Malleable modelling: BIM and CAFM

We need to change the perception that a transition from BIM to CAFM is challenging and instead focus on how project outputs could have an immediate and practical benefit to FM service providers. Paul Durant, Strategic Solutions Manager at FSI, tells Tomorrow's FM.

Up until very recently FM operational requirements have been neglected in the early stages of BIM projects, or, if they are considered at all, they are not evaluated with specific emphasis on how FM requirements would be implemented in an operational CAFM system.

Our early experience with UK BIM projects is that the FM team is involved only after construction or right at the point of handover, leaving the FM team with a digital output from the BIM authoring software expecting them to work out how to use that data operationally on their own.

As BIM becomes more prevalent in FM we hope that FMs are engaged much earlier in the project. But, while we are still in the early days of adoption, it's important for us to address the challenges posed at handover by simplifying the flow of data between BIM software and CAFM.

Mobilisation
To start with mobilisation, most CAFM systems and FM providers will probably have their own methods for collating and importing data, many of which will require some element of manual data entry, consuming time and resource.

With BIM projects, almost all of that work has already been completed and, at handover, the FM teams are
provided with ‘as built' asset data, including accurate connections and sub-components of assets, as well as a wealth of type-specific asset detail such as product specifications and expected lifespan.

Typically, BIM projects will use a universally recognised categorisation standard for facility and asset data, which encourages accurate and consistent classifications of facilities, spaces and assets and in the longer term will allow collaboration and comparison of trend data with other BIM estates.

However, simply dumping this BIM data in to a CAFM database isn't appropriate and FMs also need to be confident that the data they receive from BIM projects is fit for purpose. Many BIM outputs contain information which isn't relevant to the operation and maintenance of the facility, and can often use unfamiliar terminology that doesn't match up with the client's established asset naming and classification terms. Too much detail in an unfiltered BIM output can be overwhelming when imported directly into a CAFM asset register.

Another concern that will be familiar to many FM providers involved in BIM projects is how to incorporate BIM Level 2 quality data and classifications for new facilities in an established CAFM system. How do you reconcile the depth of detail and defined structure that's provided by BIM with the ‘legacy' pre-BIM data that's already in your asset registers?

To meet this challenge FSI have developed an import tool that can take an output from the BIM Authoring software and automatically creates all of the Facility and Asset information in the FSI Concept Evolution CAFM system, including Buildings, Floors, Locations, Areas, Assets, Asset Systems, Asset Classifications, Asset Connections and Networks

The import process is configurable, agile and repeatable so users can run, discard and then re-run different versions of the data. This means the FM team is able to preview the results of the import or quickly revert changes if they are unhappy or want to rerun it for any reason.

To ensure that the CAFM Asset Register is not swamped with unnecessary detail, the imported information can be filtered to ensure that only the critical information needed to operate the facility reaches the system.

Most importantly, all of the standard BIM object classifications (e.g. Uniclass and Uniformat) can be mapped and translated to the terminology appropriate to the FM client. This means that the assets are grouped and classified in a way that makes sense to the on-site teams and fits in with any existing FM asset maintenance strategy which still retaining the reference to a universal categorisation of the asset.

As BIM data can be imported into the CAFM system at any stage, FMs can visualise the data in a working CAFM system and analyse whether the model data is developing in a way that will allow them to maintain the facility as efficiently as possible.

Soft Landings
Once the BIM to CAFM mobilisation process has been simplified FMs can begin to see how BIM data can work together with their established Asset Management strategies to give them truly ‘soft landings' for new facilities. Consistent asset categorisation will make it much easier to automate the creation of all Planned Maintenance requirements for imported assets. In Evolution you can design and apply maintenance requirements for all of your asset classifications based on SFG20 or other established standards.

Visualisation
The most eye-catching aspect of BIM for CAFM users will be the 3D models and all accompanying models for the facility which are imported along with the data. These allow FMs to visualise asset size, shape and position in the facility rather than relying on 2D floor plans or location tags.

Outside of CAFM, most BIM authoring tools or specialist model viewers have been developed to suit the needs of the design and construction collaborators. FSI's Concept Evolution solution includes an integrated 3D BIM Model viewer that's been designed specifically for use in practical FM scenarios rather than just the design or construction phases.

It's fully integrated with the CAFM Asset Register allowing users to access all of the current CAFM asset information by clicking on an object in the model, including service history, PPM requirements, documents and attributes. Users can also instigate new breakdown work orders for the selected asset and highlight assets that are in the same network or have parent/child relationships.

Reporting
Depending on the level of information defined for facility assets, BIM data outputs will contain a lot of additional data specific to the type of asset or the requirements of the client. All of this data is retained in Evolution through the use of our Smart Attributes feature, which allows an unlimited number of additional fields for any entity in the database. It also ensures that new assets added to the system post-handover can hold the same level of detail.

Using this data, FMs can analyse asset performance to an unprecedented level of detail (for example, reporting on trends right down to model number, dimensions or colour) to influence decisions on future construction or refurbishment projects. Over time, this data will help identify the cause of maintenance inefficiencies or highlight common issues at specification or component level