visible from a first-person or bird’s-eye view. Team members can instantly see modifications or proposed solutions work out in front of their virtual eyes even when they are 1,000 miles away.

The advantages of BIM continually advance as virtual technology develops and industrial facilities become more automated.