The AECOM office in Madrid, Spain has accommodated and enhanced the quality process and technical reviews on several projects by using BIM 360 as the tool to ensure consistency, traceability, and streamlining of the entire process. Quality reviews used to take several steps, paper printing, pen markups, and documentation archiving in different unconnected environments. Using BIM 360, we have redesigned our quality process—from the work-in-progress reviews to technical reviews and verifiers checking within the same platform—by using Document Management Markups and Issues functionality, approval workflows, and BIM 360 Field checklists to accomplish and register the whole process within a single source of information. This approach has boosted our office's processes, making our team more efficient and accurate, and has improved the quality of our final deliverables by ensuring all the stakeholders have been involved in the whole project life.
Today, companies work to high standards to ensure the quality of deliverables. It is likely that you are tired of manual quality processes and time-consuming procedures that would benefit from simpler, more efficient management. Quality reviews used to be performed over printed copies—PDF files in the best-case scenario—with pen markups. Teams had to reply to the comments, which in turn required storage as a guarantee of the process, meaning dozens of outdated printed copies and nonregulated decisions documented in stand-alone files and emails.
This article will present how to take advantage of combining the different BIM 360 tools to carry out a reliable quality process within the same cloud-based environment—accessible from anywhere, paperless, traceable, and consistent through all the phases and stakeholders—and will illustrate the new possibilities derived from migrating from old-fashioned reviews to new procedures aligned with the digital era we are living in.
Quality Process with BIM 360
With this objective in mind, we will address how to carry out the review process, step by step, in a way that can be successfully implemented on projects. The main challenge has been redesigning the complete quality process—from design reviews to technical reviews and verifiers’ checks—within the same platform, integrating the use of Document Management Markups and Issues functionality, approval workflows, and BIM 360 Field checklists. By gathering all the steps and stakeholders of the process on the same platform, we were able to shift away from printed copies, unconnected versions, and manual storage.
This approach divides the process into four phases, which should be adopted sequentially by project teams to move from traditional markups to complex approval workflows and advanced Issues usage as part of the highest maturity level, integrating the BIM 360 tools illustrated below to establish a robust quality process.
In addition to the implementation of the above phases, as mentioned previously, unconnected versions of a document are the first stumbling block we faced with the traditional way. Setting up Document Management for file storage enables the traceability of the document and markups overlapping throughout the different versions of the same document, so we can forget about versions recording and focus on the review process itself.
Let’s start with the Markups feature. Using this tool to review a document is most similar to the traditional way, allowing users to include revision clouds, notes, dimensions, etc., but with the version recording that BIM 360 enables. So, even by simply using the markups on the platform, we already get a qualitative leap in terms of document versions traceability, which would be the first step for a completely digitalized process. Nevertheless, we can still significantly enhance the process by having not only version control, but review traceability and communication efficiency. The proposal to achieve this goal is to add a new step by implementing Issues during the review processes along with Markups. Henceforth, project teams don’t need to reply markup by markup but can use issue responses and assignment capabilities.
We could outline the Issues tool as an intelligent feature to compile under a single section all the coordination and review notes, tracked responses, and the status associated with the documents or 3D models, accessible from anywhere thanks to the cloud platform. Let´s take a look at how to configure Issues at the commencement of the project to ensure success and get the most benefit out of this feature by setting up multiple available and custom attributes that can be regulated to increase the information related to each specific case. Let’s consider a design/bid/build project where the quality process extends from design coordination, starting on day one, to the technical reviews at each milestone. In order to classify each review accordingly, we have to arrange several built-in and custom attributes to complete the information related to each issue in order to create comprehensive and complete issues.
First thing on the to-do list is to assign issues permissions based on project roles for further control, so that some users cannot only create and view their issues (‘Create’ permission) but can also create and view all project issues (‘View and Create’ permissions), or even reassign those ('Full Control'). After the permissions are set up, we need to define the nature of each issue. Therefore, we must arrange the types and root causes based on the project requirements and company procedures. In a regular project, the types available would be those related to design coordination and clashes, as well as to technical reviews to ensure deliverables quality. For that reason, the foremost priority is to activate only the required types and subtypes above, mentioned by Autodesk instructions, and limit an endless list of types and subtypes for the end user.
In addition to classifying the issues by type, it’s necessary to define the Root Causes list, so that we label each issue by its cause and possible solution. Below we can see a list of root causes for a typical project.
Apart from deactivating the nonrequired type and root cause fields, BIM 360 allows us to include custom attributes that might add useful information to each issue such as project milestones, location, etc. As a minimum, we suggest configuring the project stage field and the location attribute to indicate the building, level, or zone, depending on project breakdown.
At the end of the setup, we should have answered the most relevant questions to get an accurate image of each case and track accordingly to the relevant parameters for the project: what’s the cause and nature of the issue, where/when should it be addressed, and how by providing a comprehensive explanation in the Description field in addition to the above-mentioned attributes. From this point onwards, the issue would be ready to use in our project.
Once the issue fields are set up from the Project Admin module, we can also preconfigure issue templates by category as we are streamlining the data input for a certain typology of reviews, such as the technical reviews, by filling automatically from the template the type, subtype, and milestone, for example.
Once we have all the above configurations addressed, the teams should be able to go through the review process of project drawings in a more organized, consistent, and integrated way by using the Issues tool to flag and track comments instead of the traditional stand-alone notes and markups.
At the beginning of this article, we pointed out that the Issues tool not only improves the review process and communication but also enables project status tracking and data analysis in real time. As the issues are collated in a single tab, we can easily extract the up-to-date cases in CSV format, so the more attributes we add to each case, the more project data we can analyze and digest.
Once the data is digested, we can present an accurate picture of the project status in a custom, graphical way to clients and stakeholders for a better understanding of project and team performance, as in the project dashboards shown below. The data analysis also enables us to check project performance against references and KPIs, allowing us to anticipate possible risks during the project, as well as to obtain lessons learned in a more efficient way.
Configuring issues with attributes not only eases the review process itself but opens up new opportunities for getting more reliable and updated information on the project status for managing purposes, as well as enabling the possibility to perform a thorough audit of previous decisions when needed, thanks to the fact that every issue resolution and comment will be automatically recorded. Furthermore, it can also be used to accredit the quality compliance in case of an audit, or even by the verifier role in charge of certifying the process by fulfilling checklists.
Whereas the Issues feature is revolutionary to the process, often once the review has been accomplished, teams need to fulfill checklists to certify that the whole process has been verified. To avoid manual checklists, BIM 360 Field provides the ability to predefine checklist templates based on quality standards and enables team members to use the required checklist within the same cloud environment from anywhere, certifying that the process itself has been performed. This third stage of our quality process would be defined by the project needs, since the issues functionality itself certifies the performed reviews.
We have reached the last step of our process once the drawings are ready for submission, and we need the director’s approval. To achieve this, we set up a one-step review workflow to record the final approval and copy the approved documents to the delivery folder.
Similarly, the reviews have an independent tab from the Document Management interface and are connected to the documentation stored in the platform, as explained for issues above, so the project director could review the whole set of documents and approve or reject at the final step.
It’s worth mentioning that review workflows are not connected to the Issues tab, so in the case of a document being rejected due to a major issue, this should be indicated outside the review tab in the Document Management Folder or Issues sections.
Integrating a flexible review process with the different BIM 360 tools has improved our office's procedures, making our teams more efficient and accurate, and it has boosted the reliability and traceability of a process which is the key to guaranteeing the quality of our deliverables.
Edurne San Miguel is a licensed architect and digital and BIM expert in the AECOM Spain office. At AECOM, Edurne works on developing and deploying BIM standards and workflows, setting up projects, and assisting design teams through the project stages as BIM manager. She is also an expert in BIM 360 implementations, and seeks further efficiency in project workflows by engaging new technologies and developing scripts.