I will tell you the truth, the single source of truth about product information within BIM libraries. You will understand why it is so important to have the product information inside the BIM files but on the other hand you will also understand why you shouldn’t provide it there. Sounds illogical isn’t it?
So let’s start from the beginning. In the previous article I was explaining what the BIM content really is and how to manage it properly thanks to the utilisation of BIM Content Management solutions such as BIMStreamer. In this article I will focus strictly on the information part of the BIM files such as attributes, features, technical approvals, etc that in the previous article were classified as BIM object metadata.
The history of product information
If you forget about geometry for a moment and focus on product information you will only notice that challenges around it existed long before BIM and BIM content particularly was adapted by the suppliers / building materials manufacturers.
Everything started in the 90’ of the XX century together with the advent of print catalogues used by producers, wholesalers and retailers. Such catalogues contained detailed information about offered product portfolios and its main purpose was to simplify customers’ buying decisions. At the beginning such catalogues were prepared manually however soon its creators realized that the process of preparing them was tedious and error prone, especially when catalogues had to be provided for different markets which had specific local requirements, different languages and sometimes also different product ranges. Moreover, together with popularization of the Internet and mobile device revolution, new communication channels emerged such as online catalogues, e-commerce platforms, data-pools, mobile apps, digital signage and many others. Moreover customer’s behavior also changed. Contemporary clients started using several channels in their customer journey at once before making the final buying decision, so called cross-channel behavior, and very often these channels were both online and offline (O2O – Online To Offline).
Let’s take Ikea as an example. You can browse Ikea web catalogue, add different products to your digital basket then go to a physical store and with the assistance of Ikea mobile app find the exact location of the products you were interested in buying. Only in this example of customer journey 3 types of channels were used.
This trend forced manufacturers and resellers to come up with a solution which could manage multiple channels and specify which set of information should be provided where. However, that was not enough. Such tools also had to make all these channels interconnected with each other to make sure that transition from one channel to another is as seamless for the client as possible. Manufacturers were missing a single source of truth for its information that could be managed centrally and easily adapted. With the advent of PIM (Product Information Management) systems product information could be finally properly managed and lots of manual tedious work such as print catalogue preparation could be replaced with automated process of catalogue generation based on the PIM data and datasheet templates. Moreover the very same source of information could be used by other channels like websites, mobile apps, data-pools or e-commerce platforms.
BIM content as a new channel
If we now get back to the BIM Content and take a closer look at it, we realize that from a manufacturer/wholesaler perspective this is another communication channel similar to printed or online catalogues. And similar to other channels it is part of the customer journey that can finally lead to a sale, because it can be used by the planner / specifier within a BIM project and later on bought by the investor.
Creating BIM content with product information yet without it
As with print catalogues at the very beginning BIM content was prepared solely in a manual way, where BIM modelers prepared BIM objects and were also instructed to insert product information alongside the geometry. And soon same as with print catalogues manufacturers realized that manual creation of the BIM files is tedious, error prone and literally impossible to maintain for those that were offering thousands of products on several markets. They realized that they need their PIM for their BIM content solution. But the question remained … How ?
Since BIM content is considered as a channel similar to print catalogue, why couldn’t it be addressed in the same way ? The answer is simple … IT CAN !!!
It is possible to generate BIM content in a similar way as it is possible to generate print catalogues based on datasheet templates and PIM data, however instead of datasheet templates it is required to prepare BIM content templates, so called master objects, which later on together with PIM information can be used to automatically generate channel / language specific BIM files by BIM Content management solutions such as BIMStreamer (you can learn more about PIM 2 BIM from this webinar).
That’s why I mentioned at the beginning that BIM files should be equipped with product information, however you shouldn’t provide it there. You should only create a master object without any data and let the BIM Content management solutions inject it automatically taking it directly from your PIM system. Otherwise you can’t actually be talking about a single source of truth for your product information.
Meet BIMStreamer at BIM World MUNICH 2021 at their booth #35!