Author: Peter A. Bilello, President, CIMdata Inc.
The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, the designers and builders of the world’s infrastructure, arguably stand to gain even more than other industries by implementing product lifecycle management (PLM) strategies. This is because AEC has only made modest progress in the management of the intellectual assets of projects at the enterprise level.
The AEC industry designs and constructs everything from houses of all sizes to small-town apartment complexes, schools, and office buildings to big-city skyscrapers, refineries, power plants, bridges, dams, and factories; in short: any and all structures. Some of their finest work is flat on the ground, so to speak, as airports, freeways, and mass-transit rail systems. Underground, AEC deals with subway systems, water mains, gas pipeline networks, electrical conduits and associated infrastructure, sewer lines, and storm-drainage tunnels and supporting facilities.
This is the realm of architects, civil engineers and structural engineers, and a host of skilled tradesmen. PLM strategies have many obvious benefits to building owners but implementation has lagged other industries. A big reason is that every AEC project has two complex hand-overs of information. The first is turning the architects’ design into construction plans for the general contractor and subcontractors. The other hand-over is the completed building from the general contractor to the owner.
PLM began as extensions and toolkits to computer-aided design (CAD) systems and solid modelers to manage the initial explosion of engineering information in digital formats. The initial focus was the same as CAD and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), which was discrete mechanical products made with machine tools.