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BIM: The All Business “Plug and Play”

Photo: Hilti: Man creates 3-Model on PC

Construction sites are brimming with data, but only a fraction of it has a deliberate purpose. Consider the thousands of labels that are lying around on sites: What if they were repurposed, beyond telling people what’s in a box? And why would it matter to customers?

At Hilti, innovation doesn’t happen in an ivory tower: It starts on jobsites, after frank discussions with our customers on what works and what could be better. A labeling application enabled by building information modeling (BIM) came up in one of those “aha!” moments. This is the start of a story about how data usage positively changed the course of a project.

In 2018, Axel Mühlenbruch, a BIM Project Manager at Hilti, was discussing with BASF the construction of a laboratory building at the company’s headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany. BASF’s headquarters in Ludwigshafen is like a city within a city. The company operates the world’s largest chemical installation, which includes 200 production facilities connected by 2850 kilometers of pipelines over an area of ten square kilometers.

Photo: Hilti: Installation Systems 3D
Hilti installation systems within a 3D, building information model. Location data can be used to help stage assemblies before installation.
Photo: Hilti: Delivery Support Systems QR-Code
Top: Delivery of ready-to-mount support systems is enabled by the information in the model and reduces installation time. Bottom: Labels like this one correspond to the digital plans. Once attached to the packaging, it can be scanned to help stage pre-assembled solutions on a jobsite.

Axel thought that Hilti could help beyond providing tools and solutions. The magnitude of the project made a strong case for integrated project delivery. This encompasses consulting on the design and execution of the building in order to achieve meaningful benefits, including higher productivity and lower costs. The consulting relies on BIM, a methodology that provides a digital representation of the building, often described as a “digital twin.” This is available to all stakeholders of a construction project and allows for greater efficiency during the many stages of project collaboration.

Axel is a construction engineer. He is also one of the first people at Hilti trained specifically on BIM-related applications. He has developed an eye for optimization opportunities. “Depending on the targeted use cases, productivity gains can reach between 30 and 70 percent, and this is no overstatement. But for clients to achieve the higher numbers, we need to be part of the project from the design phase. Why? Because BIM-based optimization may entail changes in the design, and if execution has already started, it’s challenging to go back and alter existing plans.”

“Upfront alignment with the building owner, planner and contractors is crucial. Many Hilti solutions can help optimize the supply chain and the operations on jobsites, but customizing them to the specific project needs is actually what ensures the maximum benefits and savings,” points out Rebecca Kühl, BIM Logistics Consultant. 

Upfront alignment with the building owner, planner and contractors is crucial.

Rebecca Kühl, BIM Logistics Consultant

Take prefabrication. This is a solution where Hilti preassembles and delivers the ready-to-mount multi-trade support systems, such as the metal frames holding the overhead pipe runs, air ducts and wires. Because the support systems have been designed in the same digital environment as the pipe runs, air ducts and wiring, it’s possible to custom manufacture them instead of leaving this to the jobsite workers. This greatly reduces waste and saves the workers time. We believe that designing for many trades at once can save up to 50 percent of total material used in a building. This contributes to a more sustainable solution and lower carbon footprint.

Prefabrication is a huge cost saver, but it is not a remedy for everything that needs optimizing on a jobsite. Think about manually accepting a delivery of 16,000 supports, packaged on 320 pallets, on the BASF construction site, regardless of when they need to be installed. To make this manageable and prevent storage space from being filled unnecessarily, Hilti delivered the supports in stages, based on when they were needed on the building’s nine floors. This just-in-time delivery was made possible through BIM.

It is much better to plan deliveries according to the installation schedule. However, on most traditional projects, this is not easy to do, because it’s not always clear what is needed and when, and this uncertainty makes it difficult to convert the “what” and the “when” into an order. 

  • Photo: Hilti: Information Model Transport
    Hilti’s Prefabrication Services allow for the delivery of pre-assembled supports, organized by floor with the help of a building information model.
  • Photo: Hilti: QR-Code scanning
    Labels with QR codes help to cross reference the pre-assembled supports to the model, so that it can be prestaged on the correct floor of the building it is to be installed on.
  • Photo: Hilti: BIM Checking Locations Plans
    Here we see a Hilti team member and our customer checking the locations for the pre-assembled supports on paper plans as well.
  • Photo: Hilti: Installation pre assembled Supports
    Installation of the pre-assembled supports according to the floor plan.
  • Phtoto: Hilti: Man scanning QR-Code
    After installation the QR is scanned again to enable installation progress tracking in the model.​
  • Photo: Hilti: overhead installations
    Mechanical, electrical, ventilation and plumbing installations coming together overhead.

Manually keeping track of all those supports through delivery and installation would have been incredibly time-consuming and prone to human error. To minimize this, Hilti and SIEGLE + EPPLE, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractor, developed an application that could scan the QR code labels. The benefit is obvious: full transparency on each of the items, from shipping to assembly. Overall, packaging, shipping, storage and assembly costs were reduced, saving loads of plastic wrap and CO2 emissions in the process.

“Customized labeling and prefabrication are just two examples of how information from the BIM model can be leveraged to increase productivity while using less material and to help save money. There are hundreds of other possible applications that can increase productivity and lower costs. It all starts with a frank discussion,” concluded Rebecca Kühl.  

Video: Hilti: Woman in orange Jacket
Hilti BIM services – modeling for a smooth transfer from office to jobsite (explained by Peter Rupp, previously serving as Head of Business Unit Construction Services until April 2020)