While consulting engineers are leading the building information modelling (BIM) drive, with designs and analyses being completely BIM-orientated, the technology has had mixed success for the mining industry in South Africa so far, says tertiary education institute University of Pretoria (UP) project management associate professor Giel Bekker.
“During design phases of construction projects, BIM components have been used well by design consultants. However, adopting the technology during construction projects remains challenging, which, unfortunately, depletes its potential value for the end-users.”
Bekker explains that the challenge of using technology for mining projects lies in collecting the correct data to assist in building prediction models for proactive management, owing to data becoming more valuable and facing “exponential advancement”.
Further, while the introduction of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is accelerating in the local mining industry, Bekker says the value realisation of integrated BIM in mining remains low.
4IR technologies – such as full automation, robotics, autonomous haul trucks, as well as data capturing and analysis technologies – are being deployed on a continuous basis.
He adds that BIM is relevant for the project management industry, owing to its integration capabilities, as it encapsulates the scope of project design, context, material take-off, scheduling, costing and other advanced techniques as the basis for scope and implementation control.
While “progressive” mines have invested in BIM and digital twins technology for new facilities, Bekker says if BIM is not fully exploited from the beginning of the project, then its optimum value might not be realised.
Consequently, the maximum value of BIM can be fully realised only during the operational phase of projects, when equipment records are adequately captured, maintenance and inspection intervals are pre-planned, operating conditions are monitored and spares inventory are well kept.
Hence, Bekker says BIM should not merely work as a parallel experiment to critically assess its impact on the project, but should be incorporated into the project from the outset.
To achieve the complete benefits of BIM, he explains that the technology must be driven by the end-user, which will assist in creating more accurate user requirements to ensure a sustainable project handover.
“With the current shake-out in the construction technology industry, major players in the capital project industry will start consolidating BIM software capabilities to anchor its development in one of two technology platforms.”
The dominant and collaborating platforms of BIM include Oracle with Primavera and Aconex, AutoCAD suite and Bentley with MicroStation, as well as Siemens and Microsoft with SharePoint and MS Project.
He says these platforms are continuously evolving and becoming more flexible with regard to integration with financial, enterprise resource planning, operational, maintenance and asset management applications.
UP offers project management courses that outline various aspects of project management, with modules that focus on the role of BIM in managing projects, concludes Bekker.