Smart Facilities Management – BIM a Critical Enabler

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Imagine being able to visually manage a crisis in an asset intensive process plant through a graphical interface with live streams of data and visuals; whilst accessing data from the plant’s Enterprise Resource Planning (‘ERP’) system, all through your tablet from either your home or office many miles away. Smart connected facilities with an augmented reality interface to mobile devices offer exponential opportunities in functionality with vast benefits in safety and productivity. Utilising Building Information Models1 (‘BIM’) as the visual front-end to the facility’s ERP system creates a cutting edge platform for facilities management. The demand for such cloud based, mobile augmented reality platforms is gaining rapid momentum with:

  • The wide spread adoption of ‘Industrial Internet’ and ‘Internet of Things’ (‘IoT’) based strategies driving demand for smart, connected facilities.
  • Growing demand for remote facilities management driven by safety and productivity considerations.
  • Advances in BIM software interoperability, increased integration with ERP systems and the development of visual integrators by firms such as SAP and IBM.
  • Advancements in cloud computing, coupled with increased penetration and capabilities of mobile devices.

1 Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition. (National BIM Standard– USA). The level of detail in these comprehensive millimetre perfect models is illustrated in the pictures above.

Smart Facilities Management BIM

Smart Facilities

Integrating the BIM model to a ERP system, and then to sites sensors, cameras and other monitoring devices is key to unlocking value and providing a connected, augmented reality interface to the typical menu driven ERP system. This will enable operators to select items from the model to get live feeds from on-site sensors and cameras. Work order history and maintenance data can be dynamically retrieved by clicking on the graphical object on the model. Conversely the ERP system can be queried to “show all items that are due for preventive maintenance in the next week”. The system will then visually highlight all the objects in the BIM model, enabling tasks such as routing, sequencing and spatial analytics to increase safety and ‘wrench time’. To achieve this, a smart connected facility’s BIM model must have three key attributes:

  1. An accurate, data-rich, model that is navigable and accessible i.e. a lightweight easy to use model.
  2. A model that is fully integrated with the facility through smart technology, so that site sensors and cameras can be accessed and monitored through the model.
  3. A model that is integrated to the facility’s ERP system so that data (manuals, maintenance schedules, parts inventory, assembly videos, engineering drawings…) can be readily assessed by just clicking on the relevant object on the screen.

Benefits of linking Smart Facilities with BIM

The BIM model makes it easy to visualise the tasks, when compared with viewing printed or onscreen lists of equipment numbers. It unlocks immense benefits for the operation and maintenance of facilities such as:

  1. Improved site safety by planning and coordinating field tasks remotely. Virtual walk-through of plants for training purposes and quick, safe problem resolution.
  2. Enhanced knowledge capture through the graphical interface and visuals.
  3. Improved safety, productivity, responsiveness and decision making through one touch graphical access to asset information, engineering and facility data.
  4. Safer shutdowns by pre-planning, animating and rehearsing remotely and even using virtual reality.
  5. The graphical interface improves access, usability whilst providing functionality to a wide range of stakeholders, as illustrated in the table below.

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Building the Smart Facility

One of the key enablers for Smart Connected Facilities is an appropriate BIM, which has to be accurate, data rich, compatible with facility management systems and light weight file size. These models can be obtained by either repurposing existing construction models, which often exist for facilities that have been built in the last ten years. Alternatively the models can be created from engineering drawings and laser scans of the facility. The process and workflow to repurpose existing construction models for facilities management is illustrated below.

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