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Exclusive interview: Paul Marsden of Keepmoat talks about BIM

BIM Show Live took place in April, which was the fifth instalment of the two-day event that brings together expert speakers and exhibitors, and influential people throughout the industry who can network and find out more for their business. 

Keepmoat’s Group Systems Manager, Paul Marsden, was one of those in attendance looking to get a feel for the show who wanted to increase his understanding of the processes. 

In the first of a two-part interview, Paul spoke exclusively to UK Construction Media about his experiences of the two-day exhibition and how BIM can benefit the construction industry.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up at Keepmoat.

I originally trained as a civil engineer and worked on a survey for Yorkshire Water where we developed data capture on an early version of a tablet. I then worked for many years as a Business Improvement Consultant before joining Keepmoat. I have always been convinced of the need to embrace technology and keep eyes on the prize of quality that meets the client’s needs to generate repeat business.

What is your role at the Company? Please explain a bit more about the importance of BIM technology in this role?

I am responsible for the SHEQ Systems and Group BIM Champion overseeing 26 Pathfinder Projects for Keepmoat that are using BIM processes to deliver information and data to meet the clients’ needs for FM and asset management.

What is your reason for going to BIM Show Live? Did you attend to find out something particular?

BIM Show Live was invaluable to understand about specific technologies and learn from other stakeholders about optimising the benefits of BIM. The workshops were especially useful to appreciate how to implement BIM processes successfully in practical way.

What did your two days involve and what was your focus?

Initially it was just to be able to get a feel for what the show was about because I’ll be honest, a lot of these shows can just be talking shops. I didn’t feel that was the case with BIM Show Live. I genuinely thought because of the depth of the workshops – it was very much a hands-on approach from people who had been there and done it – that it felt as if it was adding value for me to look forward at the same problems that others had faced. I was hoping to get that out of the show and I got it. It was very useful getting around the exhibition because frankly, from an efficiency point of view, if you start ringing up different product houses, and then you’ll get put through to someone, have to arrange a meeting, then you’ll talk and have coffee – it’s all so inefficient.

At the exhibition you can bomb round, meet and greet, get by on salient facts and have the right people stood in front of you straight away, so again, the exhibition was very useful.

The only issue for me is it’s still very tech-y and I think for those coming fresh at BIM it can be a little bit scary because although most people at the show were trying to speak in plain English and keep it simple, there were still times where it got incredibly technical and if you didn’t have that knowledge, you’d be lost.

I think, excellent overall, very impressed. Looking at the future, I’d like to be able to see more simple ways of introducing BIM to those who are frankly scared to death.

Would it be beneficial to have sessions for those at the beginning of the journey, rather than where the strapline would expect them to be?

Absolutely because the fact remains that if you are faced with this, it is daunting. There’s always going to be new people, and companies, especially in the supply chain and from the manufacturing point of view, who still don’t have all the solutions.

I’m wading through being able to work out common data environments and you either pay a huge amount of money for some very good products or you are struggling with basic document management systems that just don’t cut it.

If you are in the middle of all this and are a major contractor, you’ve got the resources to put together the knowledge and the skills and be able to purchase the technologies but I think for SMEs and supply chains, most feel they are in the dark.

That’s the feedback that I get – they don’t have the time or resources to understand what’s going on and it isn’t made simple for them.

So I think the whole system has to move forward as one and there’s a danger we’ll end up with the larger companies pulling away and leaving behind a lot of those SMEs. That’s one of the essential parts of the critique of BIM – it should be collaboration and isn’t in our DNA in the industry to say how are we going to take our subcontractors along and our suppliers with us because that is a big investment and there isn’t an immediate return.

But if we want to get through to a Level 3 BIM, we’ve got to take the whole supply chain with us and at the moment I don’t feel from the feedback I get that we’re doing that very well as an industry.

It’s been an excellent journey and those who have driven it deserve medals, but I think we’re at a critical moment now where we’ve got to start looking over our shoulder now and ask are those subcontractors really understanding with us what we’re trying to achieve? And we’ve got to help them and bring them along.

What do you feel can be done to make sure that happens?

I think that a lot of the framework was paid for and promoted heavily by the Government. They took the lead which was a brave and right decision. I can’t see it at the minute – and I’m no expert, don’t get me wrong – but I can’t see the same level of commitment and investment coming from the Government, coming down to the supply chain. It’s so fragmented and varied in so many different ways. It’s a difficult way of being able to figure out how to reach out to them – i appreciate that.

That’s where the major contractors have to have such strong relationships, that they’ll say “we’ve educated our own staff, we’ve invested in the technology, worked out the processes, gone through Level 2, started to work out what we’re doing, but have to bite the bullet, sit down with the subcontractors and educate them, nurture them because otherwise they won’t understand, and when it comes to us demanding information and data, the shutters will go back up again.”

So immediately you get directors asking why subcontractors and suppliers are being trained. Well what else can we do? Because we can’t complete the model to the degree of detail we need without the supply chain.

So the Government can do more, major contractors can do more and clients can do more because instead of putting emphasis on major contractors, we should be all working better together because we need a client to appreciate the difficulties of sometimes thousands of products relating to one model which we would ideally like to get information and data on.

And sometimes they don’t understand that – they just say it’s your problem. But it’s not easy going to thousands of individual companies for the data so I think getting that better understanding is part of the solution.

How do you feel that not only technology but BIM processes can be used to improve both Keepmoat and the wider industry?

BIM is an extension of total quality and lean construction techniques that improve communication, understanding of design development and drive innovation and improvement. BIM is all about collaboration and the technology is simply a useful tool to drive its implementation. BIM is a symptom of a wider change in the industry towards more efficient processes in construction such as 3D printing, robotics and even drones to create smart buildings faster and with less carbon emissions.

For more information about the Company please visit the Keepmoat website.