5 Lessons from Failure: The Do's and Don’ts of MEP Content

April 3, 2018 Jim Reis

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Multiple failures can lead to success in an industry, like the MEP industry. In this article, Jim Reis journeys through five lessons learned from working with millions of components— all while facing the critical need to scale.

James (Jim) Reis is a visionary software executive and entrepreneur focused on improving data and usable content in the MEP industry. He maintains a strong customer focus on providing MEP contractors and engineers with managed data and business analytics for winning, doing, and managing work. Jim frequently speaks about BIM software and related topics in Australia, United Kingdom, and across the United States, at a host of national and international associations.

Jim co-founded the software startup, Technical Sales International, and collaborated to organically grow it to a $15+ million global business with 85 employees. TSI was included on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies and was a 5-time honoree. In 2013, Jim recognised the opportunity to pair a third-party application with an extensive database, which resulted in SysQue— a subscription-based desktop software application that has been embraced by thousands of MEP designers and detailers worldwide.

Here is what Jim has to say about failure.

When best practices are nonexistent, failure is inevitable— but also necessary. The good news is, Building Product Manufacturers, Engineering Groups, and anyone interested in scaling content creation or large datasets can learn how using the right amount of data at the right time can result in success…even if there are bumps along the way.

In the MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing) industry, certain best practices are few and far between. This can mean finding ourselves searching for the “best way” — especially when it comes to creating and managing scalable content.  And sometimes, the best way simply doesn’t exist.

So, how do you proceed?

Think about content in bigger context, and use this knowledge to become a leader in the industry. If you don’t, you could get replaced by a better, hungrier, more innovative competitor. Here are five lessons I learned about the do’s and don’ts of data (namely, MEP content) during my experience in the industry.

Lesson 1: Find your content’s true purpose

Lesson 2: Get more sophisticated manufacturer content to make work more efficient

Lesson 3: Data in a single application isn’t always as valuable as multiple

Lesson 4: Add a BIM content strategy of “More pushing, less pulling.”

Lesson 5: In the absence of best practices, create your own

Lesson 1: Find your content’s true purpose

Strategies for content need to be built on what you have and who your audience is. What LOD (Level of Detail) is required, what do you need to get the job done, and where did you source the information used to create it? Shortcuts such as repurposing content from one 3D data file to another are good when these questions are well-understood.

I learned the hard way that content used to manufacture a component may not work in a 3D MEP system design. But of course, there are always exceptions.

Lesson 2: Get more sophisticated with manufacturer content to gain efficiencies

As content becomes more complex, many content creators are copying the same 3D component and adding different metadata (parameters) in an effort to represent the same geometry with different attributes. This leads to more work over time. Instead, consider creating a content app (content configurator) that can ask the user to select options and that provides content with parameters based on rule sets.

I learned that best practice is making your content customisable to fit the user by not showing multiple versions of the same thing with different parameters.

Lesson 3: Data in a single application isn’t as valuable as multiple

Creating content in one application doesn’t work when you need to scale. I learned that by moving data from a PDF to a database such as SQL, I can manage changes in one database and then create multiple formats from the same SQL tables. Many content creators use the same principles.

I learned that if you can create content with certain parameters, you might as well add it to data records and then push the geometry to multiple platforms.

Lesson 4: Add a BIM content strategy of “More pushing, less pulling.”

Most content strategies are centered around getting products pushed in design models with the assumption that the content will be purchased by the contractor. Truth be told, contractors are redesigning the entire project for prefabrication based on company standards and company best practices.

I learned that having content that services the contractor workflows can ensure that the content is pulled with a purchase by the contractor.

Lesson 5: In the absence of best practices, create your own

In the absence of best practices, create a process and, stay true to that process. It’s okay to change and evolve, but create a baseline along the way. You can only arrive at best practices after failing multiple times. For me, consistent replication of data was the biggest driver for defining a process that was and is repeatable.

I learned that you can only arrive at best practices after failing multiple times, but creating and documenting a standard can make you more credible and ensure accuracy as you scale.

If you find that best practices don’t exist in your field or industry, the best advice I can give is, change it. We all know that failure is inevitable— but also necessary in order to succeed. If you’re a Building Product Manufacturer, Engineering Group, Designer/Detailer, or anyone looking to scale content creation or large datasets, you’ve probably had similar experiences.

How many of these situations have you found yourself in? What lessons have you learned from your experience in the industry? Comment below and let us know.

About the Author

Jim Reis

Jim serves as Managing Director of SysQue and Building Data at Trimble. He maintains a strong customer focus on providing MEP contractors and engineers with managed data and business analytics for winning work, doing work, and managing work.

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