By Daniel Gmeiner, Head of the BIM Competence Center, Hilti Group
Hilti’s BIM offering is based on the strategy of connecting the company’s strength in direct customer relationships with its core competence of providing productive solutions to construction professionals by leveraging building information modeling, or BIM, methods. Hilti serves as a true project partner that enables significant workflow productivity. We spoke to Daniel Gmeiner, Head of the BIM Competence Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
How has BIM changed the way you collaborate with your customers?
Daniel Gmeiner: Direct sales that provide professional solutions to clients do not necessarily meet the level of collaboration required for BIM projects. So Hilti established the role of a BIM project manager who serves as a single point of contact and actively manages scope, contracting and communication, and professionalizes top-level project partnerships. We connect BIM project managers with our BIM lead engineers who design MEP supports, passive fire protection, fastening and façade applications. The BIM Modeler complements these design services by implementing the solutions in the client’s BIM model.
Quite a few new roles and requirements. Did you expand your team via recruiting experts or by training existing staff?
Daniel Gmeiner: In the first year all of the BIM project managers and BIM modelers were recruited from outside the company. We combined their BIM expertise with our core competency of lead engineering into a single comprehensive workflow. Now we scale BIM service professionals by educating strong internal candidates in a certified program. The installation of a central BIM Competence Center has definitely helped to standardize foundations and to stay close to the associated community.
"The level of BIM partnerships, prefabrication and digitalization, especially on the contractor side, ranks among the highest worldwide"
What do your customers think about BIM?
Daniel Gmeiner: Our clients tell us that BIM is still complex. It is difficult to find a good entry point. Despite the excitement for BIM in theory, it is challenging to illustrate the true productivity gain achieved in the construction phase. We took this perception as a call to initiate a rethink. Just because something has digital elements does not mean it cannot exist in the real world. We therefore decided to make BIM tangible for our clients and built a customer journey embedding our relevant BIM use cases along the entire construction workflow. We call it the Hilti BIM Experience Center. Since it opened in Rotterdam, in June 2019, we have shown more than 750 customers how a partnership with Hilti in an early project phase significantly improves their workflow productivity.
Why a central BIM Competence Center?
Daniel Gmeiner: A central BIM Competence Center is an ideal spot that allows us to continuously improve our internal proficiency while driving standardization for global load balancing and service quality irrespective of project location.
We placed our multinational team in the Netherlands due to the high local adoption of BIM. The level of BIM partnerships, prefabrication and digitalization, especially on the contractor side, ranks among the highest worldwide. For many years, the local Hilti team has proven that our contribution to overall workflow productivity has a significant impact.
All European markets have already invested in local BIM project managers and BIM lead engineers, and we engage in projects jointly with these teams. While the client-facing roles are more market-centric, BIM modeling is centralized. This enforces a compliant workflow execution and full scalability. Due to the strong pull from the markets the central team has grown to include 30 experts comprising 15 nationalities. Additional investments will follow the BIM project pipeline, which is growing rapidly. This is all in line with the team’s mission to make BIM scalable.
Why is modeling of LOD 300 and higher relevant for these applications?
Our BIM service offering follows the entire workflow. The value of an early design for Hilti products is shown in several BIM use cases, such as integrating multiple MEP trades into a single fastening solution. Prefabrication of these solutions, advanced logistics based on unique identifiers and the digital jobsite layout (BIM-2-Field), powered by integrated hardware like our total stations, are some of the exemplary levers that can increase workflow productivity. The BIM project managers discuss with the client which of those BIM use cases are most significant to the respective project and then derive all customer deliverables accordingly. BIM design services then generate identified BIM use cases by creating a digital representative of these solutions. In Hilti’s case, they are usually embedded between LOD300 and LOD450. The clear scope allows for upfront calculations of BIM design services. This framework provides a transparent planning budget for our clients. In conventional terms, however, the cost for design and calculation of these categorists ends to be hidden in the course of the construction phase and spread among the multiple subcontractors involved.
Why is BIM relevant to Hilti?
Although the share-of-wallet of Hilti hardware in any building project is generally less than 1 percent, the overall project productivity via upfront design of our products usually factors into this number. So it was a logical step for Hilti to provide professional BIM design services to add significant value to BIM workflow partnerships. In the end, BIM fits our business model and strategy of being a full solution provider to our clients, enabling sustainable customer engagement.