The Evolution of BIM Coordinator
I have been in this industry for more than 30 years and I have a real passion for standards, production staff, and efficiencies. I had the honor of teaching at Autodesk University this year on the topic of being a BIM Coordinator. This month’s topic for AUGIWorld is industry insights and I thought, what a great opportunity to give some insight on the current and future position of the BIM Coordinator.
What Does a BIM Coordinator Do?
This is a loaded question, is it not? If you work for a single discipline firm of 50 people or less, your role is probably more clearly defined than if you work for a 1,000-person multidisciplinary firm. We can list some of the basics, which include:
- Develop a BIM Execution Plan
- Project setup and develop workflows based on deliverable
- Manage the project data
- Communicate deliverables, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and project standards
- Prepare project-specific training documents
- Provide technical support to the project team
- Develop project-related content
- Hold clash detection/coordination meetings
- Be part of the production team as needed
Focus on Your Skillset
A person who was once a CAD Manager does not necessarily make that person a good BIM Coordinator. The role is much more, and the future of this role will demand more. Even though a strong technical skillset is a must, there are other skills that are essential and cannot be overlooked. Some of these skills include:
- Master presenter skills
- Sales skills
- Data analytical skills
- Job site skills
- VR/AR and mixed-reality knowledge
Future BIM Coordinators need to be well educated on how their firms’ designs are executed in the field. If they are not, it will be obvious when they hold clash meetings or do AR field visits and presentations.
The larger and more diverse your firm is the more roadblocks you will face. The key is to stay focused on your mission and end goal, be patient, and see it through to the end. What are some of these roadblocks that prevent forward progress?
- Project managers’ understanding of the BIM Coordinator role
- Engineers/architects with varying opinions on the deliverables you are trying to manage
- Company leadership awareness and support
- Production staff skillset and adherence to standards
The key with any roadblock or setback is to see it as an opportunity. I always like to look at a project deliverable and then reverse engineer it to develop the most efficient project execution plan with the end in mind. The same is true with a roadblock or setback in your mission. Based on your end goal or outcome, take the steps and plant the seeds needed to get there. Let’s look at some of these issues I listed above.
Figure 3: Budget mindset
Project Managers’ Understanding of the BIM Coordinator Role
A project manager has an obligation to the firm to execute a job and remain profitable. The project managers in a firm are the primary people that need to understand everyone’s role on a project so they can pull the right team together for project execution. However, sometimes project managers try to do too much, undersell a project not understanding the full scope of work, do not fully understand the effort needed, or see the role of a BIM Coordinator as overhead they cannot afford on their project.
As a BIM Coordinator it is your job to put on your salesperson hat and not only sell yourself, but also sell the necessity of your role. The easy part should be finding cases where having a full-time BIM Coordinator on a job would have prevented issues that happened. Schedule meetings with the PMs one on one and get their buy-in on the importance of your role. Never let up on these meetings—you need to make it a normal thought for a BIM Coordinator to be applied to projects.
Engineers/Architects with Varying Opinions on the Deliverables You Are Trying to Manage
This one could be a long-term effort on your part. Leadership of the firm must assign discipline-specific subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs need to guide all the professionals in branding the deliverables from their point of view. For example: If you have four or five mechanical engineers in a firm, one of them needs to be trusted to guide the firm on how a set of mechanical engineering plans should look and what is to be included. This SME must also support your role on a project if you get pushback from production or the PMs when it conflicts with the office branding/standard they helped to establish.
Production Staff Skillset and Adherence to Standards
Production staff is often under pressure to meet deadlines, which will make them fall back into habits that are comfortable to them. Often you will never know if there are issues because the project looks good on paper. But when you do a deep dive on the QC side, you start to uncover issues.
As a BIM Coordinator, you should also develop office and project specific SOPs. Often, shortcuts are taken because of a lack of understanding with the software tools. As a BIM Coordinator it is your job to have SOPs available to the team—do lunch and learns on project-specific tasks, always trying to stay one step ahead on the project. Anticipate issues as early on as possible. For example, you know there will be point cloud data being used on the project. Where will it be stored? How will it be used? Do the users have any experience with point cloud data? And so on. Ask yourself these questions constantly so you are better prepared.
The Future of a BIM Coordinator
The future projects will be more digital and less paper. The future projects could be delivered as live interactive websites in the cloud from design through operations and eventually to decommissioning. With AI, IOT, VR, AR, and mixed-reality technology rapidly being developed, the role of the BIM Coordinator will change. Job site knowledge, data analytics, and presentation skills will need to be upgraded to remain relevant on a project or to your firm.
Figure 4: Data analytics for project predictability
Develop an Infrastructure for Success
- Have a system internally for continuing education of the production staff
- Have monthly meetings with the project managers to discuss your role and to get project feedback
- Schedule time in the field to understand your firm’s project from a construction manager’s point of view
- Have internal user groups and participate in group discussions outside of your firm
- Get sales and communication training
- Build relationships at all levels in your firm
- Understand data and the tools available to easily manipulate all project data
- Always hold “lessons learned” meetings on projects and develop your SOPs based on these meetings
- Data, data, data