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Infrastructure in 2014: Embrace BIM and be open to the opportunities

Building information modelling (BIM) is more than just a new digital process for the specialist supply chain to adopt. It’s a philosophy for sustainable, long term business relationships within the construction industry.

Open collaboration, shared knowledge, systems and software are the pre-requisites for this philosophy given the need to easily exchange complex, technical and high volume data.

It is the case for many specialist suppliers that their expertise and service offerings are market leading and underpin the industry. Therefore it is incumbent upon this supply chain to acknowledge their responsibilities to the industry by embracing a positive approach to BIM. It is essential, that we engage fully in the drive for reduced costs and improved environmental performance. Adopting this approach affords us numerous opportunities to engage with clients, main contractors, higher education, training bodies, the Health and Safety Executive and various national safety and technical committees.

MGF is considered a market leader having just achieved full supply chain 3D BIM Compliance. Customers can now freely download its main product ranges in several digital formats for inclusion BIM models.

In my opinion, suppliers should not be frightened of the investment required to achieve BIM compliance. Our journey toward this level of compliance has required relatively low levels of investment and has not proven complex.

In 2009 MGF’s first 3D CAD licence was purchased, over the years additional licences have been added as demand has increased. Our first BIM project was the M25 upgrade in 2011. At present we use Autodesk REVIT, Inventor and SketchUp. Existing employees’ 3D CAD skills have been developed and recently CAD operators recruited with 4D animation skills. MGF’s in house digital engineering excellence and innovation is widely acknowledged within the industry. Its 4D animated installation video guides promote the safe installation and extraction of MGF excavation support systems. Welsh Water recognised increased site safety with a Best Innovation Award at the Occupational Health and Safety Awards 2013.

Although MGF is successful in this area there are still challenges ahead and the BIM journey has only just begun. The exchange of digital information is high volume and moving to cloud based exchange systems is vital. Supplier and customer data exchange must be fast, effective and sustainable to support the design process to become the preferred method of working.

BIM has facilitated partnerships with organisations beyond main contractors and customers such as universities, construction colleges and the Construction Industry Training Board. Producing training courses and investment programmes to develop education access and long term skills building for the next generation of civil engineers.

The UK construction industry is at the forefront of leveraging BIM technology and the specialist supply chain should fully embrace it. Investing in the people, skills, process and technology now will support competitive advantage in the years ahead.

  • Steve Hesketh is MGF Trench Construction engineering director

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