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«BIM to field»

in practice

Gruner Wepf AG, St. Gallen
Mario Gähwiler, site manager TS/HF
mario[punkt]gaehwiler [ät] gruner[punkt]ch

An interview with Mario Gähwiler, site manager at Gruner Wepf AG, St. Gallen

«BIM to field» includes all processes in which the digital information and data acquired during planning can be used and processed directly on the construction site.

«BIM to field» is therefore not only “looking at a digital plan” on the construction site, but also checking the correct implementation of the plans with digital tools. «BIM to field» thus supports quality assurance and increases process efficiency. 

The idea behind «BIM to field» is explained by B1M in this video.

Our construction sites need more and faster information and with every day of construction progress new data accumulates. The aim of  «BIM to field» is to record this data in a structured manner and to make it available to all parties involved quickly and in high quality. In addition, the Gruner Group primarily uses Autodesk's construction management or «BIM to field» tool. In the medium term, this «BIM to field» data can be synchronized with other data platforms, such as the project management tool.

Mario Gähwiler, site manager at Gruner Wepf AG, St. Gallen, has been using «BIM to field» intensively for several months. In an interview we ask how this has changed his work and where he sees advantages and disadvantages.

You are one of the first employees of the Gruner Group to work according to the “BIM to field” concept. Which tool do you use?
I have been working with the tool «BIM 360™ Field» from Autodesk since February 2018. With this tool it is possible to have data about a project on a tablet directly available on the construction site and to manage it. It supports my colleagues and me in construction management and reporting.

What functions do you use?
The responsible foreman and I as site manager use various checklists for components, the construction journal including photo protocol and the document library.

What are the biggest advantages?
A major advantage is that all stakeholders have direct access to the latest documents and data on the construction site. I upload data and documents such as plans, address lists or the service specifications directly in the tool. All authorized persons automatically receive an e-mail that a new version is available. 

But the tool offers much more than just displaying data. It is also a time-saving tool. The respective foreman and I use the same construction journal in the tool, in which we can also enter personnel hours. The photos for the construction journal are taken directly with the tablet, named according to the component and stored in the journal. I can filter the photos by name and get a list of all photos for a component within seconds. That's a real relief.

The checklists, which are also stored for each component, are useful because they can be edited and adapted on site if required. 

There are also smaller functions that are quite helpful. For example, the tool automatically documents the weather on the construction site.

The biggest advantages are that you have everything you need on the construction site quickly, clearly and in up-to-date form at hand. This simplifies the cooperation noticeably. It also reduces administrative effort, as the time-consuming transfer of manual notes is no longer necessary.

Are there functions that you do not use? What are the limitations of the tool?
Unfortunately, the checklists can only be used for simple components. For more complex components with many details, such as a drilling protocol, the very simple representation is not sufficient. Here we continue to work with Excel lists.

In addition, different authorization levels would be useful for individual users. For example, we currently do not keep the task list in the tool, although it would be a relief compared to the conventional Excel list. However, since the client must have access to the pending list and this cannot be released separately for him in the tool, we do without it.

It would also be helpful to synchronize directly with the data storage and systems on the computer. That is not possible at the moment. (Editor's note: Autodesk is capable of transferring data locally or into clouds. The BIM team works together with IT on an automatic synchronization of the data in the Gruner system.)

«BIM to field» is cloud-based. What are the contractor’s views on this?
The larger companies are more willing or already working with similar tools. The exchange of plans via the cloud works perfectly, as everyone involved is always up to date. We would like to use the tool primarily on smaller construction sites in order to gain initial experience with Site Management 4.0.  

On the part of the client, however, interest is currently still rather low, as some clients have little or no information about BIM. In addition, the added value for the client is in part either not apparent or only marginally apparent. That’s a shame. Even though there may have been initial skepticism among individual clients, all partners have so far been enthusiastic about working with the tool.

From your point of view, can the project costs be reduced with the new concept?
Perhaps not directly the costs, but the efficiency increases noticeably, because there is less administrative effort like the transfer of manual notes. Less coordination is required because everyone always has the latest data available - this reduces the risk of errors. Ultimately, these factors certainly have a positive effect on project costs - if not directly, then at least indirectly by preventing follow-up costs.

Questions to Stefan Aufdermauer, Deputy Head of Digital Deve­lop­ment Gruner Group

Will «BIM to field» also be used in other regions and fields in Switzerland?
Yes, «Autodesk BIM 360 field» is used in general planning for the new children's hospital in Zurich, in infrastructure construction at St. Gallen West-Ost Galerie Dietli and water supply Hausen am Albis, in building technology for the Ypsomed and SBG Schönburg projects in Bern, among others. The use of «BIM 360 field» is increasing strongly in the Gruner Group and shows the success of the tool.

How does the Gruner Group support working with «BIM to field»?
The Gruner BIM team conducts introductory training and is available for direct support on the project. In the meantime, a great deal of know-how has been accumulated, which is used in cooperation with Autodesk for the further development of the tool.