Providing design support aids to facilitate specification

Providing design support aids to facilitate specification

In this article, Competitive Advantage discusses how to provide design support aids to facilitate specification.

Making it easy to specify
One of the key mantras in sales and marketing is “make it easy for the customer to buy” or in this case specify. Research conducted by Competitive Advantage tells us that an architect or engineer will often specify the product for which they have most design support. This is partly a matter of confidence in that brand but also about the quickest and easiest way to get the job done. So, providing design support aids is key. These aids could be CAD files, BIM content or online calculator tools which may be available as Apps.

CAD files
One sure way of ensuring your product is included in a design and with the correct detailing is to provide a CAD file. This needs to be available in a variety of formats to be compatible with the design software used, most commonly AutoCAD and Autodesk. Today with the adoption of BIM, there is less demand for these files, but many practices are still designing with CAD so it is important they are available. They should be available on the website as downloads and the technical and sales teams should be encouraged to email them to specifiers.

BIM content
Usage of BIM is increasing, but after an initial surge, take-up has slowed. This was driven by the UK government mandate in 2016 requiring all central government projects to use BIM. However, it is not just the public sector with many clients and contractors recognising the benefits of BIM, with uptake being slower with sub-contractors and small organisations. BIM offers the industry many advantages, and with drivers such as the Hackitt report encouraging its use we can expect adoption to continue.

It is useful to clarify terms. BIM content is data which will allow a designer to import information into their software and may be in a form such as an Excel spreadsheet. A BIM Object is a file which provides a 3D image as well as detailed information that defines the product's physical characteristics as well as an array of information including sustainability, manufacturer and maintenance requirements. Because BIM is still relatively new, different users have different requirements ranging from the level of information to the format.

In a survey of manufacturers conducted by Competitive Advantage for BIM4M2 in 2016, 58% of respondents said they were already offering BIM content and a further 35% had plans to introduce it. In many cases these would have been a selection of products and not many organisations would offer a full portfolio.

For the manufacturer considering offering BIM content there are many options, and costs, to consider. Not just the format but also where to locate that BIM content. The obvious location is on the manufacturer website, but there are various providers who offer hosting facilities. In addition, some clients and contractors are requiring their suppliers to provide data in a particular way.

To summarise, it is important for manufacturers to provide BIM content but there are many decisions to make and some carry significant costs.

Online Calculators
Where there are variables which influence the way products are used, for example; thermal insulation, wind loading, solar gain, flow rates manufacturers will often have a calculator available on their website which provides the correct product specification for the application. This makes the designer’s job easier, directs them to use a specific brand and also provides a means of tracking who is using the tool. In some cases project details can be requested and then a warranty issued to say that if the product is correctly installed in this application there is a project guarantee.

Some manufacturers will offer this as a downloadable App. Making it easy to use on site and providing useful feedback on who is using it.

This is a classic example of making it easy to specify. And well worthwhile if it is appropriate to your type of product.

Your Digital Salesman
CAD files, BIM content and online calculators are all performing a role which was once the responsibility of the technical department or specification sales person. They should not be replacing these people, but allowing them to focus on more important issues, whilst also allowing your organisation to engage with the specifier in a way that is more effective for both parties.


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