Digital processes for increased commercial success

Sikla combines software and product solutions to improve its market position

3D model of cables and fastening systems
3D model of cables and fastening systems

In a nutshell

Sikla produces fastening solutions and provides the associated software and services. Like other providers in the MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) sector, the company struggled to be included in the planning and construction process, either at all or at the right time. The solution: BIM and Autodesk tools, as well as the company’s own software plug-ins, allow products to be integrated seamlessly into the process. This means that the company can take up a more relevant position in the market while at the same time establishing a broader base.

In an interview, Andreas Neuhaus, Team Lead for Software and Applications, and Alicia Novillo, BIM Manager for Sikla Spain, spoke to us and answered our questions. They showed how they have secured their position in the MEP market using BIM together with their own solutions, how they meet their customers’ demands in their day-to-day project work, and what advantages a joint software solution has from planning to execution.

Surviving in a challenging environment

Team in a meeting room, presentation of the BIM model
© Sikla GmbH

MEP companies usually find themselves and their products taking a back seat in the planning process and on the construction site—and Sikla was not immune to this struggle either. As Andreas Neuhaus puts it: “It is often difficult to position fastening technology as its own specific trade at an early stage of project planning.” At the same time, less and less space is being given to the increasingly complex technology required in buildings, which makes integrating it earlier in the process even more important. In addition to greater involvement in projects, Sikla also wanted to tap into new, larger orders.Digital BIM processes have helped it achieve these aims “Thanks to new technology based on Autodesk solutions, we can now work on projects that previously exceeded our capacities,” explains Alicia Novillo, drawing on her day-to-day experience as a BIM manager on large-scale projects in Spain. The adoption of BIM has also facilitated earlier integration, as Andreas Neuhaus notes: “In BIM projects, it is becoming more and more common practice to think about a fastening concept at an early stage.” What is more, digital collaboration proves invaluable when human resources are tight, and prevents errors because design, planning, production, and construction work better together.

"Without BIM, there are lots of projects we simply would not have been awarded."

— Andreas Neuhaus, Team Lead for Software and Applications, Sikla

A diverse product range requires a holistic solution

3D model of a building, modular fastening solutions
© Sikla GmbH

However, the wide variety of products at Sikla meant that digitizing their processes was a time-consuming job. “We offer our customers modular fastening solutions for their projects,” explains Andreas Neuhaus. The “SiConnect” line includes products such as pipe clamps and mounting rails for the conventional MEP sector, but the company also offers heavy-duty systems such as the “siFramo” support profile and modular pipe bearings for industrial and plant construction.“Our products stand out by being quick and easy to use, relatively lightweight, and either expandable or reusable. This allows us to support the construction throughout its entire life cycle,” explains Andreas Neuhaus. To ensure that the product benefits could be mapped across the project as a whole, the associated processes and solutions also needed to be designed digitally. “The sales team quickly identified the critical role of BIM in numerous projects, and also recognized Revit as a commonly used tool.”

Digital processes and plug-ins for increased revenue and efficiency

Two employees on a construction site using a tablet
© Sikla GmbH

To meet global standards and open up to new markets, Sikla first had to digitize its processes. Aligning all its activities on a standardized basis of BIM and Revit allowed for the first gains in efficiency to be achieved. However, Andreas Neuhaus’ team quickly realized that product data and features needed to be integrated even more closely into Revit. The solution: Proprietary plug-ins that seamlessly integrate the products as 3D models into Autodesk’s software solutions. Since 2018, Sikla has been developing these together with the Karlsruhe-based company digitales bauen under the name “SICAD4Revit.”

"By investing more time in the planning phase, you save time and errors on the construction site."

— Andreas Neuhaus, Team Lead for Software and Applications, Sikla

The plug-in is anchored as deep as possible into Revit and enables the modular planning of fastening solutions. The goal: To demonstrate everything that the products are capable of. It was at this point that the level of complexity involved quickly became apparent, since the extensive product portfolio with its possibilities, restrictions, and rules had to be digitally mapped in detail. However, this has been so successful that the strong focus on digital feasibility is now even having an influence on the development of new products:

“We always ask ourselves how well a new product can be integrated into the software.” Word is getting around about this focus on digital processes: “Sikla's software solutions now have a good reputation in the industry and many customers await them with anticipation—small planning offices in particular are delighted to have a simple solution for planning fastening technology.”

Benefits of plug-ins for the company

3D model of cables and fastening systems
© Sikla GmbH

With the development of its own software solutions, Sikla’s project work has also become simplified. Alicia Novillo highlights the improvements for day-to-day business: “We can provide much better cost estimates that match the models, have an improved visualization of projects before construction starts, collaborate more easily with customers, uncover problems at any time through transparent communication, and control the inventory of individual products.”

Projects can be monitored more easily throughout the entire process, and errors can be detected more quickly. This transparency is even evident in the construction plan. The parts shown in different colors can be replaced with a single click and the effects on planning and calculation can be checked directly. The competitive advantage is obvious. While other MEP companies are left fighting for their place in the project, Sikla offers a tangible product package and suitable software integration at an early stage.

Competitive advantages through digital solutions

For customers, the biggest advantage is receiving the fastening solution and accompanying software from a single source. This enables holistic planning based on uniform data and avoids errors when transitioning between different project phases. Alicia Novillo puts it in a nutshell: “SICAD4Revit brings all of the product data and values into the system and allows me to see and evaluate, at a single glance,, what I can best use for what.”

Now that the solution has been translated into 15 languages, Sikla can offer it to all its customers worldwide. As a result, the tangible products themselves and the corresponding services and planning tools are combined to create a common user experience. This data-driven interplay of manufacturing, planning, and execution across many disciplines and companies will become even more standard in the future and is already offering Sikla a real industry advantage today.

"Thanks to the dynamic 3D model, we can visualize any adjustments at any time and highlight the resulting consequences clearly for all project participants."

— Alicia Novillo, BIM Manager Spain, Sikla

The prospects: Further development of tools right up to the digital construction site

Two construction site workers using a tablet
© Sikla GmbH

As the products are always present, from planning to implementation, customer loyalty also increases. “Customers are delighted with our professionalism,” says Alicia Novillo. “They value our work because we respond to their needs.” In order to continue this in the future, the development teams are actively working on new solutions and plug-ins. The next step is for a single Sikla software tool to offer everything required for plant construction and partitioning components.

To ensure that data are not lost before they reach the construction site, all of the previous project steps need to be digitized. Andreas Neuhaus wants to achieve this with SICAD4Revit and other plug-ins, and further simplify data transfer: “From our planning models, we can derive production concepts, create offers or invitations to tender, and structurally assess individual constructions.” Using the 3D models, construction drawings can also be created with little effort. No matter where there is a break in the data flow or a handover to a different company, Sikla can provide the appropriate data in any form.

Again, the development of haptic devices and corresponding software go hand-in-hand to ensure that Sikla remains the market leader in fastening technology in the future.

Company information

Sikla Logo
© Sikla GmbH

Sikla is a provider of fastening solutions, services, and software from Baden-Württemberg. From planning and logistics to assembly, recycling, and reuse, the company offers modular solutions and support for construction projects of all sizes.

Watch the video (in German) to see how Sikla offers the right solutions for its customers based on BIM.