The adoption of BIM in the construction industry has been evidently documented for its successes in enabling lean outcomes and efficiency across projects. The need for integrating BIM with production planning and monitoring systems like the Last Planner® System is realised to improve the information exchanges. Integrating the BIM models with the production management systems can streamline and standardize the production schedules with the relevant building and site information. With 4D BIM as a specific BIM use, the intent is to allow teams to visualise the product before production begins. This approach enables efficient execution and lesser rework, in turn generating time and cost savings for the project.
While the 4D simulations are designed to help take planning decisions, the real challenge is to provide the right information to the teams. This becomes a critical factor in the entire process, since the success of any BIM implementation is heavily dependent on the critical factors of people, process, and technology.
We all are familiar with the 4D simulation videos developed in tools like Navisworks® that are great to view. They are developed by linking elements to the Master Schedule; a high-level programme that is typically driving the push approach of defining the work to be done. With projects driving Lean Production Management through the Last Planner® System for collaborative planning, such simulations have little to no bearing on their pull-planning. These 4D videos generated have no real-time information and do not relate to the production plans. Unless the BIM models have the right parametric information relevant to the execution schedule, with the required level of details and information right in place the true benefits of integration of schedule with BIM are hard to be harnessed to their full potential
Challenges with the use of 4D BIM
BIM Models are developed from a design perspective and are primarily limited to use in the Design phase itself. This implies that the models are used for their visualisation, design information, quantity take-off, clash detection and so on. BIM models are either obsolete in terms of the updated design, or simply not usable enough in terms of information to support the execution phase.
The reasons are due to the lack of detailing and appropriation required for this phase. There are challenges of technical limitations, lack of resources, over or under-detailing of the models, lack of clarity on the level of details, no involvement of the production team during the phase of modelling and so on. With the inconsistency and lack of accurate level of detail in the BIM models, monitoring these aspects of production management poses a major roadblock.
Real-time 4D BIM production planning & control – A Case study
VisiLean has been working with BNBuilders through COVID on a 76,000 sq. ft Instructional Building in Fullerton, California, as a Lean planning and project monitoring tool. VisiLean has allowed the team to integrate their schedule and get information in real time from the site.
The process adopted by the team starts with creating the master schedule on a scheduling platform like Primavera P6® or Microsoft Project®. The collaborative planning sessions take place in a closed room with the suppliers and the superintendents working with the P6 plan to derive lookahead plans on a board. This manual approach to pull planning posed a major setback with the onset of the COVID–19 pandemic during the project.
In terms of progress monitoring, the team would spend hours updating schedules by taking updates from the site. This approach, especially through the challenges of COVID, ended up putting the project team on the back foot, constantly trying to chase the schedule rather than being proactive in resolving issues. When working on a recovery plan to bring the project up to pace again, this approach was seeming to be in vain.
With VisiLean the BNB team adopted a revised planning approach where they could have all the subcontractors and the superintendents in the same environment to voice their experience and participate in the execution planning. This process involved defining how each task impacts the other, which is critical to minimise waste in the process. this approach included using the existing BIM models to integrate with the pull plans and visualise the real-time progress.
Real-time 4D planning & monitoring
BIM integration was introduced to these collaborative planning sessions on the same platform, allowing the teams to break work into detailed tasks with the linked element from the BIM model providing critical information regarding execution details. While reviewing the 6 weeks lookahead plan, teams could review the upcoming work zones and map any constraints that will hinder the actual execution of the job on-site. Critical aspects of safety, constructability, and site logistics came to the surface and were documented as constraints to be actioned on by relevant owners.
This played a significant role in improving communication between the teams; questions were raised about access, safety, and handovers amongst the trades, which were supplemented by the platform providing Task information alongside.
With the BIM model elements linked to these execution tasks, any update from the site was visualised directly on the model in a LIVE 4D representation of the construction progress on-site. This integration allowed for not just a status visualisation of the work on site but clicking on the element would show the task owner, location, as well as all the other information supplied by the team on-site.
With live task status updates from the site by the use of the mobile application, there was clear communication established between the teams. The supervisors updated their work status directly from the job site, with the added convenience of sharing notes and images of the task being executed. Any update on the field was directly relayed to the team, significantly saving critical time in communicating information through multiple channels, diluting it in most cases.
With the adoption of lean processes as a client requirement, COVID-19 constraints, and a tool that could stitch everything together, the project delivery approach radically evolved from being reactive to proactive over the course of this implementation. Presently in the final commissioning phase, the project stands 6 weeks ahead of schedule, with an outstanding result of deploying the right tools and processes towards efficient project delivery. The benefits realised during the project are listed below.
- Integrating the production plan with the top-level Primavera P6® plan. The system allowed the teams to break down the top-level plans into detailed manageable tasks, update critical information on them and take them back to the P6 program.
- Schedule integration with BIM gave them the power to visualise the project with the actual construction status. Teams could focus on actual site status, just by looking at the BIM models that had the live task updates. Constraints were linked to these tasks helping the team understand what is to be resolved.
- The fact that scheduling could be integrated with BIM models that already existed and give the power to teams on site to use the App on mobile devices to give seamless updates to the same platform that would tie back all the way to the BIM model.
- Access to information in real-time empowered teams on-site to take critical decisions that were essential to the successful early completion of this project. Not only did the GC deploy the Last Planner ® approach to collaborative planning through COVID, but they also managed to achieve a staggering PPC of 92% through the month of March 2021 (average of 5 weeks).
If you would like to get a glimpse of how VisiLean enabled BNBuilders to achieve a PPC of 90% through March 2021 on the project watch our detailed video – https://youtu.be/vdlv3myXaL0
As a platform, integration is key to the aspects of scheduling, BIM modelling, and construction management in general. A typical 4D simulation recreated with an “updated” schedule from the site rarely ever provides an accurate picture of the status of work on-site. Multiple sources of information lead to genuine human error which affects not just the credibility of the data being shared, but also the trust and dependency between the various trades executing the job.
An integrated approach of bringing the schedule together with a model, that is rarely ever used on-site, gives projects the edge needed to drive efficiency in production to achieve their targets even through COVID. As the case stands to highlight, the revised Lean-BIM integrated approach played a crucial role in enabling this and bringing the project not only up to pace but to early completion.
At VisiLean, we are continuously working with teams on projects globally that are driving ‘lean’ tools and processes efficiently. We are also involved with various projects who are deploying BIM from design to execution, where we come across numerous challenges towards appropriating BIM for project execution and monitoring.
With the most powerful and unique Lean-BIM integrated production management engine, VisiLean enables you to successfully deploy BIM for production planning, monitoring, and control. With dedicated support and excellent system interoperability, we respect your teams’ familiarisation with existing platforms and workflows, promising smooth onboarding and transition across the organisation, one step at a time.
If you’d like to experience a true-lean service for yourself, head to the link here to start a fully-featured trial – https://visilean.com/contact/