Power for the People

In a previous article we discussed the ability to create our own MVPart using block based parts and some of the benefits that can come from that process. This time, I’d like to explore some of those benefits in more detail and discuss how they can help us today in the growing field of Navis models, BIM, and data entry into drawings and models.

In just the few years that I have been doing CAD, things have changed immensely. There were no Navis models, there was no BIM coordination, and there were no 3D file exchanges. Now all of these are commonplace in many projects and generally are a requirement for all MEP trades. And rightly so! The process, done correctly, can simplify and lessen the cost of field installation for all trades. More and more often I see companies taking their “coordinated/signed-off” files right from the model and turning them into shop/fab drawings. Knowing that they will have minimal problems in the field helps all trades have the confidence to pre-fab systems ahead of time, allowing them to save time and money.

That is a perfect-world scenario and we all know that real-world construction isn’t perfect, but we’re far ahead of where we were just a few years ago.

Let’s move beyond standard BIM coordination and shop drawings to look at Autodesk® Navisworks® Manage and its tools, which help during construction and after completion. With the models generated from Navis we now have the ability to use Autodesk’s BIM 360 Field program in the field. This is an iPad app that, among other things, allows us to view current BIM models and plans in the field. Again, more integration between the BIM process and the field installation process, allows for saved time and money. If there are problems in the field we have the ability, within the app, to create and review issues. We have the ability to mark up plans and photos utilizing the app’s built-in tools to illustrate what the issues are or to suggest a fix. This can also be used as a quality control tool to check off rooms/areas as work is completed to track field crew’s work. Once synced to Autodesk® BIM 360, these issues and marked-up plans and drawings can be viewed by anyone assigned to that job. Once again, we are shortening the time between identifying an issue and getting the right people on the job to fix it. These are just some of the uses for BIM 360 Field during construction, but I’d like to move into other uses—after completion.

The insertion of data into our drawings and the model has become more requested and even required by owners. This data includes items as simple as part numbers all the way up to full PDF submittal information. This is allowing end users to actually utilize the completed, coordinated model after completion for facilities management. This can be called Computer Maintenance Management Solution or CMMS.

The process begins with the detailers and coordinators adding the required information into their respective drawings before the model exists. There are a few different methods to accomplish this. A driving force behind which option you use will depend on the trade to which you belong. Some options within AutoCAD® include using MVParts with property set data or blocks with property fields filled out.

There are some issues inherent with working this way. You have to make each individual block, MVPart an individual entity that can be searched and have its data extracted. This can be done a few different ways using the properties within the blocks, but it still has to be done and can be time consuming. Once all the devices/blocks are put in the model, the end user might want to extract the data. This can be done with Navisworks and BIM 360 Field. You can make selection sets within Navis that can be exported to Excel. Then you can edit, add, or subtract information using Excel and push the data back to the Navis model.

Another option we have to include equipment data using Navis is linking PDFs to specific pieces of equipment or even having a link to a website with that equipment’s information. This can be a great way to accomplish data entry in the model, but there’s a compliance drawback. If you’re going to link PDFs into the model, then when you hand the model over to the end user, that user must maintain the folder and file structure you’ve created. Otherwise, all the links you’ve created will get broken and become unusable. If you’re going to link information to outside websites, the end user must have internet access and also ensure that firewalls don’t block the program from pulling up those pages. Furthermore, this method doesn’t necessarily work with BIM 360 Field like embedding the information with the previous method. If the end user doesn’t need to link the model to facilities management software and just wants product data linked to the model, this is a great way to do it.

These requirements are generally driven by the end users’ software that will be managing the building maintenance. But the idea is the same—use the mo5del as a living, electronic document that can be viewed, updated, and modified as things change and get replaced or repaired. On my current project, the facility management team will be able to create and track work orders, complete scheduled maintenance, manage drawings, and perform general inspections—all utilizing CMMS software and the final completed model.

This trend is actually generating a new position within companies at the front line of this process - a competent Navis manager to be on staff to manage the model, its drawings, and the data contained within it. Be aware, though, that all the work will be for nothing if the end user doesn’t keep the model up to date and utilize it as intended.

It’s an exciting and quickly growing field and the innovations and progress we’re making as an industry are fantastic. I can’t wait to see where we are in another five years!

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