We look back over the work of the last four months in an article designed for you to share.Over the last three months the Plain Language Guide editorial board have been developing a guide to product data for manufacturers. As part of that process, over the last three months we have written articles and held open zoom calls about them, inviting contributions from across industry. We have also held a number of valuable conversations offline with individuals and organisations. This article describes this work and how you can get involved in the production of the Guide.


About the Project

We are writing a Plain Language Guide for the CEOs of Manufacturers of all sizes and their advocates, in order for them to prepare for the changes to come in their industry.

Key Messages of the guide are:
  1. Why do I need to worry about product data?

  • What are the Common mistakes leading to poor investment decisions?

  • What should our priorities be? and

  • A step-by-step process for how product data could be digitised in your company.

The project is run  by the IET who is hosting all the content, and is supported by IBM, the UK BIM Alliance and BEAMA.

Our aim is to produce Independent impartial information, that is free to access, written in Plain English and free to use. We are not promoting a specific platform or service; we are neutral and non-commercial.

The guide will represent not only the views of the four editorial board members but also the constructive contributions of the many people who have collaborated in the project via the blog, social media, private calls and emails.

We are very grateful for all your contributions and we want more.


The Articles

In order to be as open as possible and to get as much feedback and interaction as possible, we have been publishing a series of articles and hosting a series of open zoom calls about each one which anyone can attend and contribute to.

You can see all the articles on the blog here: http://bit.ly/ManufacturersPLG

These are the articles we have published so far:


1. Why is Product Data Important to Manufacturers?

This introductory article set out what we mean by construction product data, and described the argument that it should be structured, secure, verified and interoperable. Making this change would reduce the risks in how data is stored and made available and will enable manufacturers to respond to the challenges of Grenfell, the Building Safety Regulatory System and increasing risks of data-related prosecution.
Link to share: http://bit.ly/ManufacturersPLG_1


2. Standards and Construction Product Data must be Connected.

We argue in the article that information about what standard a product complies with, how it should be installed, its compatibility, level of performance, maintenance information, should all be connected to the product itself. By making the connection between the product and information about it, one can enable traceability, and if your products are traceable, they are credible, and this contributes to the credibility of the manufacturer. Organising your data according to the international standards is the first step towards benefitting from these initiatives.
Link to share: http://bit.ly/ManufacturersPLG_2


3. Comparing Construction Products: Dispelling the Myths.

This article allowed us to explore some of the commonly held misconceptions about product comparison. Comparing products is an essential task of the specifier, contractor, quantity surveyor, in fact many actors in the supply chain. As we inhabit the digital world more and more, preventing product comparison becomes a little like King Cnut holding back the tide. But what matters is not preventing comparison but enabling comparison to happen on the basis that specifiers genuinely require, not just on price, but also on performance, conformance, longevity and more.
Link to share: http://bit.ly/ManufacturersPLG_3


4. Manufacturers Should Host Their Own Product Data.

This article looks at the ownership and control of manufacturers product data. Your data is an asset which many people are competing to manage. However, if you can control your data, you can control your risks. Getting their data in order enables manufacturers to comply with different standards, create efficiencies in their business, and provide information for other needs, not only specification, sales and distribution, but also legislative requirements such as the Building Safety Regulator.
Link to share: http://bit.ly/ManufacturersPLG_4


5. The Future of Construction is not 3D BIM Objects.

This article argues that having 3D BIM objects does not make a manufacturer ‘BIM Ready’. We describe how 3D BIM objects mistakenly became the be all and end all for manufacturers, and what we can learn from this experience. Geometry is only a subset of product data and isn’t always relevant. Embedding data in 3D objects created obsolescence and more risk, so manufacturers should instead focus on data requirements rather than 3D renders.
Link to share: http://bit.ly/ManufacturersPLG_5


6. Essential First Steps to Gathering, Coordinating and Organising Manufacturers’ Product Data.

This article describes a simple process for manufacturers to get started structuring their product data. It focuses on obtaining executive, management and employee buy-in to the process and how you can begin putting together a Logical Data Model for your organisation.
Link to share: http://bit.ly/ManufacturersPLG_6


7. Avoiding Failure: Product Data post Grenfell.

This article looks at what is happening in the legislative environment since Grenfell and what that means for manufacturers and others. We tell a story about a product data journey and use it to discuss the upcoming legislation, competency initiatives and the Marketing Integrity Code of Conduct which will soon be published. We explain how structured product data is the essential missing link in all these initiatives, without which they will fail. Responding to the Grenfell tragedy isn’t about being guilt tripped into action. People need to know what they have to do, and that process has to be simple and actionable by every manufacturer including SMEs. Change is coming; when it happens we want manufacturers to be ready, which is what the Guide is all about.
Link to share: http://bit.ly/ManufacturersPLG_7

The key message of all the articles we have written is that as a manufacturer, the data you need to provide already exists in your systems. You won’t need to provide any information that you don’t already have, simply provide it in an interoperable form; a machine-readable format that can be securely and efficiently shared by you when you choose, can be compared with other data about similar products, and can help you improve the efficiency of your business.

Suppliers and manufacturers should not be deceived into thinking of ‘BIM Data’ as different from the data they already have. It’s just Data. Get your systems in order and don’t worry about making new stuff; you already have it. And remember, the data about your products, belongs to you. You made the products; you made the data. Keep control of the data, share it and monetise it.


How to get involved

We would like to invite you to get involved in the process of developing the guide by reading these articles, commenting on them and sharing them with your manufacturer contacts. You can also contact us direct.

We particularly want to hear from manufacturers, but we want the Guide to be understandable by the whole industry and draw on the expertise of people throughout the construction supply chain, so if you are a contractor, specifier, consultant, client or installer, we also want your perspective.

Remember there are no stupid questions – if you read something you don’t understand, or don’t agree with, in the articles, please let us know; such input can help us make the Guide as useful as possible for you and your colleagues.
  • You can comment on each of the articles using the links above.

  • You can use the hashtag #ManufacturersPLG on Twitter and Linkedin to find out what people are saying about the project and how to get involved.


What Happens Next

We will be publishing the Plain Language Guide in early 2021.

If you’d like to keep in touch with the project and be informed of what is happening, including publication, please subscribe to the blog at http://bit.ly/ManufacturersPLG, where we will be sharing all the news.

We’d like to thank you for all your virtual contributions and wish you a Merry Christmas and a better New Year.