BIMBeing: The Journey #21
#21 – Too many cooks…
Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels.
Probably the most contentious issue in the AEC industry is the sheer number of people and/or entities that have to be involved in everything. Nothing is simple, no single person can make all of the decisions. There are huge benefits to employing this wider team of specialist of course, but it’s also often a case of too many cooks in that kitchen; collaboration = frustration.
At construction level, RIBA Stage 5, the decision to add something as simple as an additional plug socket requires a ridiculous chain of events:
- Client: Instructs additional Socket Outlet
- Main Contractor: Reviews and instructs the Consultants
- MEP Consultant: Places the socket and adds to the required circuit. Reissues models and drawings
- Architect: Reviews and approves location of socket. References updated MEP model and reproduces drawings for that room showing new outlet
- Main contractor: Reviews and approves updated drawings. Issues back to client
- Client: Reviews and approves updated drawings
- Main Contractor: Instructs MEP sub-contractor to install additional Socket Outlet from updated drawings
- Electrical Sub-contractor: Reviews new information and implements the change
This is the short version of the process! When you include the individual processes within each entity the overall chain gets even longer. You’ve got management level individuals reviewing and approving the instructions, quantity surveyors pricing the works (and the back-and-forth that entails), the team actually making the change to models and drawings, document controllers to manage the issue of new information and all of that is before it gets to the person on site cutting a hole and throwing some wiring around. Depending on the contractual arrangement, some of these steps may also be ‘hold points’; you might not be able to make any progress without agreeing costs up-front for example. The above also assumes that everything is approved first time, in reality you have to include additional steps for rejections, comments, coordination and amendments too. This is why when a Client says “can we just add…” a Main Contractors automated response is typically “no” or, if they’re feeling friendly, “maybe, but with a significant cost and programme impact”.
In a more senior role your likely frustrations will be the back and forth with all of the other parties. As somebody lower down the food chain you’re much more likely to be aggravated by the internal process. For me, it’s a lack of internal communication that makes everything so much more difficult and collectively far less efficient. Lengthy processes lead to one thing – the desire to cut corners.
An example of this poor communication and corner cutting came recently when ‘too many cooks’ were indeed the issue. As a Main Contractor we don’t typically produce information, especially models and drawings; in our current arrangement we employ consultants to produce this information instead. However, there are always moments when members of the production/site management team will insist that we simply “don’t have the time” for that lengthy process I’ve detailed above and that we “must get the information to site ASAP”. I appreciate the urgency, but we have processes for a reason; side-stepping them is rarely beneficial in the long run, no matter how much time you think you might save. As a member of the BIM team you will often be the first port of call when these ‘urgent’ requests arise, and sometimes you’ll just have to muck-in and help out; we are all one team after all. Be careful though, sometimes this willingness to help will backfire.
Several weeks ago, I’m asked by one of the site management team to assist in re-coordinating a room. After my initial reluctance and usual insistence on following good processes I am trumped in my argument by senior management; cards have been played, and I’ve lost this one. No problem, I’ll help out – it’s not that I don’t want to, and I’m certainly capable, I just know where cutting corners leads. Anyway, we spend 4-5 hours on the task, amending the model, re-coordinating where necessary and outputting some new drawings. Site team are seemingly happy and currently I look to be particularly useful (to those that don’t understand BIM this looks to them as though you’re ‘finally’ doing something productive).
At this point I think that it’s case closed; the job is done, it’s ticked off of the list and we carry on.
Fast forward 4-5 weeks and I’m invited, at short notice, to a meeting entitled ‘Coordination of Room A’. There are several invitees, which seems odd for an issue that is supposedly complete, but I accept anyway – the problem with starting one of these tasks is that you’re forevermore involved, it’s an unwritten part of a poor deal.
We all sit down for the meeting, initially quite unaware at just how confused the design manager is. He lays out 3 drawings on the table; one of these is mine, one is by a site engineer and the other is from the consultant. They’re all dated within a couple of weeks of one another and, you’ve guessed it, they’re all entirely different. Great start, ‘coordination’ at it’s very finest.
In spite of my involvement being prompted by the highest level of management it appears that a total failure of internal communication has led to:
- The site manager and I wasting 4 or more hours each on a re-coordination that didn’t need to be done, and won’t ever be used, whilst;
- The site engineer has spent several days drawing, by hand, his own version of the re-coordinated room, and;
- The design manager has instructed the consultant to carry out the same task, which involved multiple other people carrying out the work and reviewing the output
Tensions are understandably high. Poor communication and an insistence on cutting corners to ‘save time’ has created many more issues than have been resolved. It seems that everyone has taken their own initiative in an attempt to resolve this issue, very proactive, but everyone has done so behind closed doors. There are now three useless pieces of information, an ever-growing pool of wasted time and an added delay to the progress on site caused by nothing less than systematic incompetence.
DON’T IGNORE THE PROCESSES.
Had the correct process been adhered to this would have all been avoided and in the present day the issue would be resolved, without the wasted time, frustration and delay. Rather than trying to ignore these processes and procedures we need to collectively work to make them more efficient. If a process can be seen as effective that desire for it to be ignored is greatly reduced. As part of the BIM team our role is vital in implementing and managing effective processes; everything we do should be driven by robust methodology – this is what separates a BIM team from a CAD team, the evolution of process management beyond drawing outputs.
A few issues highlighted in this article then, all of which I will aim to address in future posts;
- Process implementation and management
If you’ve got a relatable experience or some tips, tricks and processes that support the above please let us know in the comments, or via email (address below). Remember that New Year target that we’ve set…
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