After decades of slow productivity growth, the engineering and construction (E&C) industry is poised to make major gains through digital technology. This breakthrough is centered on building information modeling (BIM), a software platform that integrates 3D modeling with project management and visualization tools. BIM presents all the physical objects in a building along with their physical, technical, and commercial characteristics. The technology makes it possible to quickly assess shipping and construction timing, life cycle cost, and other key variables.
Similar to digital breakthroughs in other industries, BIM is beginning to transform the construction business by reorganizing the value chain. Instead of reinforcing the industry’s traditional silos, BIM will promote collaboration at each stage of a project. Its advantages are prompting many large contractors, as well as engineering and architecture firms, to invest in the technology.
But BIM also poses a challenge. Making it work requires a substantial upfront effort not just to adopt the technology but also to acquire relevant know-how, set standards, find the right strategic positioning, and align stakeholders. So far, building materials companies have been less aggressive than others in the industry. Some
of these companies are concentrating only on the immediate task of turning their product list into a BIM object library; others see BIM as a burdensome government regulation.
As the construction industry starts to reorganize around BIM, the time is now for building materials companies to act. Those that go beyond object libraries and embrace BIM’s capabilities may gain a first-mover advantage and enjoy a variety of opportunities for capturing value. Those that are slow to adopt BIM may fall short not just in efficiency but also in innovation.