Jim Reis, partner with TSI, told those in attendance that the conference is “their show,” and to ask questions and provide feedback.

LAS VEGAS - TSI had a lot to celebrate as it brought its 10th annual users group meeting to the Planet Hollywood hotel and casino Sept. 27-30. Not only has the company been offering a users meeting for a decade, but this year’s meeting saw a resurgence in attendance.

Jim Reis, partner with Technical Sales International, opened the conference Sept. 28. He told attendees that for the past 10 years, TSI has seen attendance levels grow almost every year for the meeting, which provides training for customers on TSI products and services. However, in 2008 and 2009, attendance took a dip. But for the 2011 show, the numbers were back up with more than 450 customers attending. With that news, Reis said that TSI must be “doing something right.”

Reis also encouraged those in attendance to ask questions and provide feedback on what TSI can do better to serve its clients.

“This is your meeting,” he said.

The four-day event gave attendees plenty of opportunities to network with other customers and give TSI the feedback it needs to continue growing its product offerings. It also presented attendees with several educational sessions to improve business. The major theme of the event is that building information modeling is here to stay. And adopting building information modeling can make your company lean and efficient, TSI officials said.

Bernard Tamasy, president and CEO of Technical Sales International, explains to customers why they need to implement a building information modeling process in their company.

The future

If you have not yet adopted BIM, you should get started. That was the message from Bernard Tamasy, president and chief executive officer of Technical Sales International. Tamasy spoke to TSI customers Sept. 28 during a presentation called “The BIM Process.”

Tamasy not only gave attendees a look at how BIM is being used today, but how the process will evolve by 2015 and 2020.

For those new to the idea of building information modeling, Tamasy stressed that it is “not a software application. It’s a process.”

Sometimes, the best way to describe BIM is to describe what it isn’t. For example, Tamasy said that BIM is more than just computer-aided drafting and 3-D drawings. He said it will not replace people in a company and it will not automate any contractors out of business.

At the core, he said that BIM is about building long-term value in a project and improving the way projects are designed and built. For example, in a design-build approach to a project, there is a single contracting entity. This reduces administrative costs, the building is completed faster and there are fewer legal costs.

Tamasy said that the Design Building Institute of America found that in 2006, 40 percent of construction projects were design-build. Today that number is at 77 percent.

“That is huge,” he said.

To further stress the point, he also told the audience that the U.S. government’s General Services Administration has decided that 100 percent of the projects it funds must use building information modeling.

There are several benefits to taking a BIM approach. For example, Tamasy said that building owners are ensured that buildings will come in at a given cost and certain timeframe. It will also increase building performance and improve the collaboration between trades on the job.

In the design phase of the building, earlier collaboration means that any installation can be checked against the design intent. It also means that everyone involved in the project can quickly update equipment costs. As for the construction and fabrication benefits, design errors will be discovered before they go out to the field.

“BIM facilitates lean construction,” Tamasy said. He explained that when all parties involved on the plan work together, the project is built with more efficiency and field redundancies are reduced.

While some companies may be just getting started with BIM, Tamasy made sure to explain to attendees that the process is not going away. In fact, he made some predictions for its future. He believes that by 2015, BIM will be a “mainstream practice.”

He also predicted that it will be taught in undergraduate construction programs, it will boost the number of sustainable buildings, and will diminish use of paper documents. So much of the planning and documentation will be done electronically so that blueprints and work orders will become rare.

By 2020, Tamasy said that there will be more collaboration between companies across the globe. Also, worldwide sustainability will drive more engineers to provide energy efficiency. BIM tools will also be created to improve import and export capabilities.

Finally, he said that “cloud computing” will also become commonplace. The idea is just starting to pick up speed. By using a “cloud” or centralized computer server, access to information is easier to store and share among several parties.

Tamasy said that companies need to start getting everyone on the same page with BIM and to begin embracing it because “this is not going away.”

Garrison Wynn tells attendees that they need to learn how to communicate in order to sell employees on lean and BIM practices.

Buying in

Accepting a new philosophy such as BIM and lean construction can be difficult for some workers. In fact, it can be difficult to get anyone to do something a new way if they’ve been doing it one way for a long time. That is why TSI brought in Garrison Wynn to speak to customers Sept. 28.

Wynn is a motivational speaker and the author of The Real Truth About Success. During his presentation called “The Real Truth About Change Management and BIM: Nobody wants to be a Senior Beginner,” Wynn explained how to get a company on board with lean and BIM practices. According to Wynn, what keeps most companies - and people - from working well together is a lack of proper communication.

“Judgment is what holds people back,” he said. “How fast can you connect with somebody? Everybody knows something you don’t.”

For example, Wynn cited a study of 5,300 top performing employees. The study found that most of these “top performers” never used the term “wrong” with an employee. He said that when discussing a new way of doing business with an employee who is having trouble accepting a new process, never tell them that they are “wrong” for their ideas. Wynn said to hear them out. Listen to the worker and then give a counter proposal as something to think about. This builds trust with workers. It also builds clarity.

“Intelligence is not a measure of success,” Wynn said. “Clarity is success.”

If an employer can speak clearly to his or her employees about a new process, they will be more apt to buy in.

“We all agree BIM is the best way going forward. Change it going to happen. The key is to minimize fear,” he said.

In order to minimize this fear, there are certain people within the company that need to take the lead when it comes to tackling BIM and “lean” construction issues. For example, Wynn said that it is important to get the support of most senior employees. If a senior employee who has been doing things one way for several years is willing to embrace the change, other employees will do the same.

“Nobody wants to be a senior beginner,” said Wynn. “If senior employees do it the new way, it is a catalyst for change.”

Wynn also said that managers have to accept the new ideas as well. He explained that no one wants “jellyfish management” or a manager that won’t enforce the new way of doing business with employees.

“You can’t lead by example if you’re a bad example,” he said.

If you are responsible for creating the force of change in your company, Wynn said that you need to help “others around you adapt.”   

The Planet Hollywood hotel and casino hosted the 2011 TSI user meeting.

Real-life example

Joseph Mierzewjerski of J.C. Cannistraro LLC in Boston knows what it is like to get people to adapt to a lean process. During his presentation called “Lessons Learned,” Mierzewjerski talked about his role managing the CAD coordination department for his company, which provides HVAC, fire protection and facilities maintenance services for various commercial and industrial projects.

Mierzewjerski explained that the company adopted lean construction. But what does that mean? He said lean is about reducing waste and labor. One of the first things that the company implemented was to fight the urge to mass produce parts.

“Mass production is not necessarily lean production,” he said. “As a project manager, I don’t want to spend money.”

Mierzewjerski said you need to build parts “like you don’t have space for it. Don’t build things if you’re not going to get paid for it in several months.”

He said it saves time and money if you build as you go. It is also better to build and fabricate parts in the shop, explaining that shop labor is generally cheaper than field labor. It also helps avoid any conflicts in the field if the fabrication is done back in the shop.

While the company may be adding time in the office, “we’re saving in the field,” he said.

One of the projects J.C. Cannistraro has reserved for the shop is the fabrication of pipe hangers. Project drawings are used to designate the placement of each and every pipe hanger. Once the drawings are completed, a fabricator will cut each hanger to length and number it. This number will correspond to its placement in the field. The hanger is then placed on a cart and arranged in order of how they will be installed in the field.

This cart of hangers is then sent to the jobsite where the numbered hanger just needs to be installed in the corresponding parts on the plan. If the job calls for the installation of 500 hangers, Mierzewjerski said he will send out five guys on the job. Each guy can do about 100 hangers in a day, meaning that the entire project will be finished in that one day. This kind of coordination and planning is “the lean part of this,” he said.

But changing the way work is done to become leaner can run into opposition.

“There’s a generation gap in Boston,” Mierzewjerski said. “(There are) older people who want to do it the old way. You have to sell them on the change.”

One way of doing this is to create change slowly and gradually.

“Don’t make the idea too big,” he said.

He also said that project managers must meet with workers, not just to enforce a new way of doing something, but to gather feedback and ideas from other employees.

“Take suggestions and eventually they buy into it,” he said.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail devriesj@bnpmedia.com.