You may have noticed elsewhere on this website that we are trying to write about BIM very seriously. Today, however, I would like to show you BIM from a different perspective. As you know, not everything is perfect. BIM isn’t perfect either. It has both its positives and negatives.
In this article, I will focus on the darker side of working with BIM and will tell you about the negatives of the BIM Coordinator’s work.
I would like to point out that this will be my subjective list of minuses. It is worth emphasizing here that the defects that I am listing may not mean something negative for you. It all depends on what type of personality you are. Some of the issues mentioned may be normal and acceptable to you.
So, I invite you to the article about the disadvantages of BIM Coordinator’s work.
Table of Contents
Little time for BIM in the project
The first disadvantage, directly affecting other aspects related to the comfort of work, is the fact that BIM constitutes, in terms of hours spent, only 7% of the entire project. These calculations are based on my own experience and are the average of the 16 BIM projects I have worked on in Norway.
For example, when an infrastructure project, which lasts about 6 months, is valued at 2,000 man-hours, then assuming 7% on BIM, 140 project hours are available to the BIM Coordinator. When these 140 hours are spread over 6 months, it may turn out that in a month a BIM Coordinator should work with BIM for about 25 hours.
This leads to the fact that the BIM Coordinator has to work on several projects at the same time in order to be able to fulfill the 165 hours full-time position. The multitude of the project sometimes results in the BIM Coordinator working more than 8 hours a day.
Stress at work
Due to the small amount of BIM in the project mentioned above, the BIM Coordinator is forced to work on several projects simultaneously.
Suppose you are involved in four projects at the same time. Each project has a very tight deadline. Different people on these projects have expectations of you. They anticipate their project to be prioritized. You, in turn, have to deal with a great variety of ad-hoc tasks that will remedy the situation in the project. As a result you “jump” a lot between various tasks addressing different projects and needs.
Due to the dynamic nature of working on a BIM project, BIM tasks are often requested overnight, without a prior plan.
It’s challenging to plan your work ahead and act according to a schedule, which can lead to increased stress levels.
Technical support takes a lot of time
Due to the fact that you work on several projects at the same time, you are facing many people during your working day.
If you are good at given software, and usually BIM Coordinators master one of those, then a lot of people contact you because they value your skills. This, of course, tells a lot about your expertise and level of competence. However, you can imagine that such diversified assistance takes time, which makes it even more necessary for you to work overtime to “deliver” something.
A very beneficial solution to this situation is organizing internal webinars in the company. On such a webinar, you can explain a problem to a broader audience, in one hour. Instead of a one-to-one mundane and repetitive consultations, consider this approach. It will save you a lot of time.
The current level of process automation is insufficient
Another BIM Coordinator work’s downside is that many things still need to be performed manually. There are still processes that are difficult to automate.
As a result, the BIM Coordinator has to fulfill many repetitive activities. Routine may develop over time, which in turn can lead to an increase in dissatisfaction and irritation.
An example of processes that are difficult to automate is, among others, export, import or file conversion. Of course, there are ways to automate these activities (e.g. the use of RPA, which I describe here), but this only happens in the largest projects.
Working at your PC can get very noisy
The next drawback, closely related to the previous point, is the waiting time for some operations.
Let’s take the model update process as an example. Oftentimes, updating a multi-discipline model can take hours. This is due to, among other reasons, limitations related to the computer power or the Internet connection.
The task of the BIM Coordinator during the model update is to click on the screen, e.g. every 30 minutes, in order to accept a given operation.
The BIM Coordinator is somewhat forced to wait in front of the computer for the model to update. In addition, computers running at high speed, processing large files make a very unpleasant noise. My wife often compares this sound to an airplane taking off.
I know from experience that waiting in noise makes it difficult to focus on other activities and causes the body to fatigue faster. In particular, working remotely in the comfort of my small home office has accentuated this problem.
Low and high hourly wages
This is a very important topic. To explain this issue better, I will use an example that is not related to BIM.
It is often said that when running a small business you need to know everything. Taxes, Billing, Marketing, Sales, Logistics etc. These activities can have both low and high hourly rates.
It is assumed that the business thrives when the owner focuses on activities with high hourly rates. Examples of activities with a high hourly wage include tasks that increase the company’s revenues. Such tasks may be: creating a product strategy, improving the existing offer, improving the sales offer.
Other activities that the owner of the company does not necessarily need to know about, e.g. creating a website, video processing, online marketing, should be delegated to a team or to an external company.
In short, the idea is that activities that take more time and energy for a person running a business should be classified as activities with a low hourly wage.
Translating this into the BIM language, the tasks that have a high hourly rate involve creating something in the project. This can be, for example, the process of creating a qualitative discipline BIM model, creating a cost estimate, earthworks report, setting up data flow processes.
There exist also tasks that are less ambitious and assume, among others, creating a title block, renaming layers, moving files from folder A to folder B, changing the texture, trimming the design area, improving the print style, and converting the file. Of course, these are important tasks, but most of them should be AUTOMATED! I classify such tasks as tasks with a low hourly wage. In many of the above cases, the employee’s potential is not fully used.
Analyzing the BIM Coordinator’s tasks, I can conclude that they require very little creative work. Most activities revolve around “fixing something”, adjusting something for someone.
My reasoning is that, when working on a BIM project, designers have a high hourly rate, while the BIM Coordinator works with a low hourly rate.
And please don’t take it wrong. The hourly rate in Norway depends on the experience of the worker carrying out the activity. Thus, an hour of a designer can be of the same price as an hour of a BIM Coordinator.
Therefore, in the context of low and high hourly wages, I consider more the level of creative work and the level of ambition of the task.
A lot of work with initial data
Initial data are the most important part of any BIM project. Much depends on the quality and accuracy of the existing situation models. This has a direct impact on the accuracy of the designed models and the final quality of the BIM documentation.
Often, when creating models of the existing situation, many programs are used simultaneously. For example, in one program you create a terrain model, in another you process an orthophotomap, in next you model underground networks, and in the last one you create 3D buildings and trees.
The large number of systems makes the process of creating documentation more complex and time-consuming.
I found it very advantageous to have a single piece of software that comprises most of the above functionalities. An example of such a solution is the Trimble Quadri.
The work routine
The model of the existing situation in infrastructure projects is very important. It often takes a long time to create it. Referring to the BIM hours (which I mentioned in the first point of the article), the activities assuming the creation of the initial model constitute 50% of the entire BIM hour scope.
While working as a BIM Coordinator for around one year and a half, I took part in 16 different projects. In each of these projects, I was responsible for creating the input models.
Thus, another drawback may be the appearance of routine at work. As for the process of creating the input documentation, it is the same in every project. Only the files change.
Of course, it all depends on what kind of person you are – perhaps you aspire to be an expert in a specific, repeatable process. In my case, I noticed that these repetitive activities kill my creativity and lower my motivation and efficiency at work.
In extreme cases, routine at work may lead to burnout and mental fatigue.
Full mailbox and “ghosting” on the communicator
This aspect is very closely related to the previous points, i.e. working on several projects at the same time and having contact with many people during one working day. BIM Coordinator is, in a way, a ninja of interpersonal interactions – the number and variety of e-mails flowing into your inbox every day, as well as people who want to communicate directly, can sometimes make you dizzy.
Often the only way out is to set the status to “Do not disturb” in order to be able to focus your attention on one particular activity.
The disadvantages I mentioned in the context of the work of the BIM Coordinator may actually apply to everyone, regardless of the profession one performs. In addition, I would like to emphasize that I do appreciate the fact that I had the opportunity to work as a BIM Coordinator. I learned a lot, understood a bunch of complex processes and the experience gained from this position is incredibly valuable in my current work.
Take this article with a grain of salt. Remember that these are my personal thoughts which may differ from yours.
However, I know one thing for sure. Work with what makes you happy. Then you will always work with a high hourly rate 🙂
In the next article I will focus on the advantages of working as a BIM Coordinator. See you in the next part.