September 05, 2011
Acquisition Brings Together Building Construction Assets
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News
Acquisition Brings Together Building Construction Assets
By Susan Smith

Trimble’s acquisition of Tekla in July marked a move to bring together two synergistic companies under one roof. Trimble’s partnership with Tekla dates from 2007, and both have provided substantive solutions that will be enhanced by their combined focus on the building construction industry.

“The positioning data that was housed inside the Tekla model is very valuable to Trimble, and helped our users use both solutions extract the positions that can be identified in the model and then use that to power robotic instruments and locate installation elements out on the site,” said Stacy Scopano, Business Development Manager for Trimble's Building Construction Division. Trimble’s building construction division is responsible for analyzing the landscape and portfolio and also serves as an industry advocate for different associations around the BIM space.

“From Trimble’s area of interest it’s quite critical to make sure we can have a reliable input to the traditional hardware business and at a high level that’s kind of the justification behind that,” Scopano said. “There are a number of facets to the acquisition above and beyond the technical workflow. There’s the visualization component, as performance happens on the field, and Tekla can help to take that data, which could be a general spreadsheet or database solution, to communicate what’s actually happening out on the field in a virtual environment. That is a way of working and management that we anticipate is only going to grow.”

Coming into this acquisition, Tekla had secured a number of technologies for construction oriented process and construction oriented stakeholders. On Trimble’s end, there were project management solutions with Trimble’s 2006 acquisition of Meridian Systems and later QuickPen in the MEP space as a modeling and estimating solutions application, and AccuBid in the electrical space. Trimble’s structural space was rather lean in terms of software.

Trimble’s hardware side of the business touched many different verticals with positioning systems which included structural. Tekla however, has a specific focus on the structural vertical. In addition its technology philosophy is construction oriented, so they get the fabrication level of detail, such as what’s in the model basically matches what’s going to be delivered or installed out on site, so it provides efficiencies and workflows that ensure quality like accurate positioning, asset tracking as well as the feedback loop for management.

Trimble also saw lacking in their portfolio visualization for the general contractor. Tekla provides a nice visualization platform with both a dedicated construction configuration as well as BIMSight that they launched earlier this year, which is a model management solution that can pull in models from any source but most importantly IFC files, so if you create a Revit file or model, Quickpen model, etc. all of these can author a IFC version of that data. And you can overlay them together, coordinate them, clash detect, comment and share those models.

All the deliverables, drawings and reporting is an extraction of a native 3D model so anything a user does inside Tekla is inherently a BIM solution. It starts with a model you create. All Tekla workflows are model centric workflows, from clash detection to create a drawing, bill of materials or report or schedule -- all revolve around a very accurate highly detailed model. You can extract or input data into the model so you have accepted industry standards like the IFC and buildingSMART initiative. Also you have visualization standards like CAD geometries, drawing files or DGNs from Bentley, and raw neutral data exchanges, like Open API. As such, Tekla has good interoperability with different file formats, so that helps Trimble leverage expanding workflows on management workflows that need a good 3D visualization component.

Trimble has historically centered around the robotics, hardware and positioning systems. Recently there is a lot of interest around laser scanning, also in hardware. In the other verticals Trimble began looking at acquisition that was on the information authoring side that powers those robots, and they acquired QuickPen. This acquisition would allow model data model data that would help position mechanical inserts, sleeves and openings as well as pipe hangers and streamlines and consolidates the workflow. You can deliver it onsite and it actually powers work accurately and in many cases streamlines it so you can use less manpower and increase speed and efficiency.

Scopano said that their customers are more construction-centric than those of Autodesk or Bentley. It would appear that the customers of those companies will overlap as the people who would be creating models for fabrication or models specifically for construction might also use AutoCAD or MicroStation. Autodesk and Bentley are also looking at the supply chain aspect of construction in some of their newer offerings, but theirs is a broader focus. For Trimble, the customers who are providing products and objects to deliver and place onsite to ultimately construct a building are their ultimate target.

The Trimble/Tekla way of working is an effective way to migrate from a 2D way of working that was very disjointed and fragmented. With Tekla you can connect that fragmentation in the design workflow and ultimately make it visible so design intent is less left up to interpretation. On the construction side, the clash detection helps create a substantive ROI on BIM because it prevents huge cost overruns out in the field and that coordination process also ensures design intent, interpretation, etc.

“We need coordinated workflow and visuals. Now people that are using our drawings know they aren’t just lines and shapes, they’re extractions of an intelligent model and that information extraction becomes the next layer,” said Scopano. “How can we design processes that really coordinate asset tracking or use the position in one place to drive the locations of another and look at all these interdependencies that actually drive the work?” That is an area of ROI and BIM that Trimble wants to capitalize on.

Migrating to Mobile

Trimble has been known for its mobile devices and GPS, and this acquisition puts the company in an even more significant position of convergence of communication, information and position. Trimble has a new platform called Trimble FieldLink, a tablet based PC that is the general controller for their robotic equipment. It is also the same device that can help you run a laser scan and convert that laser scan into information you can use in your BIM environment back at the office. It is also a mobile PC. As Trimble has been in the forefront of providing both commercial and consumer mobile devices for some time, the excitement of mobile iPads and phones fits in well with the construction industry’s needs of requiring timely data in the field.

Tekla’s Assets

Tekla also has an infrastructure an energy division that will roll up into Trimble’s energy sector solutions space. This will be an integrated workflow looking at the facilities, planning and construction and operations all the way down to the end user and customer service. This will combine components of power generation and transmission as well as consumption so each one of those facilities have those different phases of operations, construction and consumption. Teklas’ model platform that is applied more in a geospatial realm will combine into Trimble’s geospatial oriented energy solutions such as fleet management, field inspection and various kinds of terrain analysis for the energy sector.

Scopano says that in future, customers can look for more process oriented developments rather than interwoven product development from Trimble.

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