Mike Keane, manufacturing industry expert at Autodesk, explains why manufacturers of building products have a unique opportunity thanks to Building Information Modelling – BIM.
While EEF predicts that due to a number of risk factors the doom and gloom of the construction industry in 2015 will continue into this year, there is a silver lining to its recent survey – productivity and technology investment are set to increase.
And these aren’t the only areas of opportunity in the industry. It is currently experiencing a number of disruptions; which manufacturers can use to their advantage.
Launched by Autodesk and The Manufacturer – and supported by key partners, the Future of British Manufacturing Initiative takes a hands-on approach to enable British design and manufacturing companies to respond to the challenges of trends the likes of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things.
Gain a firmer grasp of the trends that are shaping design and manufacturing, and how other companies are already responding to them, by attending one of the four regional Future of Making Things event at a High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre:
- April 28, Digital Catapult Centre – London
- May 25, The MTC – Coventry
- June 15, AMRC, Rotherham
- September 21, AFRC, Renfrew
Germany calls it industry 4.0, we call it the future of making things.
As the landscape evolves and competitive pressure mounts, driven by the needs of ever more demanding customers, companies need to re-think their approach to innovation and transform the way they do business.
The burgeoning BIM bandwagon
If we look at building product manufacturers, for example, there is a huge opportunity being driven by benefitting from the disruptions caused by BIM.
Construction companies use BIM to 3D model and review building data with the aim of driving efficiency, boosting sustainability and minimising waste.
Such is the effectiveness of BIM that it’s being mandated by the Government in April 2016 for all public sector builds.
Moreover, 92% of respondents of the latest national BIM survey said they’d be using the technology within three years and in private sector projects too – so it’s certainly not a passing fad.
Manufacturer’s product data is critical to the success of BIM and the streamlined handover of the facility to the owner. This offers a big opportunity for building product manufacturers.
For example, construction firm Skanska aims to work with a supply chain that can share the right data with it during the bid and operational delivery stages of its projects, right through to future operations and maintenance.
As such, the future belongs to building product manufacturers who establish an agile product development platform that allows them to continue to innovate with their products, and flexibly add the right data into their designs as easily and early as possible.
Developing competitive advantage
Some manufacturers have already started their journey to an agile innovation platform. Take bathroom manufacturer, Ideal Standard International.
It provides public and private sector clients with access to its product data, making it easier for them to procure construction materials and also gives greater certainty in every project, which helps address site constraints and reduce waste.
This is one example of where manufacturers can gain competitive advantage by adding real value to the project.
Another company tapping into this approach is Polypipe, one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of plastic pipe systems.
Having consistent file formats and a standardised approach to product development is critical to avoiding duplication across all of its business divisions, making it easier for teams to collaborate across projects, and also reduce waste.
Polypipe’s ultimate aim is to provide its clients with an accessible product library in order to streamline ordering and drive efficiency.
This approach is also helping building product manufacturers open up new revenue opportunities by focusing on developing smart, connected products which ultimately end up in a building. From these, they can start generating a new type of revenue stream by providing real time, insightful performance data to customers.
Clients may not “buy” a product in the traditional sense, but may pay a manufacturer to deliver a service, for example, improving the performance of a product over time through software updates delivered wirelessly.
New platforms for innovation
Providing BIM data associated with their products is just one example of how building product manufacturers can gain competitive advantage. Right now, many such manufacturers pay third parties to re-create their product designs in architectural packages like Revit.
Relying on a third party to control product data isn’t very agile and excludes manufacturers from the many benefits of a true product innovation platform, such as enabling highly customised products, collaboration with customers and flexible manufacturing approaches.
Being ready for this future of making things doesn’t have to cost the earth or be overly complex. Manufacturers can design BIM compliant products by taking advantage of innovative platforms which provide a simplified model linked to all relevant metadata.
This is simply achieved as a by-product of the development process with tools such as Inventor Professional.
By designing products in a more agile environment, manufacturers can break down manufacturing silos, becoming more collaborative and flexible. This will allow them to explore disruptions we’re seeing in manufacturing, such as producing personalised products, incorporating connected devices into designs, and offering services beyond the shop floor.
The age of going from concept to design and production, then to market and eventually product retirement, is over.
By harnessing new innovative platforms that make data more accessible, companies can broaden their manufacturing capabilities; disrupting traditional business models and creating new streams of revenues.
And those that don’t are certainly missing a trick.