How can steel fabricators reduce requests for information?

Looking over the shoulder of construction worker holding a tablet with Trimble Connect displaying precast model

Everyone in the industry is accustomed to Requests for Information and while they can be crucial for resolving issues, they can hinder the progress of a project. However, with greater collaboration between all parties and the better use of software on a project, they can be minimised. 

Here, Steve Insley, Business Development Manager at Trimble Solutions (UK) Ltd explores the problem, the solution and why steelwork contractors should influence change within the supply chain.

As we know, Requests for Information (RFIs) are generally used to clarify information in the documentation, drawings and the specifications of a project, or to provide information that was not complete at the time the contract was agreed. However, unfortunately they have long been a sore point for all within the industry, as they can lead to costly delays.

For example, if a steelwork contractor urgently requires vital positioning information for a steel component, they have to submit an RFI, which means they are unable to proceed, resulting not only in delays within their manufacturing facility, but also delays to the work being carried out on site. It becomes a bottle neck for productivity – something the end client does not want to hear; they just want their project completed on time and to budget.

People are able to process visuals 60,000 times faster than text (according to research compiled by 3M). Therefore, in order to reduce RFIs, the industry should look to incorporate cloud-based BIM software within a project, allowing relevant people in the supply chain to physically see the 3D model (rather than a 2D drawing), which means they will be able to highlight issues easily, while also providing a more informed decision on how to solve a problem, in order to keep pushing the project forward to meet the deadline.

Screenshot of Trimble Connect, a model is displayed showing a steelwork clash

And the good news is that any party within the supply chain can instigate the use of this software, even if the main contractor is not already using their preferred cloud-based BIM software.

For example Trimble Connect, and other collaboration tools such as Viewpoint for Projects, have been designed to not only help the construction industry build better, but to improve communication between the contractor, structural engineer and steelwork contractor, to create a coordinated environment where all parties can review the latest models, plans and schedules.

By making information easily visible, accessible and shareable, it enables everyone involved in a construction project to know what is happening at all stages during a project and more importantly, what needs to happen next – encouraging a higher level of communication, productivity and efficiency.

Steelwork contractors are often one of the last parties to join the design team for a project, it is even more important that they influence this change, as when they join a project, those involved earlier on will have moved on, meaning if they have a technical query, then it could be a while before an answer is received. What’s more, steelwork contractors are probably one of the most prepared members of a supply chain, having already used a 3D model for fabrication purposes, so it might be easier than they think to become the influencer – especially as they are well accustomed to the benefits BIM can bring to a project.

Two monitors. First shows Trimble Connect displaying model, second shows Tekla EPM, Estimating and Production Management tool

Indeed, if you bring all consultants and suppliers together by allowing them to remotely login in to a visual session and effectively communicate with one another, all queries can be understood more quickly and resolved collaboratively. Providing more people with access to BIM models and project plans can reduce the amount of time wasted on site and, labour and cost overruns, with fewer design clashes, the need for less rework on site and more informed schedules, meaning that the work is more likely to run to programme.

For example, assuming the average site rework item costs £5,000 to resolve, before the cost of delays are considered, using inexpensive software to visualise the problem and resolve it as quickly as possible becomes the obvious answer.

The change may not happen overnight, but by applying pressure to incorporate software or early engagement strategies, steelwork contractors can have a positive impact on the whole workflow of a project – and be seen as more proactive.

Learn more about Trimble Connect 

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