Local BIM skills shortage? Think Globally!

Now that the Government’s Level 2 mandate has come into effect, more and more design firms are seeking individuals with knowledge and experience of BIM. Design and Engineering firms, big and small, seem to have only two obvious choices: recruit skilled BIM Managers, Coordinators and Technicians to fast-track BIM implementation and capabilities – or fork out thousands to train employees to be BIM-ready.

Whilst neither of these is better than the other (in fact, a combination of the two would be ideal) these options have one thing in common – both are costly and frustratingly slow.

Fully-certified software training is expensive, and becoming proficient in BIM technology and processes can take years.  But recruiting skilled BIM technicians is not without its challenges.   In a recent survey for Building Magazine, 39% of respondents said that staff recruitment was a major issue1.  Demand far outweighs supply, a fact reflected in the salaries on offer, and many experienced staff may be unwilling to change companies.  Employees may have good promotion prospects with their employer, or feel that may be jeopardising the job security they have within their current role. Overall, there is a long-term downward trend in job mobility across all UK industries2.

For employers, recruitment can be an expensive exercise.  It is thought that recruiting a new member of staff can cost in the region of £30,000 (considering agency fees, advertising, and the loss of productivity before the new employee is ‘up to speed’ – around 24 – 28 weeks)3.  But if you think it’s costly to recruit appropriately-skilled employees, imagine what it could cost your business if you hire a poorly-performing one!

‘’If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.’’

                                                                                                                                                              Red Adair

The Global Market

So the question remains: how best to deal with this shortage of BIM managers and technicians and its consequences?  The answer is to develop a global mindset.  Many of the smarter, leaner and more progressive design firms are looking beyond the UK … and reaping the rewards on many levels.

Global sourcing to India is already established in the U.S. and U.A.E., and successful outsourcing suppliers are now working with consultants of many years’ experience.  Other countries, too, are finding that it makes perfect business sense to source BIM skills globally.  It should be no surprise that it’s gaining momentum the UK’s AEC industry.

India is now world’s fastest growing large economy (overtaking China earlier this year). English is widely taught in schools and is spoken fluently. There is a highly-educated middle class (estimated to be approx. 267 million this year4), and an overwhelmingly high number of engineering graduates (no reliable statistics but thought to be approx. 1.5 million last year5.  In the coming years, India is set to produce the world’s highest number of engineers with a staggering 80% of 16-17 year olds interested in a career in this field6).

With the rise of global sourcing, it’s far more attractive to new graduates to look for employment with outsourcing suppliers, working on international projects.  This offers the opportunity to use their skills, gain a wide range of experience, and further their education in a larger workplace than could have previously been imagined.

 

Myths and Misunderstandings

Within our industry, global sourcing (outsourcing) is still viewed with some mistrust and even suspicion.   And it’s not alone.  There are many firmly-entrenched misconceptions which are holding back the very companies who could benefit enormously from this way of working.   The mere word ‘outsourcing’ can cause panic, with employees fearing job losses and large-scale redundancies.  But it needs to be remembered that it’s primary intention is to enable business growth – by leveraging in-house skills and talent, increasing productivity and capability, while reducing business overheads.  Look at an organisation with a successful outsourcing strategy, and you’ll see a business with a growing workload and growing profitability, and a growing workforce.  This is what it is all about for us at Digitalinc.

There is also a lack of understanding about how global sourcing actually works – and what it looks like.  One common misconception is that all design and technical modelling decisions are carried out externally, and that communication between the design team and the off-site technicians is minimal.  Loss of control over the design and quality of finished product is another worry for companies.  Whilst such fears may be justified with a poorly-managed outsourcing strategy, our expertise, management strategy and QA policy means the opposite is true.

Time and time again, our clients tell us that they have a better understanding of what is going on when they work with our technicians.  Before global sourcing, their own in-house technicians often controlled the flow of information, choosing what they wanted to disclose to Managers and Directors. With outsourcing, the flow of information is much more open, and control of the project is firmly returned to the design team, their Managers and Directors.

Then there is also a widespread superstition that any work done externally will be of poor quality, therefore needing to be re-done, therefore causing unnecessary expense and costly delays to the project.  Quality and experience should always be one of the top considerations in hiring any individual – in-house or externally.  However, even when you do have the highest quality technicians, as we do in our team, it is a two-way street in that they deliver a product based on the quality of your inputs.   At Digitalinc, we work with our clients, lending our support and expertise to ensure the finished product meets your requirements precisely.

Another misconception, and perhaps a more understandable one, is that by outsourcing work to India, you may be exploiting or even encouraging poor working conditions. This could not be further from the truth!  In fact, on my very first business trip to India I was amazed by the quality of their offices and working conditions – superior to some in the UK!  I was also extremely impressed by their knowledge of and utilisation of technology.  It was this realisation that inspired me to start Digitalinc.

Selecting the Best

The international outsourcing marketplace is enormous with thousands of suppliers around the world.  Choosing the right one for your business can be an overwhelming task.  Service and delivery standards vary considerably (as a very few of them can deliver to our standards) as do their costs.  The risk of engaging the wrong one is extremely high.  Many organisations are fearful of outsourcing and feel ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of dealing directly with overseas suppliers (not understanding the market, ethics or the standards, fear of suppliers over-promising and under-delivering).  Many more have explored outsourcing in the past, without the correct support, education and awareness of the market.  Understandably, these companies have not had the success they were envisioning and had their fingers burned in the process.

There are many factors to navigate when dealing with a global marketplace: who are they? Can they deliver on their promises? Do they understand our standards and policies? Can I get references? What about the welfare of their staff?  What are the legal implications? Can I trust them?  Finding the answers to these questions can be a challenging, time-consuming task, paved with setbacks and frustrations.

Back to Basics

Before looking at outsourcing solutions for technical skills, you first need to be clear why you’re doing so.  Is it a one-off, or something you may use on an ad hoc basis?  Or are you considering it as part of a long-term strategy, to enhance workload capabilities and to increase cost efficiencies, with a view to sustained business growth?

Very often companies start down the outsourcing route without thinking through and fully understanding the implications.  As a first step, it’s vital that you look at your business objectively and address several key factors:

  • Setting your realistic expectations and key success metrics – Increase capabilities? Gaining access to latest technologies? Increasing speed of production? Reducing costs? Flexibility of workload?
  • Understanding of communication requirements
  • The inputs and effort required internally
  • Having the patience and time for learning – from both sides!

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list but requires careful consideration, and you will have other factors to consider relating to your own business, and your own client-base.

To implement an effective, successful global sourcing strategy, you also need to ensure you have the correct help and advice.  When your sourcing strategy is supported and your relationship with your suppliers is managed correctly, you’ll discover a way to rapidly expand your business without the associated risks and costs normally faced by growing companies.

Conclusion

Throughout the UK AEC industry there are still many design and construction firms who feel naturally averse to global sourcing.  Others are unaware of the benefits of this way of working or see it as a ‘quick-fix’ to enhance their workload capabilities.  But it is the top performing, highly-competitive firms who are seriously investing in it and implementing global sourcing into their business model.  The result is a cost-effective, pro-active business, able to weather uncertain market conditions and economic crises.

It must be noted that global sourcing may not a viable solution for every AEC firm. There may be security concerns or workflow restrictions to consider.  However, for the majority of design and construction firms – from one-man bands to multinationals – it can be a hugely successful venture when implemented and managed correctly.

Throughout this article, I have highlighted the fact that global sourcing does come with huge challenges, not least knowing to where and how to find, test and communicate with the best, most experienced suppliers. Chances are you will (or may already) be inundated with relentless sales calls and emails from international outsourcing salespeople, all claiming their product and services are top quality and they can carry out any task within amazing timeframes for incredibly low hourly rates. From our own relentless trials and tests with hundreds of global suppliers, we know that only a very small percentage can deliver on their promises.  And these tend to be the ones without the pushy sales tactics.  In fact, we actually found them!

Digitalinc are experts in global sourcing for CAD & BIM expertise and implementing this into design firms across the UK and Europe. We understand the challenges faced both internally and externally and offer the support and access to the best, tried and tested resources both globally and locally.

  

1  building.co.uk/analysis/features/construction-issues/bim-survey-multi-dimensional-issues/5084742.article#

2   cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2015/07/28/sluggish-job-mobility-undermines-promotions-and-pay-rises.aspx

3  hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/recruitment/it-costs-over-30k-to-replace-a-staff-member/50677

4  articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-02-06/news/28424975_1_middle-class-households-applied-economic-research/2

ugc.ac.in

6 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-set-to-produce-worlds-largest-number-of-engineers/articleshow/49532113.cms

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2017-06-08T13:08:32+00:00