Back in 2016, Emanuele Tosatti—global channel manager at ABB Smart Building, a division of ABB Electrification—had a dream for a BIM execution plan. He envisioned digitizing ABB Electrification’s entire product portfolio and hosting it in the cloud so that ABB’s customers could more easily integrate them into their BIM models. The Swedish-Swiss energy and technology leader manufactures products including light switches, sockets, and fuse box components—pretty much everything required for a building’s electrical system.
Tosatti wanted to “BIMify” these products; in other words, he wanted to supplement them with information. To achieve this goal, he devised a BIM (Building Information Modeling) catalog containing all of the company’s products and their data sheets. This database has streamlined the workflows of architects and designers working in BIM models, as they now have access to a single source for all ABB products and their corresponding product data.
“With BIM, our products are no longer simply objects; they are carriers of valuable information,” Tosatti says. From a product’s weight to the heat it emits, architects are able to find all the data they’d ever need by simply accessing ABB’s cloud-based BIM catalog. This process won’t just save architects and designers huge amounts of time and money; it will also reduce design errors, as the data is available from the outset and the need for painstaking manual collection and calculation is eliminated, ultimately improving the end result.
Going Digital Brings New Business
For ABB, this has translated to increased sales by keeping the company competitive—BIM is, after all, becoming mandatory in an increasing number of countries. A multinational company such as ABB must develop new BIM solutions if it wants to avoid being left behind.
“We regard BIM as a key factor for improving the efficiency and future-proofing the work of global partners working in the fields of architecture, design, and construction,” says Adalbert Neumann, head of global marketing and sales at ABB Smart Buildings and chairman of Busch-Jaeger, a manufacturer of electrical installation technology and part of the ABB Group. Neumann emphasizes that BIM is a great example of how digitalization can make the entire value chain more efficient.
ABB was well aware that its investment in BIM would pay off and that the implementation required a strategic plan. “At the time, BIM hadn’t quite established itself on the market,” Tosatti says. “We wanted to create something new, on a wide scale.” He explains that the company required external help to “guide the BIM journey and roll it out properly.”
Change Management: A Gradual Process
To execute the plan, ABB teamed up with Autodesk to organize joint workshops with company executives. The team used design thinking methods to pinpoint market gaps and identify potential business. “With design thinking, our dreams stopped being just fantasies, and we started to turn them into reality,” Tosatti says. “Autodesk helped us answer questions like, ‘What kind of digital strategy do we need?’, ‘How many people are necessary?’, and ‘What technology is mandatory?’”
The workshops resulted in a BIM business concept based on milestones. This BIM execution plan initiated the change-management process—which prepares, supports, and helps individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational change—culminating in the digital transformation rollout.
With the plan now in the execution phase, ABB’s BIM team currently consists of 35 professionals who are responsible for determining internal standards, international BIM requirements, and the necessary technology. The aim is to expand the team in order to implement BIM throughout the entire ABB Group. To achieve this goal, new positions, including BIM manager, will be created.
BIM Secures Future Projects
Tosatti sees enormous long-term potential in this digitalization, explaining that cloud access to company product data “simplifies design, construction, and facility-management processes for the building while also improving product development efficiency.”
Tommaso Tini, senior customer success Manager at Autodesk, explains that “BIMifying” products for an ABB customer such as Hilton simplifies cost planning for future projects, because data such as that recorded by motion detectors in an existing building provides precise information about how many lights are needed, where they are needed, and what their technical requirements are. This makes construction not only more cost-effective but also smarter and more sustainable, which is every contractor’s dream.