How-To Guide: KiwiRail Case Study

Learn how to adopt KiwiRail's digital approach that reduced construction risks and improved productivity.

Below are some key steps for you to consider based on KiwiRail’s approach to adopting BIM in a project.

Who is this for?

Any organisation or project team that is interested in using digital connectivity and innovation to reduce construction risks and improve productivity.

Establish a collaborative and digitally focused team

It's important to have the right type of people in the team. Adopting a BIM-focused approach requires a shared vision, and a willingness by all team members to learn and problem solve right from the start. You don't need significant digital engineering resources, but you do need to understand where to direct the resources that you have.

Everyone on site needs to be up to speed with the digital vision and understand their role in supporting it. Digital capability varies across design and construction teams, so you need to create an environment where people are comfortable to admit where they need help, so you can direct support to different parts of the team when they need it. In KiwiRail's case, staff were trained on how their role is important, as well as the roles of others, so they could see where they fit into the wider system.

Develop a plan for how your team will interact and collaborate

In addition to typical contract performance conversations, project teams need regular forums and check-ins where they can review the project and identify opportunities to improve and adapt the BIM approach. You should also consider how the procurement and selection process can test a project team's ability to collaborate.

Lead from the front

Crucial to your team's success is the culture set by the client and its leaders. Being able to identify improvements and quickly address any challenges that arise requires support from senior leaders, for example having the freedom and flexibility to start these conversations. An engineer needs to feel comfortable to raise an issue with the project team and leaders without the risk of any consequences.

Set conventions to support the team

The technology component of BIM is more than just being proficient in creating 3D models. It is also important to consider how information will flow between all parties and avoid any barriers for collaboration.

Implementing a common language is a significant challenge when adopting BIM. While there is now an international standard (ISO19650 Organization & digitization of information about buildings and civil engineering works including BIM), understanding and application of the standard varies across the industry and it is important to be clear with project partners what standard you’re expecting information to be developed to.

A key principal in the international standard for BIM (ISO19650) is that information must have a provider and a receiver. Consider the time and effort used to produce information and make sure it is being produced for a purpose. It’s not uncommon to see hundreds of cross sections on large projects that aren't useful, which also makes the information you need harder to find.

Creating an information sharing environment

To support the sharing and flow of information, establish an information sharing environment. For example, KiwiRail developed a common data environment to bring information together and a collaboration environment (Revizto) to bring people together. The environment needs to be accessible to all parties, providing visibility of data to support the best project outcomes. It also enables transparency to help build trust amongst project partners.

Once a system is in place to store and share information, it is critical that all information that's produced can be used. It's common to see 3D information being issued with disclaimers that preclude its use, with the 2D documentation that is derived from it being the primary source. When delivering a digital project, all parties need to be aware of the intention to use 3D models and data and including them as contractual deliverables will be necessary.

Scale the approach

Not every project needs to be a full digital delivery. In some cases, it may be easier to deliver a few key initiatives that specifically address the risks of the project. For example, a renewal of an existing linear (or horizontal) asset may not require a full detailed 3D model of the entire site. Instead, the project may benefit from the use of a specific tool, such as Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping that provides teams with useful information on site and helps them record accurate data in a structured way.

It also does not have to be a large-scale project to warrant the upfront investment that is required in digital engineering. Small projects can be a great way to ultilise this way of working.

Last updated: 30 September 2021