BIM for sheet metal fabrication sounds as a global misnomer since it has several preconceived and inherent applications in core construction flow works, but the evolvement and adoption of building information modeling continues to grow across building construction industry at a significant rate.

Sheet metal contractors, from simple building products such a railing, roofs, glazing or claddings, or components as important as HVAC ductwork, are tapping the potentials of BIM to collaborate with other associated subcontractors and general contractors involved in building construction and infrastructure development projects. 

This acceptance of BIM amongst the community of sheet metal fabricators is looked at as a major plus as it sets the construction supply chain to forward steer. The records and data pertaining to the information such as who is the contractor, the activity owner, contributing factor are set straight right from project inception.

However, in order to achieve such streamlined communication and address coordination challenges, sheet metal product manufacturers need more than their conventional and native 3-D computer-aided drafting models. Inculcating BIM modeling practices will increase the chances that the products are being noticed by major general contractors seeking BIM-ready data.

Design specifications and information take the center stage when it is about BIM. For a sheet metal contractor, delivering sheet metal products with BIM-ready specifications show how to make the products fit, across the supply chain with a better coordination curve.

Big game of collaboration

How exactly did the entire idea of “coordination between general contractor and subcontractors” come in to picture? The emphasis of upholding better coordination between contractors is important because, when the “as-built” models and drawings of the construction work advances, more and more changes surface which necessarily calls for a close collaboration.

In response to such rising coordination needs, sub-contractors need to automate their processes of fabrication for sheet metal products used in building construction alongside the documentation. As a result, the goal of the fabricator’s in-house design teams is to deliver spool drawings and nesting reports for fabrication as well as BIM content for coordinating with the general contractor who is the intended user of these sheet metal building products.

Currently, to prepare BIM 3-D documents along with fabrication drawing isn’t a big deal for CAD drafters. Fabrication drawings prepared in AutoCAD can be uploaded to Revit directly with neutral file formats (STEP files) but still, it needs to interpret and translate the details for fabrication throughput.

Instead, if this data is fetched directly from the manufacturer for the geometry, the general contractor can simply import the 3-D CAD geometry to BIM platform for preparing as-built models and geometries to plan the process downstream.

How will your data — as a building product manufacturer — fit in BIM?

The collaboration of building products’ data with BIM begins with coordination between the manufacturer and the BIM modeler, with earlier providing the necessary and relevant information to the later. Since the most credible source is the point of origination of data – the manufacturer or the sheet metal contractor himself.

To make your data fit into BIM, it needs to be standardized so that it can be understood by anyone across the construction supply chain and any unnecessary information has to be removed. Furthermore, standardization of data leads to consistently structured data repository which can be fetched as and when required to use over several times once the data is stored. Standardization of building products design data also means that the data is interoperable across several CAD or BIM platforms used across the industry be it SolidWorks/AutoCAD/Solid Edge or Revit/Autodesk BDS.

Data conversion to standard format

The gist of the data conversion to standard format lies in serving the interlined relationships of various disciplines. Multiple languages, design compatibility to inbuilt macros of the BIM platforms, and much more are addressed when a building product manufacture standardized the data from BIM-ready modeling.

At present, the construction industry isn’t in a situation where the supply chain is well-coordinated although highly digitized with BIM. Majority of the building product manufacturers and sheet metal contracts have adopted BIM for enhancing their market reputation, but the confirmation of being on the right track is required — something that comes from general contractors while they communicate with the subcontractors.