Choosing the right kind of Bridge Information Modeling software is essential to the successful delivery of bridge construction projects. Trimble’s Technical Manager Gabriel Neves knows all the tricks.
During my 30 years of experience in bridge design, out of which only one I’ve spent at Trimble, I’ve seen plenty of resistance to change. This is especially the case when new tools appear and disrupt traditional ways of working. That’s when we should rethink what and how we’re doing our job and how we could do it more efficiently and sensibly, but the learning curve might just look frighteningly steep. This is what I call the human factor.
The second one is the investment factor. Looking at the learning curve ahead, many contractors would deem the training period a loss. In a way this is fair: establishing new practices and mindsets takes time. However, this should be considered as an investment.
For example, using Bridge Information Modeling (BrIM) and moving from 2D to 3D has changed the design and construction process radically – but it pays itself back over and over again, as workflows become smoother, software capabilities improve, and working in silos turns into efficient co-operation.
The benefits of BrIM are obvious, but to tap into their full potential, you’ll need to be careful when choosing the right kind of software. This is important to the commitment of staff and teams, too; if the software doesn’t answer the needs of designers, engineers, architects and the rest, they’re less likely to be enthusiastic about it. Hence, it’s crucial to choose a software that entails all parts of bridge design and bridge engineering process, all the way to inspection and maintenance.
Here’s a checklist I’ve collected for those planning to go shopping for a BrIM software:
1. Does the software do everything you need?
The core idea of BrIM is that you can have the entire bridge in one software. This way, precast concrete or cast in place modeling, rebar, steelwork and steel connections, formwork and even construction planning schedules – all of it – can be done in one software, no matter what kind of bridge you’re building. This helps all project parties collaborate without delays, everyone has access to up-to-date information at all times, and clash-checking is a breeze.
2. How about levels of development (LOD)?
If LOD is 300 or below, the same software can’t perform all tasks and include all the elements in the model. When LOD is 350 or more, every single object can be modeled, and all those objects will have attributes attached to them, enriching the data even further. For many contractors, increasing LOD is their top priority.
3. How do you manage changes?
In bridge design, changing one detail might affect various others as well. With the right kind of BrIM, the changes can be made and managed all on one software, without the need to keep on reprinting countless stacks of paper. Having the drawings and schedules of quantities always updated and representing the model accurately is a must.
On top of this, automatic updates ensure all changes are immediately delivered to all project parties, reducing risk of rework throughout the process. A great example is when the concrete geometry needs to change, the reinforcement adapts to the new shape.
4. What’s up with road alignment?
BrIM can capture the structure and alignment of the road, railway, or the terrain – depending on the kind of bridge you’re building. All input, ranging from geomodels to scanned images, can be utilized in ways that physical drawings can’t compete against.
5. You’ll need an open approach.
If your software doesn’t interact with other software, you’re still working in silos. Other software solutions, digital construction tools, and manufacturing machinery need to be able to talk to your BrIM for you to be able to reap its benefits.
6. Do you get enough support from your software provider?
BrIM can bring professionals from different fields and geographical locations together; but do ensure your choice of software is painless to implement and training is provided. Don’t forget multicultural environments and local standards! Thus, having support available in your own language both online and personally on the spot is an important factor.
None of this is salesman chat; this is the practical opinion of someone who’s seen the industry evolve and develop. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my career, from drawing by hand to 2D to 3D, it’s the fact that investing in pain points is a smart thing to do.
And when you’ve established you BrIM and have all teams on board, never stop training. My advice is to bear in mind that software is always improving, so to be able to stay tuned, keep on learning the newest features and capabilities. That will ensure you’re on the front line not only now, but also in the future.