VPMS a.k.a. Design Dashboard

About VPMS™/ The Project Dashboard™ At TwHartmann Inc., my staff and I jointly implemented Operations Excellence in the form of “LEAN” which is also called the Toyota Production System. This system relied upon top and mid-level leadership using a visual project management system (VPMS) that improved communication between the project participants on a weekly basis. Using the VPMS, we developed and implemented new company standards that improved our key work processes. These standards led to further process improvements in our project delivery and reduction of defects. We focused on reliability as a quality metric while measurably reduced errors. Our communication abilities improved with our experience using the VPMS. This process can be easily adapted to work on projects within manufacturing facilities. TwHartmann Inc. was able to drive what we believe were industry best practices and improved standard practices. We measured simultaneous improvements in both reliability and cost reduction. Due to the continually improving process, our firm had measurable increased staff resource availability concurrently with cost reductions to our projects. Paradoxically, the staff utilization ratio decreased due to our following then improving our internally developed procedures and training. My success in my own firm will allow me to establish implementation teaming and teach work processes (i.e., “train the trainer” efforts). As the process standards emerged and were rolled out throughout the firm, my staff and I developed and adapted new training methodologies. I provided ongoing support to my staff and clients. We began to establish long- term measures and tracking such as defect management and reliability. As an example, we used Request for Information (RFI) received as one benchmark metric. We used internal and external performance benchmarking to drive further changes once we had created a stable process and significantly reduced the number of RFI’s. I have been studying “Six Sigma” reliability tools and the LEAN use of “Five Whys” root cause analysis as methods to ascertain ways to successfully create and monitor change and project management. In the 1930’s, the U.S. Training within Industry (TWI) program was the system used to formalize Facilitation of work efforts and improve oral and written communication. This system was adopted by Japan after the war and became known as LEAN or Toyota Production System. This LEAN system create a body of knowledge of operations and maintenance and led to Six Sigma and its reliability tools and root cause analysis. As a successful LEAN practitioner, I can “walk the walk and talk the talk” about process improvements.




The Process is Purple: How an Owner sees Value. AGC Philadelphia 10-8-2009

Slide 1: The Process is Purple

[Carry in bag, wear hardhat] The Process is Purple:  How an Owner sees Designers and Builders, Value-Creation using BIM. I’ll introduce some principles, called “LEAN”, to understand BIM and IPD in the context of the building process. Here’s the context! The Owner wants a Purple Building.  The architect, who is green, draws up a set of blueprints.  The Contractor redlines the heck out of the set to meet the Owner’s budget and perhaps a hint of purple is left.  I heard today the central idea of this talk I want to share

Strategy before resources


Slide 2: The Presenter is Orange:


First, in this slide show, I try to highlight the themes I’m introducing using color.  Generally, those ideas related to people, such as teamwork, will be presented in orange. 

For Philosophy I’ll use (green):


For Process and Value Stream, I’ll use (purple) The Process is Purple!:


Again, Ideas about People will show up in (Orange):Think: The orange team!  Orange Teamwork!


Problem-solving ideas generally appear in Red: Problems are usually red, aren’t they?  Being in the red is an issue, Right?


When I present an idea to think about, I’ll often use the words “Reflect on” or “think about” with the color (Blue)—Nice, calming color: Blue.


I’d like to offer a quick introduction on the unique perspective that I bring.  My background is a structural engineer who has been intently studying the introduction of Building Information Modeling as a “value-add” to both design and construction.  Over eight years ago I started investigating 3D and structural integration when Autocad was the main 3D CAD platform being used.  In 2006, I hired a LEAN consultant who helped me transform my structural engineering firm into a “LEANer” practice just before the economy collapsed on top of my firm.  I do have some metrics on its success, though:  I saw a 30% productivity increase in my office with the same staff.  Concurrently, I also saw my utilization ratio go from over 70% to about 50%.  That meant that I was more profitable, less stressed and had more capacity for new work with the same staff so we started to focus on marketing new areas of work.  My work quality improved, less RFI’s, and happier staff.  I started to look to collaborate with suppliers and subcontractors and sought clients further into the construction side rather than more design work for architects.  In this presentation, I’ll share some of those stories, a bit more at the back of the talk.   I want to begin by telling you there is hope for our industry, and this economy HAS to drive some needed  productivity gains.    Today, there is a lot of discussion in the media about the value of Building Information Modeling, a.k.a. “BIM”.  I’ll show you a good roadmap for a BIM strategy for your firm as you devote resources to this process.

Slide 3: Takeaways

Here are the important ideas to consider.  If you want to get a copy of this talk, throw a business card into the hardhat.  Or contact me.  I’ll give you my contact information again at the end of the talk.  First, we need to understand that the Philosophy we choose is THE Essential element.  We as an industry are trying to focus on improving what we deliver to our customer, the building Owner.  We need to focus instead on what the customer wants.   There’s a subtle, important difference here: What we deliver may not be what the customer wants!!!  Consider what Owner Values:

Collaboration, teamwork, great project, fast delivery and not too costly!  

We as the design and construction community focus on what we need — to make money.  I’m not suggesting we don’t need to make money — We do!  Absolutely!  But we tend to lose our focus on what our Owners want and expect.

I’ll use these term repeatedly and interchangeably:  “add value to project” and “Process Improvements”,  I’ll show you one “value” or “process” map as a guide.  It’s a very simple idea, yet it gets to the heart of something we overlook.  First, Design and construction is really “one thing”, not two really separate activities.  Both sides – design and build — are trying to make the Owner happy.  Right now, there are two contracts and a bit of adversarial nature and that history is in the business.   That’s from the tradition of low-bidding work.  Finally government agencies are seeing they get crappy work for low prices, so they are re-inventing how contracts are done a bit and IPD seeks to address that nastiness, too.   That brings me to one bit of self-promoting advice as a takeaway:  I advocate that contractors, when possible, hire your structural engineer directly instead of letting the architect bring their structural engineer to the table who is really a bit of an unknown.  Same thing is true for mechanical HVAC engineers and these contract shifts can really benefit owners and benefit the team, too.  You’ll see, there can be more learning.  And think about pulling in supply chain, such as precasters, steel fabricators, steel detailers into the game –the team –, too.  This is very important for a couple of reasons.  First, .People Focus:  Trusted team can work faster, better, cheaper.  Start working on the reliable team as a first step to create some real teamwork for the Owner.  Second: Problem-Solving:   This is all underpinning the philosophy of teamwork.  All those lessons learned from the field can start to be folded back into the start of the process.  Begin from a place a bit further down the line next time, then — the same team, more teamwork and fewer communication errors.   B.I.M. is one tool to address some of the communication problems through collaboration and teamwork, but a new design team will bring new issues to the builder, and vice versa.  BIM can stir it up, job-to-job, both good and bad.  Look at the team, first.


Here’s a cardboard sign I grabbed from a guy –out-of-work guy.  He’s holding out an orange hard hat.  Looks like a team player to me, so I throw him a couple bucks for the hardhat. This guy tells me what is maybe the world’s first BIM joke and I know is the world’s first two-part BIM joke.  The story sets up this whole idea of BIM as “value-add” from the customer’s perspective. 


Slide 4: Will BIM for Food.  Ask me about BIM Joke


Part 1:

An architect, structural engineer, general contractor and electrical subcontractor are golfing.  Ahead of them, they see a man wandering around the golf course on his hands and knees.  He finds his ball, hits it, and then wanders around again until he finds it.  The foursome calls over the course marshal and ask him what is going on.


The marshal says “That man is a local developer who lost his sight in a fire in one of his developments adjacent to this golf course, pulling a child out of the burning building. To honor him, we gave him a life-time pass so that he could continue to play”. 


The architect was so moved he said, “I’ll design him a new ADA accessible house using the latest BIM technology, for free, to help him out”.  The general contractor said, “Ill build the house at my cost using all that BIM model information to ensure that he has a great place to live the rest of his life.”  The electrical subcontractor said, “I’ll wire the complete house for voice recognition so that everything in the house will work under his voice command.”  Finally, the structural engineer speaks up and says, “Can’t he just play golf at night?”


Part II.

A year later, the architect, engineer, builder and subcontractor find themselves in court, being sued by the blind developer.  No one can understand how this happened – they had done a wonderful thing for the heroic man.

The developer explained to the judge, “At first, my wife and I  thought that  house was a wonderful thing, but I talk in my sleep.  In the middle of the night, all the appliances and lights would come on, waking my wife and me.  I’d have to run around the house, tripping and falling to turn everything off.  As you might expect, that negatively affected our marriage.   Eventually, I took to sleeping during the day while my wife was working and we finally divorced. 


The judge was incredulous. “All these people went out of their way to help you as much as possible, and yet it turned out so badly.  I just have one question, how did you ever manage to survive that kind of stress?” 

The blind man replied, “I took up golfing at night.” 


Think about this story!!  BIM needs to focus on “adding value to the customer”.  The customer may not get any value from a designer or contractor using BIM.  One reason that I think BIM adoption has been a bit slow in the commercial construction industry and design community is that we have not yet found THAT client who actually wants a “virtual” building.  Most Owners would prefer something that they can lease or sell, and preferably next to that real golf course.   The goal of most developers is “faster, better, and cheaper” to the market.  These can be outcomes of successful BIM, but these outcomes can be achieved by traditional methods, too.   So the BIM offering needs to be better.

Slide #5 Lean thinking (4P’s):

LEAN is the heart of this talk: It’s really one big circle: Four things, over and over.  Lean thinking is summarized with 4P’s – Philosophy-green, Process-purple, People-orange and Problem-solving-red. This framework of 4P’s will let us talk about BIM, IPD and how we need to work together.  Lean thinking is well published, there are LOTS of articles about how Toyota works, how to adapt this thinking into many industries.  And there is some effort to apply this into construction. Applying this to construction is VERY difficult – not impossible – because it has so many small businesses, small players.  There is no Toyota of Construction yet.  Every project is a new game and we have been taught to compete on price as an industry.  This economy is reinforcing that hard-bid pricing mentality, and it will eventually kill some competitors off.  You see lots of startups, too, competing on price.  I think LEAN lets you rewrite the rules a bit, gives you a chance for surviving, perhaps.  I had a client, a light-gage subcontractor who recently won some work based on improving the schedule AND great cost.   He and I worked together quite a bit “LEANing” out the engineering design with him; focusing on field improvements, standard clips, and panelization, anything to reduce his labor costs.  Over about five projects we saw him get his costs – complete, full scope workin line with the lowest-cost guy who makes money with change orders.  And he started telling his clients how much schedule time he could save the project—three weeks, four weeks!  He just got awarded a subcontract because the job before saved the Owner (and GC) four weeks of schedule.  Owner was happy, GC was happy, subcontractor was happyWin-win-win!!.  That’s where you have to get to. Everybody has to win, particularly the Owner.

Slide #6 Owner Value:

Here’s where we start. Philosophy — Green: The Owner has Cash, we want it!  Let’s start with Owner value: I believe that owner value (“I want a building”) can be summed up in the four words contractors promise:

Faster, better, cheaper construction”. 


If you are a little more civilized in dealing with the Client, perhaps like an architect, just say:

“We deliver highest quality projects, ahead of schedule and under budget.”  

Slide #7: Reflect on Owner’s Philosophy:

Let’s reflect on that idea a bit.  We’ve just promised the Owner a perfect building! And faster, better, cheaper!   Apply the philosophy, think about how we give the Owner what he wants, thinking about quality, and improve the process—that’s what LEAN is about.  That’s where we’re going! Controlling what you can to eliminate every wasted effort – from both design and field. Everything we do must be focused on creating Owner value: That’s the imperative:  Faster, better cheaper, all at the same time!  We all think that we know that’s impossible, but really it’s not quite impossible.  Of course, delivering the perfect design and perfect building is impossible – there are tradeoffs, but trying is not.  Sure, there will be compromises and tradeoffs.  But the goal should not be a compromise.  Once you get it,I’m going to make the Owner happy by creating EXACTLY what he wants” you then need to find out EXACTLY what he wants. Price is almost always in there, but at the end of the project, the cost is what it is – you know that.  The BIG dream is different.   Say that this Owner wants this purple building – that’s the dream.   But then you’ve never done a purple building so you start selling the Owner a bit – red building with hints of blue.  Your competitor has the blue building with hints of red.  Not what the Owner wants, but maybe it’s close enough from your view.  We give the owner something mediocre, and he accepts it.  We only work with that Owner once, a whole new team the next time, same thing – average work, over and over.  Yet we as designers and builders control the process, not the Owner.  The Owner just has the money and the dream.  We want his money, he wants the dream realized.  He hires us because we know the process of interpreting his dream into buildable ideas then delivering the building or project.  You just can no longer afford to be average!

Average is dead in this economyExcellent has to be the new average!

Slide #8: Think: Process = Value:

This whole idea of LEAN is really a big, controlled science experiment – A big circle, Start to finish: Start again!  On and On!!  We need to control the variables and use feedback to improve the design and build process.  Experiments are the big circle, the results and conclusions start the next experiment beginning.  Are we learning anything as we go forward?  Obviously, not enough to improve the Owner’s expectations.  Every project is “one-up” science, isn’t it?  Now we’re adding BIM to the mix and we’re telling the Owner this will make it all better.  And it does, in some cases, but there’s still no control to the process, no conscious improvement!  As opposed to spiraling inward towards quality and reliable delivery, we often orbit or get completely thrown out of the orbit into litigation.  So we’ll think circular flow, moving inward, every phase in the process has to spiral inwards towards Quality.


Slide #9: Think: Value map is the Process:

Here’s the last idea: — a map of the design and construction process.  This is the roadmap, both design and construction together. Design and construction — not two things – it’s just one thing!  We’ve pulled the circle into a line and chopped it up a bit.  You have to accept this premisethis is the breakthrough you need to get your head around completely.  So important!! The design office and field – construction is just one thing to the Owner.  He doesn’t care about the design firm or the contractor, really, – he just wants that purple building at the end.  We are just the way he can realize his dream.  He can’t do it by himself; can he?  Otherwise he wouldn’t need to hire us. Once we realize that, we need to keep remembering that.  That’s why it’s all so competitive – we all are just the way the Owner gets his purple building dream!  He doesn’t REALLY care, at the end, who delivers it, — we all look a bit the same to him (mostly orange) — so price becomes his means of choosing. He uses the other green!— Money!! No one is really offering schedule improvement or quality as the selling point.  You have to be able to guarantee better schedules and higher quality at the same or lower price point!  Anybody ready to sign up for that?    This map, up there, where I start from, comes from a Lean Construction Institute paper. It’s pretty simple to understand: Four triads and 9 phases.  Think of the 9 phases – they’re the circles — ending by milestones or deliveries.  Four triads: They’re the process: Plan, do, check, act! I’ll show you an overlay of traditional design phases just to show you it works conceptually with the way we do business today.  Yet look!  Design can be reduced to just two big triangles.  And the construction part is two triangles, too: procurement and installation.  That’s about as simple as it gets – four triads:  See, it’s simple: Plan-Do-Check-Act!  Every little circle in the map is the same: Plan-Do-Check-Act! 

Slide #10: Think: PDCA Just like P-D-C-A Plan, Do, Check and Act. And remember, there’s a got to be a feedback loop, a circle.  What we learned has to come forward to the next project. That’s the most important thing to improvement – we need to learn. That’s why PDCA is revolving around the core of our philosophy.  This revolving process, the last slide, we’ll see it again.  Keep it in mind! This process improvement is the most important thing.  Driving quality for the owner.  Who’s doing this? The orange teamdesigner and builder, working together as one—one team, not two.

Slide #11: The People are Orange:

How does that feedback loop work?  Same circle!  See? By institutionalizing knowledge into the process and learning from the project and the process.  People, of course, are the learners and hold the expertise.  That’s a TRUE decision point for the Owner: He believes that the team he selects has the ALL expertise he seeks.  He’s always picking the architect with the purple building portfolio and the builder with the purple building expertise, isn’t he?  And because we’re so competitive, we team up with the portfolio of work rather than the people we trust.  New team — every time!  No loyalty to the process, only to the project. What we learned last time doesn’t come forward to the next project. New architect, new structural, new mechanical. Start over!  The Owner think he bought the teamwork, he really only bought the portfolio, not a team. 


Slide #12: Owner Selection of Team: Collaboration, Trust, Partnering and Working together.

Here’s what the Owner thinks he selected: Orange Teamwork for that Purple Building.  Here’s where BIM can provide some collaboration glue:  Communicating and working together using common model and language.  Yet the designer and builder have different BIM goals, don’t they?  The architect’s goal is to prepare the best interpretation of the Owner’s dream to a constructible idea (first triad), hand that knowledge off to the builder (second triad), and the builder’s goal is to manage the supply chain (third triad) and construct and deliver the work (fourth triad).  

I think that collaboration, partnering and trust are the central points of Integrated Project DeliveryYou need to get that point!  It’s about Trust!   If design professionals and contractors already have client’s trust and can work together, BIM and IPD are icing on the cake.  If, on the other hand, you and your associates have trouble sharing toys in the sandbox, BIM is probably not going to keep sand out of your eyes!

Slide #13: Reflection: People are Orange:

How does that feedback loop work from the people perspective?  By institutionalizing knowledge into the process of building – front to back!  Are you starting to see this? How this is one circle, designers learning from builders and vice-versa?  One thing!  Look, Look at the start, are you teaming with the same group or is it a new process with new people every time?  Are you willing to share your knowledge??

Slide #14: Owner’s Dilemma:

Let’s go back to the Owner.  Now we understand his philosophy, we can identify his dilemma.  He wants the best building at lowest cost – which is what the designer and builder both say they offer—they’ve got that purple building portfolio to prove it.  Based on this, he selects “the best team”, and somehow just ends up with a mediocre result.   We really didn’t solve his problem well, did we?  We needed that job! Needed to make money! and the Owner sort of got what he wanted.  So, all things being equal in his mind, he’s going to go by price next time, isn’t he?  The offering has to be different:  Guaranteeing higher quality or better schedule or both, at the same price (or lower) as everyone else.  But we have to let go of cost as what we are driving down.  Start to drive schedule; the price is known.  A shorter schedule has to cost less!

Slide #15: Problem Solving:

Let’s go back to that Deming PDCA Process and think about problem-solving.  This is not about the PROJECT, it’s about the fourth PProblem solving.  Did we really solve the problem?  I suggest that the answer is “no”, we built a project – that almost purple building that the Owner almost wanted with that orange team that sort of got the job done.  I think that the same issues show up.  A big problem is the team!  Ad hoc Teams cannot solve real problems on an ad hoc basis – teamwork needs dedication, repetition and learning.  So the next time we propose we use a new team (you know, they have a better portfolio), or at least lots of new participants.  No learning!! So lots of the lessons learned are really out the door.   Listen!! That’s the reason I suggested that contractors start to team directly with the same structural and mechanical engineers – tell the architect who you want in that part of the team, “in your corner” – start looking for reliability – from start to finish.  As contractors, you can control one set of variables in the delivery process.  And these two engineers: mechanical and structural, both control big systems of work, a lot of which falls on the critical path.  Lots of schedule!!  So now you have a bit of a lever to lift the process up towards reliability and maybe improve the schedule.  Does the Owner care? Ask him.   Probably notDoes the architect care?  Absolutely!  I can almost guarantee that you’ll have a fight on your hands to bring YOUR consultant in.  Why?  Part of those consultants’ fees goes through the architect, so you’ll be directly impacting his income stream.  And the argument will be that the architect is doing the coordination with the consultants, right?  I’m going to let you all think about the quality of the document coordination we have in the industry right now.  Come to your own conclusions.  How many RFI’s?  Who are the best engineers you know?  They probably were on your best projects.  Cause-and-effect.  This idea is REALLY meant to stir up your thinking, to have you start to think about tearing apart and rebuilding the value chain – rebuilding the process.  I’m challenging you right here to figure this out.  How do we fix this broken industry?  Roll it forward using one big circle! I’ve got some stories from my work as a structural engineer I’ll share at the end that shows you some of this LEAN Thinking.  It’s radical, but it’s real! I want you to start thinking about everything from the Owner’s perspective, solve his dilemma—faster, better, cheaper.   My second reason for this suggestion is that now you’ll start to be able to capture some of the knowledge and lessons learned.  Pull it forward!   The precast industry is pretty successful in managing to hold this structural engineering knowledge inside their delivery process.  Many of the precasters either have structural engineers on staff or team with the same engineers all the time.  You see it in design-build mechanical firms, too.  Same team, over and over.  The downside, and you know this, is that the D-B mechanical firms can give up what’s the best for owner for what costs the least for that DB sub.  That’s why the LEED HVAC commissioning thing shows up, third-party, make sure it’s the best thing for the Owner.  Our industry can’t be trusted, — too competitive! Let’s add another player!  Here’s a marketing idea for you:   Offer the Owner extended HVAC warranties on the mechanical systems at the same construction cost as your competitor.  Five years, ten year warranties!  There’s an edge if you can pull it off!  Get into the Owner’s shoes — what would you want if you were getting that purple building?  Take away the headaches for him; look down the road to his customer, too!  Bad mechanical systems reflect poorly for the Owner  — your sub is gone after a year.  If you want that next job, figure out how to make that Owner HAPPY!  Make his clients happy!

Slide 16: Value Map

That brings us right back to that value map I introduced.  Here are the traditional design phases right on top of the map.   The front part shows you can overlay Schematic Design, Design Development, Contract documents, Construction Administration right on top of the phases.  Pretty cool, right?  Now remember this is one thing – one process, one team!  We need to pull the builder knowledge up front with the designer, too, share some knowledge.  How much does that purple building cost? That conceptual budget number has to be dead on, and nobody, not even the Owner, knows how much purple building he can get.  Now the contractor is right in the design game! Right at the front! Oh s hit!  So traditionally, the designer does these early phases – SD, DD — to work out the pricing.  And the builders, particularly if it’s a competitive environment, subcontractors, they leave out all the missing scope and Hey! The Owner at first seems pretty happy.  Then, move down the phases to CD’s and go out to bid.  All that scope shows up in the final numbers and the Owner gets very unhappy.  Has anyone had this happen on a project?  Then the unhappy Owner gets to work through this process over, the architect blaming the contractor and the contractor cursing the architect.  No one is happy!   So the owner eventually learns that it looks like we don’t know what we’re doing.  He doesn’t get what he wants!  Read up on target value design, where the pricing is set at the start and the idea is design-to-budget and drawn to budget.  Offer that to an Owner, guarantee the price before the project is drawn.  See – it’s just one thing, but we have to work together—one team.  That brings us to the BIM tool.  I believe that this one tool can help save our industry.

Slide 17: Value Map with BIM

Let’s start throwing BIM into that value map and take a look at what can happen.  BIM is what I call a process tool, it’s not a phase, but it influences the work of many phases. Every triad!  This map has a number of what I hear called “BIM islands”, there are early and later BIM models, and they don’t necessarily overlap or work together.  Here’s the structural example.  I’m working out a concept and I use something like RAMsteel to create a steel framing model (Let’s call it BIM-A).  My CADD guy gets that into Bentley or maybe 3D Autocad (BIM-B).  We send off our stuff to the architect, who is using REVIT and issues BIM-C, D, E and so on!  All the way to “Rev-0” or “Issued for Construction”. Later on, the builder gets a steel fabricator pricing the RAMsteel model, and his detailer is running Tekla creating BIM-1.  So there are lots of BIM’s out there, and they’re generally not on speaking terms yet.  Can you see how this is parallel to the whole team thing we just got through?  No learning, back-to-front.  Let’s dig into the BIM a bit.

Slide 18:

Current BIM Overview

Let’s take a look at how BIM is fitting into the value map we are using.  First, BIM is marketing.  Marketing may be more successful if you have a differentiator, such as a unique brand name or a proprietary model format.   This means that many software vendors want to add their own bits of “alphabet soup” to the software you might select.  It’s can be confusing and overwhelming, so we’ll finish up with the Owner’s perspective on BIM: Perfect building, faster, better, cheaper. 

Here’s a quick BIM overview:

“BIM” is often also called “VDC for “virtual design and construction” or sometimes is called simply “VC” for short, depending on whose marketing literature you read.   BIM really is a 3D building construction database.  Think of the building objects as having some intelligence– intelligence endowed by its creators, either the author of the software and/or the modeler.  Model creators include both design and construction professionals using ideas often interpreted by technicians, using software being developed through user feedback.   One reason that BIM has not yet been accepted throughout the commercial building industry is that the CAD designers (the technicians) are typically more conversant with the technology than the design professionals. And by definition, the technicians love technology no matter what the cost.  This means that these powerful tools are in the hand of the technician rather than the professional who is the final decision-maker.   It may also be a bit important for software vendors to keep the software a bit obscure and difficult to use to help support the sales and training community that has grown up to support the technicians around these vendors.  See?  If the software was low cost, easy to use and high quality, sales per license might suffer yet our construction industry might flourish since we’d be delivering higher value, easier-to-use, better communication – one circle — for the Owner.   On the other hand, creating competing “standards,” particularly for data exchange between applications, could help the larger vendors maintain or create market share.  So there are some other market influences beyond us that might be working against our delivering that best purple building to the Owner.   

Slide #19: BIM as Marketing

Let’s go back for one minute to that starting story of the blind man.  BIM had nothing to do with the outcome.  BIM was in that joke because this talk is about Building Information Modeling, improving the process and making owners happy.   Everyone in design and construction, even on the golf course, is talking about BIM. Many people are using it and often very successfully.   Here’s what you may be hearing from the marketing side:

“Great opportunity for new business”

“Don’t be left behind”

I am not in any way minimizing BIM – it is one great tool.  But as they say in construction, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.   And hammers make a lot of noise.  So does BIM.

Slide #20: BIM as Alphabet Soup

Which brings us to the BIM second idea: BIM as “Alphabet Soup”

There are lots of alphabet letters that are helpful in walking through the maze of electronic buildings.  I’m going to focus on those most near and dear to structural engineers, but there are a lot of letter combinations floating around.  First, the historical one (call it “pre-BIM”) is DWG, which stands for Autocad drawing format.  There is also historical DXF, which stands for drawing exchange format.  Both can be used 3D, and many Autodesk third party vendors provide proprietary “objects” which become “proxy objects” if you don’t have the third party software.   Many of the letter combinations various represent data file types: IFC, XML, X3D, RVT, PLN, and on and on.

For the analysis of structures and for structural steel alone there are a number of data structures:

KISS, CIS/2, SDNF, DSTV, STD, RAM…we can also throw in DWG, RVT, PLN and IFC to this mix.  Sound confusing?  It is, even to me!  And I’ve been REALLY studying this!


The emerging data standard for architectural B.I.M. seems toward Autodesk Revit (architect led).  The federal government recently selected the Bentley products as their standard for their procurement.  I think that builders are mostly Revit and a bit Archicad. My experience at CH2M HILL suggests that the Bentley platform Microstation is also very common in industrial work and big EPC companies. Autodesk and Bentley recently announced in a press release about their data sharing co-venture.  Stay tuned on that one!   I personally believe one reason that BIM has not emerged full force is that the BIM available today is not yet strong in delivering the promised “owner value” — that is the faster, better cheaper building.  I do believe there is a great body of evidence that many, not all, BIM adopters are seeing a return on investment for their own businesses and process improvements.  That can make a lot of sense, particularly if you own one island of BIM in the value map we have been looking at.  BIM is really good at trying to get builders and designers “on the same page” – better communication, maybe even teamwork!  We’re starting to see some bridging of BIM islands.


Slide 21: BIM Takeaway:

Here’s what we can take away: BIM can certainly add value to the Owner.  But the focus has to be on a faster, better, more reliable process to improve the delivery of projects for Owners.  From a BIM marketing perspective, owners need some education as to the value of a building information model – that is, we are seeking faster, better and higher quality work on their behalf.  I think we will see the best improvement on cost when we get a handle on a reliability of delivering a robust process:   That is, teamwork and trust.  Let’s remember what the Owner of a construction project ultimately values:  “The purple building, not the purple BIM.” 

Slide 22: IPD Wrapper:

I hope that you are starting to get comfortable with the value map, and beginning to believe in this as a way to talk about improving the process.  We’re moving toward a more integrated thinking about design and construction.  Just as a side note, this map also can be used to explain the rise in design-build contracting – there exists a “value-add” to Owners.  So far, BIM on the value map been introduced.  I want to introduce and briefly touch on those letters “IPD”, which stands for “integrated project delivery”.  This is a newly developing contract form to help owners understand that working together should cost less, improve schedule and overall is better than fighting one another on cost.  Here are those teamwork words to reconsider.  This is what I believe Owner’s are looking for: Collaboration, Communication Teamwork and Trust.  BIM can be and should be part of a healthy team’s diet.  IPD is a wrapper of protection around the process.  The good news about IPD is that now we’re starting to talk about sharing risks and rewards with the Owner – trying to break that low-cost buyer mentality and substitute “value-add” which should be really a whole different way of thinking.  I hope that by now you are seeing “value” and “cost” as very different animals, different ways of thinking, and different ways of selling!  This IPD wrapper is someone else’s presentation, pay attention!  This is really important!  I’m not going to spend any more time on this but let me know if what I talked about today helps understand where this IPD is going.

Slide #23:  Putting Cost on the Map:

Let’s put cost on the map: We do need to talk about cost, too and give it some context within our value map.  I think that the existing design and construction industry has NAILED “cheaper”.  We (and I include Owners here) buy the supply chain on very competitive bids; write onerous contracts to protect our firms (and the Owners we represent).  Let’s begin by giving ourselves an A+ here on cost.  Then as an industry, we promise to deliver quality in both our contract documents and at the jobsite.  The design and construction industry then strive to make money, by cutting costs due to competitive pressures and end up delivering mediocrity (or worse!).  So builders either seek change orders – often fought by design professionals who have a different agenda for the Owner (here’s the fight!) – and/or reduce the quality to the Owner.  Or we just give up.  I’d give the overall industry a C, barely passing on quality delivery.   Plus the change orders drop our “A+” on costs down to maybe a solid “B”.  (You know, nobody really wants change orders!!)  We have the cost thing figured out.  So the last thing we have left –pre-BIM – out of the trio: budget, quality and schedule (or cheaper, better and faster) is faster.  But let’s think about what we have told the Owner.  He’s originally hired the architect team and builder team because he thinks we’re the best, and then we end up fighting each other produce an average building and bog down timely completion with an RFI fight.  Why shouldn’t that Owner use cost as his basis, his quality expectations and schedule have been set by our history of not working together?

Here is the slide that puts cost on the map.  For this slide, I assumed that you can get some sort of a building for $100 per square foot.  I’m generous and financially sound, so I figured the upfront soft costs of design to be 10% or $10/ per square foot.  Then, I think that the GC should get 15% or $15 per square foot for his efforts.  Now we throw cost up on the value map we have been talking about all along.  Because we have separated cost and value, we can start to pull apart the process and eliminate wasted efforts and work on streamlining the process.    You could use this map for and IPD agreement on cost sharing.

I am hearing that BIM is delivering “faster” and “cheaper” yet it ALSO should be promising “better”.  But I believe that 3D models, properly used, can offer that VERY great, elusive opportunity for all three: faster, better and cheaper design and construction — concurrently.  I also believe that, contrary to many opinions, all three – faster, better and cheaper — MUST and can be achieved simultaneously.  Right now, I am seeing some ad hoc in-house “design” consultancies emerging within larger general contractors.  I think that this is a “self-defense” response.  There’s a strong, often true notion that design professionals have lost sight of how to build and manage costs.  This is also the reason why design-build has grown — the Owners need constraints, primarily to meet their cost pro-forma.  Can you begin to see how value creation is separate from cost management?  Now we can begin to work on improving the process. Time to circle up, work as a team, improve it end-to-end.


Slide #24: MacLeamy

Now we can overlay the MacLeamy curve onto the value map and here we are in the home stretch.  This value map is not to scale as far as time goes, but it is representative, mixing up the orange team and the purple process.  The compelling suggestion from MacLeamy is that the process can be made more efficient and shorter by influencing the design earlier, where the creation of high value for the Owner occurs.  I believe that the missing element is that feedback, knowledge contribution and learning that comes out during and at the end of the process but never goes back to the beginning.  Sure, every organization has a bit of that learning, so most firms stay competitive with the status quo.  Yet the overall industry is not improving because the individual firm work efforts are not aligned for the Owner’s benefit.  No one circles back to the start!  One paradox of LEAN is that the collaborative solution is collectively superior to individually optimized contributions.  That is where BIM might help us get our act together.   

We need to re-think the process altogether and change the question:


Can BIM provide simultaneously faster, better and cheaper buildings? 


Can the design and construction industries partner together to provide the faster, better and cheaper buildings Owners want?  That’s why integrated project delivery is emerging (IDP) alongside design-build and traditional construction.  Teamwork!

Slide #25: Future State #1 of BIM and Collaboration

Now, the next real, practical hurdle is whether we can get BIM to work together for our Owner and his purple building? As I suggested earlier, there may be some strong reasons that the vendors won’t be trying to make our lives simpler and more collaborative.  The BIM marketplace is just like the design and construction marketplace. Fierce! Lots of software participants competing for the market and stirring up the alphabet soup.  This slide shows the value map as an idealization of how data can be centralized to a repository for team access.  This data sharing is currently attainable, but again, there is an underlying assumption of “one team”.   Also, shared data is normally about a project, not about the process and the knowledge stays with the team member.  That’s another reason that consistent teaming and trust is so important. 

 Slide #26: Future State #2 of BIM and Collaboration – structural steel and rebar in the value process

Now you’ve seen the current state of BIM in the context of overall collaboration.  This is my final slide that shows one possible future state value map for BIM, based upon ongoing investigation as a structural engineer.  Once the data is centralized, it is possible to share it for the greater good of the process.   There is an emerging patent-pending data sharing process for structural steel called CIS/3D.  The American Institute of Steel Construction has supported data sharing using a data format called CIS/2 since the early 1990’s.  Yet this format has not emerged as the front runner for Structural BIM models and it is not uniformly supported by structural analysis software and other BIM vendors, so even in this one part of the industry the BIM is a bit broken.  And we probably can’t expect the greater BIM arena to be beholden to the structural formats so CIS/2 will have to adapt into to the current BIM formats.  Yet, in a minute, I’ll tell you some true stories about test-drives of actual improvements to the structural engineering process when the faster, better and higher quality to the Owner is the overarching goal.    

The questions I’ll leave you with, once we recognize that we MUST work together is:

 Can BIM help the design and construction industry work together? 


That answer obviously is yes, but we MUST agree to work together first.


The final question is:

Can 3D modeling help an Owner get a better building quicker and at lower cost?


That answer, too, is obviously yes.


Since the answers to “adding value” are yes, we conclude that BIM is here to stay and will be adopted.  The impediment to adoption is not technical but teamwork and trust.


Thank you for your attention.  Here are the stories:


Part 1: Buying Shop Drawings (Large Firm)

Part 2: Buying Shop Drawings (Small Firm)

Part 3: Vendor Shipping Rebar (LEAN delivery)


Part 1: Standard Work Drawing

Part 2: Engineering and Build Improvements

Part 3: Panelization and Schedule Improvements (3-4 weeks)

Part 4: Cost containment/reliability competitiveness

Part 5: Award based upon history, not cost

Structural Steel

Part 1: Standard Connections: Rangeview 2 + 3 Steel Fabricator.

Part 2: Schedule improvements: 3 weeks+

Part 3: Rangeview 3 Cost metric: Bidding of work, substitute supplier-connections

Part 4: Campus West Lightgage+Steel, 8 weeks + $500K

Part 5: Harmony: Detailer on Standard Connections

Marketing: Part 1

“Free 3D Model” to Contractor and Rangeview Steel Fabricator for Pricing

BIM Strategy

Welcome to BIM Strategy. This is my first post on Building Information Modeling.  I just realized how egalitarian BIM is, many of the BIM modelers have roots in CADD management.   There are steel detailers in BIM as well as seasoned design professionals.  My blog focus will be “seeing BIM through the lens of LEAN”.  LEAN is the adjective that is used to describe Toyota Production System a.k.a. The Toyota Way.  I’m a structural engineer so my focus will be on the value stream improvement of structural systems: concrete, steel, wood, precast, Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), modular and pre-fabricated construction.  I’m a giant fan of steel construction, and I believe this are offers a great opportunity for lean improvement and discussion.

I’ll start with my thinking about LEAN philosophy as it relates to BIM:

LEAN thinking (a.k.a. The Toyota Way) can rapidly improve the delivery of building projects when BIM strategy is incorporated into the process.  Here is the philosophy to start the discussion:

“Owners want a perfect building, in record time at lowest cost…faster, better and cheaper.”

Take a look: There is not a word about BIM in there!  That suggests to me that Owners generally don’t care about BIM itself, only the RESULTS of BIM.  Does the Owner want a model or a project?  A project, of course, meeting their requirements for scope, schedule, quality and cost.  Some call this “the three-legged choice — choose any two”.   I think all three have to be chosen concurrently to improve the construction process.   If you think this can’t be done, I think you’re incorrect.  Read on!  Here is a visual template for the upcoming blogs:


The original, unedited 4×9 Triad appeared in an Article in the Lean Construction Institute by:

Glenn Ballard

Co-Founder & Research Director
Lean Construction Institute
4536 Fieldbrook
Oakland CA 94619
P 510-530-1743

The red and blue annotations added are my comments about naming BIM to match design and construction phases using a letter and numbering system.  There is other work for BIM called LOD (Level of Detail) that addresses specific model content at different levels of deliverable.  The LOD approach is a good construct for tailoring agreements and deliverable requirements, particularly Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) contracts.

Also, check out:

www.bimstrategy.com and www.saint-joe.com