BIM can Revolutionise Small and Medium Enterprises


In 2017, CitA and the CitA BIM Regions are focusing on helping Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) get on their BIM Journey. There is a growing interest in BIM among Irish SMEs; however, there are barriers and a lot of work to be done to encourage full BIM adoption and not just the use of tools.

Speaking recently to Irish building magazine, Ralph Montague, Managing Partner at ArcDox gave his views on what can be gained by SMEs BIM adoption, and what is involved: the costs and training. Paddy Carroll, Quantity Surveyor at Kevin Moore Building Contractor Ltd. talked to us about SME contractors’ uptake in Ireland, the barriers SMEs still face today and how a variety of factors can help SMEs start the BIM Journey now.

Ralph Montague, Managing Partner at ArcDox

Ralph Montague described to us in detail the efficiencies a small consultancy firm can get from using BIM. Ralph said, “If you accept that BIM is more than just producing nice 3D models, but is in fact all about ‘Information Management’ about the built environment, using digital technologies, rather than paper-based workflows, then there are enormous efficiencies to be gained, for all parties involved in the planning, design, construction and operations of built infrastructure. If you are somehow involved in the built environment sector, your job probably involves some ‘information’. You need ‘information’ to do your job. You are probably producing ‘information’ as part of your job. And others need the ‘information’ you produce, to do their job. You are probably using some technology already to do your job. If you receive information in paper-based analogue or static formats, you will have to reproduce this in your current systems, to carry out your job. If, once complete, you print out your information to share with others, in paper-based analogue static formats, they will also have to reproduce this in their systems, to do their job. Because of the high level of fragmentation in the industry, the large number of people or companies that get involved in projects, each producing and managing ‘Information’ in their own way, and each ultimately only sharing ‘information’ in static, paper-based analogue formats, there is enormous amounts of duplication of effort, wasted time, even abortive work, when it comes to producing, managing and exchanging ‘information’. BIM is trying to solve this problem.”

The starting costs, i.e. training, software and hardware vary between company and position within companies. We asked for some general examples. “For directors and managers, the cost and time may be minimal. They won’t be creating or managing the information themselves. They just need to understand the BIM process, and maybe use some free and easy tools to view/access the data. Others may simply be using, analysing or processing data produced by others, for specific purposes (coordination, planning, sequencing, cost checking, energy analysis, constructing, maintenance etc.). Of course, someone has to produce the BIM data in the first place, so for some, they will need highly specialised skills and tools to do that. Let’s say this is the worst case scenario. An architect, engineer or technician that is directly involved in producing BIM data. Obviously, they already need to have the knowledge/skill of their trade. The skill to learn the software requires training. It will be on-going (learn as you work), but I would say they probably need about 10 days of formal training, ranging from essential, intermediate to advanced, spread over a 3-month period – budget €1,500 per person. They will need a high-powered workstation – budget €2,000 per person. They will need some sophisticated software, which will depend on what they do – range €500-€3000/year. Financed over 3-4 years, you are probably talking in the range of €15/person/working day, which is not a lot of money. Cost itself isn’t really the issue, but realising, or understanding the ‘value’ of that investment is the important thing.”

“If you are looking for formal qualifications, most of the colleges now offer some post-graduate certificates, diplomas or masters in BIM technologies. There are commercially available training courses through BIM specialist companies like ArcDox, or even the software resellers. There is funding available through Skillnets or Solas.”

The learning curve from starting with the software to being capable of delivering a project is short if you are an established professional, and there is assistance available. Ralph said, “Provided you have the previous knowledge of your trade, and good technical skills, you can begin to work on projects almost immediately (say after some initial essential training of 3 days). Obviously, your work rate will initially be slower, as you are learning something new, but I would say that after 2-3 months, your productivity rate would be back to normal, and after a year, because of the efficiencies of BIM, your productivity should be double. You should plan some follow-up intermediate and advanced training within the 3 month period. What is important, is to start working in BIM following your training. Don’t go back to CAD. What is also important, in my opinion, is to have good ‘support’ – someone you can talk to or ask for help, if you get stuck. This may be someone else in your company who already has the skills, it may be a BIM specialist company like ArcDox, or even your software reseller. There are many free online resources: YouTube,, CADLearning etc.”

BIM adoption is different for an SME contractor compared to a consultant. Ralph explained, “I divide ‘contractors’ into two groups. Those who traditionally had to produce specialist design, fabrication or construction information, as part of their work, and those who traditionally simply carried out their work based on information produced by others. The BIM adoption for the first group is the same as that of the consultant – i.e. they have to learn the skills to produce their information in BIM. The second group only have to learn simple skills and acquire the hardware/software to view and access BIM data through free viewing tools, as they won’t be creating or editing any data themselves. Again, it very much depends on what you do in the construction process.”

Paddy Carroll, Quantity Surveyor at Kevin Moore Building Contractor Ltd.

Paddy Carroll, Quantity Surveyor at Kevin Moore Building Contractor Ltd. did his masters research on “Establishing the influential factors that are required for innovating BIM within a Traditional Irish SME Building Contractor Organisation and the need for a clear and simplified framework for the adoption of BIM”. This was part of his MSc in Construction Informatics at Dublin Institute of Technology.

Speaking to Irish building magazine, Paddy said there is an uptake and interest in BIM among SMEs, but they are encountering challenges. “There is definitely an uptake of BIM among Construction SMEs. During my research, I spoke to SME contractors and sub-contractors using BIM tools in their relative fields and they are seeing the benefits no doubt. While it’s very encouraging to see these SMEs using the tools (software) to deliver projects it is also very important to focus on the whole ethos of BIM where open collaboration amongst the stakeholders is paramount to BIM implementation. BIM is a process with the BIM tools to help that process. From my research, the process of BIM needs to be fully understood before small organisations consider a BIM strategy within their companies. From studying PAS1192 BIM Level 2 documents for 2 years I believe small organisations will find the adoption of BIM a bit overwhelming to start with and I doubt PAS1192 is being implemented fully at present by the smaller SME’s within the industry. I do believe there is a need for a clear and adoptable framework which outlines simple guidelines for BIM adoption/strategy for Construction SMEs which would help to bring SMEs into the digital age of Construction. For full BIM implementation across the board the industry needs SMEs to engage and innovate as the research shows SMEs dominate the Irish Construction Industry with approximately 98% of enterprises having less than 10 employees. On a positive note, BIM is giving these SMEs that have implemented it the ‘exposure’ and the ‘access’ to clients that they wouldn’t have otherwise had access to and there are great opportunities out there for small companies.”

“Although the research found even with the recovery within the Irish Construction Industry at present, SME contractors and SME consultants still face barriers and challenges with the recent recession being a considerable factor to the issues concerning those today. The current barriers faced by most Construction SMEs are: Access to Finance; Cultural Change and changing mind-sets; Poor levels of communication and information exchange between parties; adopting technology; resources/training/skilled staff; lack of knowledge and skills; construction project coordination; procurement/standards/legislation and bureaucracy.”

Paddy concluded with some positive news that SMEs can start looking at BIM adoption today. “From researching the enablers of innovation there are a variety of influences that SMEs can start looking at straight away to help establish a BIM strategy within their organisations starting off most importantly with the motivation of directors to engage with BIM, motivation is necessary for organisations and individuals to innovate – it has to start at the top and we are seeing more and more SMEs asking what is BIM, they are curious about it. The availability of company resources such as finance, time, and skill levels are critical to BIM implementation success.  The availability of grants/finance to upskill organisations such as the innovation vouchers from Enterprise Ireland are critical to SMEs and hopefully, there will be more grant aid to SMEs coming on stream in the next short while with the exposure of BIM gaining considerable momentum. The Client and End Users influence on innovation is another very important enabling factor of innovation. Those who pay for projects in construction can have a good deal of influence on BIM innovation within the construction sector and we can start today by showing our Clients whether they are small or large the benefits BIM can bring to their projects. CitA along with the third level colleges are offering world-class courses and CPD on BIM processes and tools. The open collaboration between the industry networks including the professional and industry associations along with the research organisations and colleges are key for the promotion of BIM for all company sizes. There is no doubt the Government and procurement systems have a big role to play in BIM implementation amongst SMEs with the regulatory climate crucial to industry adopting BIM standards and guidelines. It will be interesting to see the outcome from the BIM Innovation Capability Programme (BICP) for Ireland on the strategic use of BIM amongst all.”

CitA’s focus on SMEs

SMEs will be a focus of CitA events this year and BIM for SMEs will be a theme of the 2017 CitA Gathering. Dr Alan Hore told us in a recent interview that it is important to hear about what is happening with SMEs. In the February meeting of the CitA Smarter Cooperative Building Series, David Browne, RKD Architects, spoke of the problems of SMEs in financing their BIM adoption, and it was a topic covered in the Q&A session.

Dr Alan Hore gave advice for funding saying “For grants, I would say look at the innovation vouchers from Enterprise Ireland. The BIM Enable and BIM Implement grants are for Enterprise Ireland clients. There is the Skillnet fund through CitA and the CIF have their own Construction SME Skillnet.” Irish building magazine and will keep you updated on the resources available to SMEs and will cover the topic in future magazine issues.

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