MANUFACTURERS

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW  ABOUT REVIT FAMILIES

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I promise this page will be worth your while to read. This page is long, and time-consuming to read but I assure you that I have spoken with many disgruntled manufacturers that have contacted me to ask my advice who had wished someone had shared this information with them. In all cases they did not know many of the things that I am about to discuss below. No one had told them the challenges or pitfalls to look out for and many of them have been seriously BURNT as a result. So I am taking the time to highlight some key things to be aware of when finding a Revit content creation company to make your content for you so that you can make informed choices.

Note:

  • In this post I have specifically addressed manufacturers of architectural and design products. I appreciate that Suppliers of these products form an integral part of the support to our studios and projects and appreciate that often it is the Suppliers that are caught in the cross-fire when a Manufacturer’s Revit content range is poorly made.
  • It is my hope and intention that this blog helps support the many battles that Suppliers also face on  their client’s behalf in order to remain competitive, keep their commercial edge and provide an add-on bonus service or feature for their clients.
  • Manufacturers and Suppliers will undoubtedly benefit from investing in high quality Revit content that matches the caliber of the products that they sell.
  • By providing clients with appropriately designed and user-friendly Revit content  Manufacturers and Suppliers have the opportunity to enhance and boost their brand’s reputation as being informed and sympathetic to their clients specifications and documentation needs.
  • For simplicity I will categorize Suppliers as being included under the label of ‘Manufacturers’ in this article.
  • Note: The term ‘Revit families’ and ‘Revit components’ mean the same thing. (These can be 3D objects that can be placed into virtual building information models (BIM), or 2D detail components that are used for architectural/ construction documentation by using a software called Revit.)

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Please go to the AUTHOR and ANZRS page tabs, shown above, if you want to know more about my background and if you would like to understand exactly why my skills and experience on this topic does matter and is relevant.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

Ok, let’s cut to the chase early on. Well the truth is I am happily employed and very busy with other projects so I rarely take on additional contract work. On occasion I will make the exception to offer independent consulting to Manufacturers or Content Creation Companies who need impartial advice or feedback. This page is intended to make you aware that my independent review service exists and to give you an overview of things to consider or be aware of when ordering or managing Revit content that represents your range of products.

I have heard many heart breaking stories of Manufacturers that have lost tens of thousands of dollars by investing in content that was not well made and rejected by the industry. What’s worse is that some of these clients have been locked into binding contracts with the very companies that created their inferior content in the first place so that these firms cannot move their content elsewhere without breaching copyright agreements and beginning the creation process all over again. So I’m exposing some inconvenient truths so that we can see further improvement in the sector of our industry during next year or two. It’s that simple.

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So the information that I’m sharing here:

  •  Is absolutely 100% free
  • No strings attached
  • Does not require some obscure or annoying ‘sign-up’ process of any kind

A BRIEF OVERVIEW, BEFORE WE GET STARTED

This page is dedicated to the various manufacturers and product suppliers that service interior designers, architects and drafting teams within the building and design industry. With the shift to BIM our industry has been placing ever-increasing pressure on manufacturers to provide Architectural, Design and Engineering firms with their products in a digital format to use in 3D building models. Revit is a popular BIM-capable software option that is being used in our industry and it spans across Interior Design, Architectural, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing engineering sectors and is beginning to be used more often to assist with clash detection in the construction phase too.

WHY IS THIS BECOMING YOUR PROBLEM?

  • The reason Architectural, Design and Engineering firms have tried to shift the responsibility onto Manufacturers is that by having manufacturers create Revit families for their own product range the content can be made once and used across the world on any project and in any firm.
  • To give you an idea of the time that may be required: A 3D Revit family can take anything from 1 hour – 2 days to make from scratch (depending on the complexity – of course). So, I’m sure that you can appreciate the enormous resources that would be required for your clients to create their own Revit families for every manufacturer product range that could be used across every project. On top of that most firms, in general, don’t have a large resource of staff that are experienced and competent in Revit content creation.
  • Apart from that, Manufacturers are in fact the best team to take on this challenge because they know their products really well and often some of the installation and set-up challenges can be preempted with well-made Revit families.
  • By asking Manufacturers to step in we can minimize the repetition of efforts on a global scale and in theory, over time good content that is made publicly available would begin to accumulate and build a vast library of BIM capable objects that the industry can benefit from.

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Our industry relies greatly on the support of manufacturers and suppliers to assist with building up a comprehensive BIM/Revit content range where we can be certain that Manufacturers’ family ranges are accurate in size and hold essential and correct object type data. (such as model number and make).

Manufacturers form an integral part of the long-term BIM solutions and it is imperative that the design and documentation firms actually begin to provide manufacturers with clear and honest feedback instead of just throwing the discs of unusable content onto a dusty corner of a shelf.

TOUGH LESSONS NOT BEING SHARED PUBLICLY

  • Unfortunately Manufacturers are not collaborating with their competitors (understandably so) for fear of losing their competitive edge. Manufacturers are also not sharing any tough lessons learnt publicly since they fear being judged or that their competitors could leap-frog over their own initiatives by learning from shared mistakes.
  • Unfortunately this means that this industry secrecy about tough lessons learnt has led to many Manufacturers being taken advantage of.
  • Many Manufacturers have little or no idea of how bad their content ranges might be because most Manufacturers don’t have the in-house skills to evaluate if the Revit content was made well or not from a technical/ specialist perspective.
  • Whilst Manufacturer’s mean well by over detailing families they need to be reminded that documentation teams and BIM Managers need families that do not crash project files or computers or over burden our projects with excess data. Having content with plan and elevation representations that are unusable when creating complex construction documentation sets defeats the purpose of making the content in the first place.

This blog page is reserved specifically to help manufacturers find their way through this maze of ambiguity and misrepresentation. Some Manufacturers may be deliberately deceived whilst others have simply been unfortunate in ordering content from a firm with a good marketing team, perhaps even a slick website but who may have insufficient experience in creating commercial-grade content that remains suitable for customized project use.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR CLIENT’S TECHNICAL NEEDS MORE CLEARLY

Dear Manufacturers,

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I know where you are at. I have manufacturers contacting me regularly simply not knowing what to do. Some of them have spent tens of thousands of dollars on their new Revit content and their clients won’t use their brand new content on projects. On this page I will give you some information that is likely to save you endless hours of frustration and I will inform you of some choices that I would advise against.

SO LET ME SAVE YOU SOME TIME…. AND MOST LIKELY MONEY TOO!

This is generally how I’m told the process goes for many Manufacturers’ when they first try to get their head around what is involved with finding Revit content creators and trying to define a brief to something they technically know very little about.

The general Revit content creation shopping process for Manufacturer’s goes something like this:

  • Is this what I’m looking for?
  • What is a Revit family and who makes them?

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  • Ok, here’s one company that makes content, and another?
  • Where’s the costing?
  • OK, I must be able to work this out…
  • It can’t be that different to Autocad or other software content that we’ve made before? Surely…… ?

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  • What do they mean by content hosting?
  • What are variation or clarification penalty fees?
  • Are content hosting maintenance fees passed on to the end-user? (my clients)
  • What does ‘maintaining Revit versions’ actually mean?
  • What is the legal ownership and copyright agreement?

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  • I’m not sure this is making any sense?
  • Ok, how much data do they need to make this content? Will a pdf do?
  • What data do they need?
  • How much data is too much?
  • Come-on … it’s just a drafting/model placeholder in a project file…. how come it’s getting so complicated?

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  • Why is the pricing so vague?
  • Is my content simple or complex to make? How do I know?
  • Geee.. It’s not cheap.
  • Does it matter who I get to make this?
  • Oh, there are so many sites……
  • Can’t I just make an imperial or metric set and get it converted. It’s cheaper that way – right?
  • How much should I pay? What is too little and what is too much?
  • Should I just get someone to make this in a third world country? Surely it’s cheaper over there? What about the language barrier and who’s going to manage the briefing process?

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  • I’ve got a headache…..
  • Ok… I’ll google some more….. I’ve got to be making headway…. surely?

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I WISH THIS WAS THE PART WHERE YOU SAY

  • ‘Don’t worry – I’ve finally found several accredited companies to make reputable, user-friendly Revit families. There are plenty of good ones to choose from. I’m all sorted. Phew.”

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But based on the calls and emails I receive it’s usually ends more like this….

  • The client rings…. “Hi, great news we do have new Revit families but (a) I’ll need to send you a disc or (b) you can download it from our website, under the Technical Downloads section or (c) you can go to the content creation companies web server to download them.
  • If option (c) the might even call you back….you respond…. “What do you mean the content creation company told you that you had to pay to access our Revit family range? You need to pay a membership or web hosting fee? But we paid for the content so why are you having to pay to get access to them?
  • …. okay… I’ll deliver you a copy using our local courier.”

The sales rep returns from a few studios looking somewhat deflated or perhaps you get a call from a pro-active client….

  • What do you mean ~ You can’t use the content we had made?
  • I don’t understand….It was made by a company that makes other Manufacturer’s content. Surely not everyone’s content can be bad?
  • So this whole 6 month exercise has been a waste of time…… and money?

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So you hop on the phone and have a stern chat to your content creation company only to find out:

  • You can’t just take your content and have it re-worked elsewhere.
  • You probably don’t own copyright on your Revit families.
  • The content creation company claims there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THE FAMILIES!

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So now you are MORE CONFUSED than ever!

  • What just happened?
  • Who do I believe?
  • All those Manufacturers can’t be wrong?
  • I don’t know……. is it effort even worth all this effort?

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SO STOP…. LET’S HAVE A BREAK WHILE I SHARE SOME INDUSTRY ‘TRUTHS’

INCONVENIENT TRUTH # 1 : Don’t underestimate the value of well-designed content

Revit/ BIM managers have power to block your Revit content from ever getting into projects.

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BIM and Revit managers are mostly found in larger firms or smaller forward-thinking firms where they choose to assign a Revit leader to manage and monitor their commonly used content range, or their company libraries.

The responsibility of a competent Revit/ BIM System Manager is to build a company system that functions as efficiently as possible. Sometimes as a Systems Manager there is a need to block manufacturer’s content from reaching projects simply because it takes too much work to convert it to the company standards. This content is usually deemed high risk or disruptive to many automated systems that have already been set up to automate various view styles/templates etc.  Now this is actually the correct judgement to make if a company has an advanced Revit system in place.

You see…. a competent Revit system will leverage from system standards that will enable teams to work in projects in a more streamlined manner.

That being said even complex products can be built to have Revit families that are convertible with a reasonable amount of effort.

SO WHAT IS REASONABLE?

Forward thinking companies should allocate maintenance and upkeep hours that can be used to convert manufacture based content so that subcategories (like layers in Autocad), line weights, line patterns, fill patterns and some key parameter match the company system standard. Streamlining these setting does not harm the integrity of the Manufacturer’s model if done correctly but simply ensures a better integration into the existing project template system.

If a family is made with the intention of minimum intrusion to external company project standards and with best practices in terms of neatness then it means that any family is convertible. It can be integrated into a company library with a fair, but not excessive amount of effort.

The most common scenario in our industry is that most Design, Architectural and some Engineers firms will basically be unable to use the content that manufacturers have provided. These are the main reasons why this does occur:

  • The Revit content takes too long to convert because of being overly complex in the actual component construction to salvage, clean-up or manage.
  • The Revit content consists of excessive use of overly complicated formulas and intertwined parameters that the Revit/BIM Managers may find the content just too time-consuming to simplify, edit or maintain.
  • The Revit content has so many parameter fields of data that (a) drafting teams find the content frustrating too time-consuming to understand or use or (b) that projects become over burdened with too much information data that is not required for schedules or documentation and that bog down project files and add unreasonable amounts of information overload.
  • Overly complicated content is more likely to be unstable or prone to breaking simply because geometry or data can become over constrained and cause errors.
  • For these reasons Revit and BIM managers will also tend to avoid content that is too difficult to understand, edit or repair when teams use these families within live projects. The reality is that when external / Manufacturer content breaks BIM/Revit managers or project teams need to fix the error urgently and it’s not feasible to wait for a manufacturer to find time to repair and resend updated content.

THE INCREASING TREND

As your clients and the industry become more aware of the potential and financial benefits of creating tighter Revit systems there will be an increased demand for Revit/BIM managers to be even more selective about what content they accept into their library systems.

The opportunity for manufacturers: Well-made content that is made to facilitate easy company standard conversions are sure to make it to the core studio/ global library. If your competitor’s content did not make the cut – You have the edge! Couple good Revit content with excellent studio sales Rep support and you have a winning combo!

INCONVENIENT TRUTH  #2  In between a rock and a hard place…..

  • Whilst there is a lot of sub-standard content still being made I think that most of it is actually unintentional and stems largely from content creators that have little or no experience with building template systems in Revit. This oversight might not be unsolvable if staff are up-skilled in-house. I will cover some of these key principles in my blog during the year.
  • However I am concerned about companies that lock clients into their control long-term. E.g I know of at least one well-known commercial component creation company that has been known to lock their clients into binding contracts where Manufacturers are restricted indefinitely as to where they can host their content or who can edit their components, long after it has been made. This means that a company is not happy with the services or feedback received from their clients who are unable to take their content and leave freely, without any cost impacts or legal ramifications. I personally do not agree with this policy and would never advise anyone to sign such an unethical agreement. I strongly believe that Manufacturers should hold full copyright and ownership over any components that have been created.
  • I also do not believe that the end-users (the Manufacturers’ clients) should pay for any content hosting associated fees, on any website. Web content hosting may be managed by (a) the content creation firm that created the content or (b) by an independent hosting service or (c) by the Manufacturer themselves. I think content hosting should be viewed as part of the Manufacturers’ expense of doing business and building good public relations. It would be wise for Manufacturers to wear all content related expenses if they wish their content to be used and accessed by the widest audience possible.

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WHAT CAN GO WRONG?

    • Critics of my content creation principles might respond quite defensively that the quality of a Revit family is completely subjective and could rarely be measured objectively.
    • It is true that every Revit content range needs to be created to suit a manufacturer’s specific requirements. But there are also many things that can be standardized and routinely applied to ensure that a Revit content range has the best chance of success of being used by your clients.
    • There are too many things that can go wrong to list them here in detail but file size, ease of use, impact on project files and company standards are just a few factors that will determine whether your content ever reaches project or studio libraries.
    • Well made Manufacturer Revit content SOLVES the drafting teams’ problems instead of creating more problems for clients in their Revit projects files.
    • Manufacturer’s will be well on their way to improving the odds that their content will be used in small and large firms by focusing on creating content that reflects a well-informed creation strategies. Components that are sympathetic to the needs of your clients will be used widely, with enthusiasm, I’m sure.

INCONVENIENT TRUTH  #3  Manufactures are also sometimes to blame:

    • Manufacturers don’t always take professional content creator’s advice on what will actually WORK BEST in the project environment that their clients are working in.
    • Manufacturers are often directly responsible for over detailing and over complicating their own Revit component ranges.
    • Manufacturer’s must do their research and find Revit specialists that they can trust and make sure that they are not inadvertently creating component ranges that will be rejected and never used because of their perfectionist approach to the detail that they think ‘should’ be displayed for the object to look accurate.
    • Architectural, Design and Engineering document’s do not need ALL possible data crammed into the Revit component files. This is incredibly inefficient and slows down projects and frustrates your end users. Revit project teams are likely to delete your range and make a crude place holder with a code instead of spending hours having a power struggle with your content range.
    • Remember to make sure that your content has a simple and elegant representation in plans and elevations and a reasonably detailed 3D object that will render nicely in Revit in a 3D view. But do not forget that view scale is the most important thing and that drafters do not want to see every nut and bolt in their model project views.
    • Manufacturer’s need to appreciate that Revit/ BIM managers will expect to be able to convert Manufacturer content to meet their company standards. This is a reasonable expectation on their behalf.
    • I would also like to recommend that Manufacturers offer additional support data in Microsoft Excel, Word or web-based format to assist specification teams, if needed. Every bit of data that can be sourced about an object should not be stored in a Revit family. It creates a burden on project teams who continually keep tripping over rows of unnecessary parameter information that the drafter’s don’t need or schedule from Revit.
    • Key motto – If in doubt – Keep it simple!
    • If the drafting teams need a Revit Instructional document to show how to use your content then the content is too complicated.
    • All drafting teams want is a 3D model that can look good in a perspective whilst ensuring that plan and elevation views are kept extremely simple and elegant.

SO WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP PROTECT YOURSELF?

  • I can contact a suitable Revit content creation consultant that can offer me independent advice.
  • I can do more research by getting feedback from local BIM Managers. (Bear in mind that most Revit/BIM Managers do not have professional grade content creation skills but they should certainly be able to walk you through some of their preferences)
  • Maybe I should contact Michelle and see if we can have a chat?

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  • Oh my goodness, she has a South African accent with a strange Aussie twang.
  • Wow, she is passionate, isn’t she?
  • Okay… it’s probably going to cost more than I thought to get good content but it looks like it can definitely work if we do it right.

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  • Yes, finally I’ve got a plan of action……
  • Ah… It’s finally coffee time!

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  • I need to arrange the preparation of all the necessary specification documents for the content creation company so that they can begin.
  • I’ll make sure to ask someone who will prepare them thoroughly so that it does not cost us money when we give an incomplete brief.

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  • Now I can take a break and ……..

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IS IT WORTH IT?

Absolutely!

  • Having excellent Revit content does not guarantee that your product will be specified during the construction stage of the project, or even during the final design stages.
  • But…. It does make it less likely that the content will be swapped out and the longer your product stays in the Revit/BIM model the longer your product data remains locked in the project too.
  • That means that you may win an extra contract here or there (most likely) from being at the right place at the right time.
  • It also means that your reputation within the industry will be boosted. Revit Conferences happen annually where companies discuss Revit and BIM practices. We often discuss who has found good manufacture based Revit content that is freely available.
  • At best, it’s an excellent marketing opportunity to build rapport and get your product range known. If your content makes it to the studio library drive all the staff will have easy access to your product, it’s sizing and model data

IT’S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM

Now one important thing that I do want to say is that my intention with this blog page is NOT to suggest that all commercial content creation companies are dishonest or unprofessional. Like any industry there are good guys and bad guys. There are content companies that are doing their best to improve and others that have simply got too comfortable with status quo.

So please DO NOT interpret this page as a deliberate destructive roasting session but instead as what it is intended to be. This page is intended only to be the most honest reflection to date of the Revit content creation industry from my perspective. My intention has been to provide an informative and transparent summary of the pitfall and things to consider when paying to have Revit content made for your firm and that is all.

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I fully encourage content creation companies to surprise and delight us with excellent content, happy manufactures and clients eager to get their hands on new manufacturer’s content that can easily  intergrated into company libraries. There are a few content creation companies that do want to know how to improve their game (and perhaps even many that I do not know of). I think the challenge for some content creation firms is that when they lack project system implementation experience they often lack sufficient interaction and engagement from the industry to give them the feedback that they need.

So, by all means please support your local content creation firms when they ask for feedback if you feel that your feedback is being taken on board and the content that they make is worth investing in.

Our goal in this industry should be about constant improvement, excellence and integrity.

YOUR CHANCE TO BE THE SUPERHERO

I wish you all the best on your content creation adventures! May your products be specified in countless projects and be embraced by all who have waited in much anticipation to use your components.

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Please send me an email to let me know if you have any well-made content that I can share with my readers. I would also be interested to know if sharing this information has proven useful to you, regardless of whether you are a Content Creation firm, Supplier or Manufacturer.

Regards, Michelle Van Kolck

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