Friday, January 20, 2017

Chatting with BIM One's Christian Proulx, BIM Track's Director of Customer Success

A while back, we had the opportunity to Skype with Christian Proulx of BIM Track. We talked about the history and story behind BIM Track and its parent company BIM One, as well as some of their future plans.

Christian mentioned that he started his career as a 3D CAD specialist, specializing in CATIA for the aerospace and automobile industries. In fact, he once had a gig  training Boeing employees on CATIA at their Everett, WA, USA plant, which is only about 5 miles, or 8 kilometers, from 'Revit Add-ons central' in Mukilteo, WA. Considering that Christian lives in Quebec, Canada, some 4,620 kilometers away, or about 2,871 miles, that's quite a coincidence.

At 4,300,000 square feet or 399,483 square meters,
the Everett Boeing plant is the largest building in the world

After his experience with CATIA, which was integrated with the manufacturing process, when he jumped into the construction industry, Christian was very disappointed at the time to learn that they were still working in 2D.

Christian told us the story behind BIM One: Co-founders Jimmy Plante and Carl Veilette were working at Group Canam, a structural steel manufacturer that does a lot of stadium work in Canada and the United States. Carl is a BIM expert and Jimmy a programmer. Jimmy was doing a lot of automation to help the designers easily create structures that got the most out of their structural steel, e.g.: structures that maximized strength while reducing mass.

At one point, Groupe Canam bought Intelibuild, a Hong Kong firm that specialized in BIM, so Carl had a chance to work on some projects with stakeholders from around the world (this was in about 2012).

Carl Veilette

Then Carl decided that he wanted to go out on his own and was hired as BIM lead by Mott MacDonald, a UK engineering firm who recently opened an office in downtown Toronto.

As for Jimmy, according to Christian, in Quebec, there's a countryside where a lot of entrepreneurs come from, and Jimmy is that kind of guy; he knew he'd have a business of his own one day.
Jimmy Plante

Jimmy was finishing his MBA at university in Quebec in 2014 when he decided to found BIM One with Carl.

The BIM One logo

As for Christian, he was a project manager for the Quebec City International Airport for about 9 years, until 2016 when he joined BIM One/BIM Track.

Christian Proulx

Christian started the construction department at the Quebec City International Airport and began implementing BIM in 2012, though he'd been researching it for a couple of years prior. At the time, he was principal project manager for part of a terminal expansion project at the airport. He really wanted to have a great BIM project so he implemented a lot of BIM processes, including collaborative workflows.

When he started with BIM, because he was really more of a project manager than a BIM expert, Christian worked with a lot of Autodesk resellers. He became a project manager that was really good with BIM, though not specialized with the Revit API as Jimmy and especially Carl are. Christian has the owner's and the project manager's perspectives with BIM. He hired BIM One in 2014.

During the terminal expansion project, they were doing a lot of model coordination between architects and engineers. They had approximately 60 models because they separated the project in phases and each discipline had its own model or models.

When putting the models together, they decided to use the open-BIM BCF file format.

One problem that arose was that they were trying to manage issue tracking through email and spreadsheets, and, as a project manager, Christian was asking a lot of specific questions, like how do you control the coordination, how do you track issues, and how do you insure that issues are resolved.

They started to look at tools to manage issues like BIM360 and others, but there were no solutions in 2015 that really met their multi-platform needs.

BIM One decided to develop a solution, including add-ins for Revit and Navisworks, so people could raise issues directly in context and share them via the Internet. This included the abilities to view models and issues in an online 3D viewer and to create issue reports. And, because the Quebec City International Airport was such an important client for BIM One, they decided not to charge extra for the development of the product (that would become BIM Track).

Owing to BIM One's application development, Christian and his team saved a lot of time on coordination tasks. In fact, Christian estimated that it saved them about $60,000.00 per year.

This of course left Christian with a very good impression of BIM One.

And that's how BIM Track was born.

The BIM Track logo

Christian joined the team in 2016 on the marketing, business development, and customer success side. They now have a business model where BIM One is the services side and BIM Track is their flagship product.

During our discussion, Christian reflected on the importance of the integrated online 3D viewer in democratizing the BIM model so that it doesn't only reside in the purview of BIM Managers, but is available to project managers and other stakeholders as well.

While Christian thought that 2015 was a good year in BIM, he felt that it exploded in 2016. Not just in the use of BIM software, but the "real things behind it", e.g.; implementing actual BIM processes, such as model coordination and clash management workflows. He thinks that BIM Track fills a need in such construction processes, in allowing designers and others to focus on build quality instead of spending excessive time exchanging emails and using other antiquated methods for issue tracking.

Prior to BIM Track, BIM One created a lot of Revit and Navisworks add-ins that were and are free that people are using around the world. For example, a lot of people are using their free Import/Export Excel add-in. When mentioning this add-in, Christian reflected that, when he was working with architects as a project manager, they would tell him that they couldn't move data between Revit and Excel. He thought that there must be a way because it was just data. When he met Carl, he told Christian, "Sure, we can do that." It just required the API.

Christian brought up that BIM One had rolled the Case apps into the BIM One Add-ins Manager, as we previously reported. I asked Christian about the genesis of this, knowing that Case had released the Case apps as open source after being acquired by We Work.

The BIM One Add-ins Manager

Christian revealed that Jimmy and Carl were following Case avidly because, at least from Christian's point of view, Case was a kind of role model for BIM One. BIM One really liked what Case was doing. This may have even inspired BIM One to create their own free add-ins.

When the Case apps were released as open source, BIM One decided to upgrade them to the latest versions of Revit and incorporate them into their free Add-ins Manager to pursue Case's vision.

We here at Revit Add-ons were impressed that, in the BIM One Add-ins Manager, the Case branding was maintained for the add-ins they authored. We think a lot of developers would have simply used their code to create their own branded add-ins (and yes, we think we've seen some of this already). Christian revealed that part of the reasoning behind this decision was that they didn't do a lot of improvement or optimization of the Case apps, they simply upgraded them for Revit 2017 and 2016, and incorporated them into their Add-ins Manager for faster deployment. At this point, we at Revit Add-ons reflected that a lot of users don't seem to understand that "open source" is a euphemism for "unsupported". Christian responded that yes, their part as members of the Revit add-ins community was making the Case apps readily available to the public once again, but that they didn't take ownership of them, and don't support them.

With regards to BIM, Christian's point of view is that there's still a lot of noise around it; a lot of people talking about BIM and maybe using BIM authoring software but not really doing the right things (by using BIM processes), which creates disappointment for a lot of people. So some people are backtracking because they have a negative opinion of BIM.

It's Christian's hope that BIM One making their and Case's free add-ins available to the public will help user adoption and user success: that would be for the greater good and, he hopes, engender goodwill in the Revit community towards BIM One.

Coming back to BIM Track, BIM one used the BCF and IFC file formats because Carl's involved with BuildingSMART Canada and Christian's on the board of directors of the Canada BIM Council (CanBIM) and they try to promote open-BIM standards, even though Christian's perception is that open-BIM standards aren't in vogue in the United States or in Canada where mostly Autodesk products are sold.

The BuildingSMART Canada
logo (as a national symbol,
the maple leaf sure
does come in handy)

We let Christian know that, even though Revit Add-ons is obviously Revit-centric, our posts on IFC and other open-BIM formats or products, and even our posts related to key Revit competitor ARCHICAD, draw a lot of attention from our readership. And, while our readership is global, Americans comprise the largest segment.

Christian noted that the other good thing about using an open-BIM approach is that BIM Track is compatible with all kinds of BIM authoring softwares, once appropriate add-ins are implemented of course. And they really want BIM Track to be a central repository for issue tracking and model management, regardless of BIM authoring tools.

BIM Track had quite a presence at trade shows in 2016. They exhibited at RTC NA, BIM World Paris, CanBIM Toronto, BIM Forums, DigiCon Week (in London), and AU. And Christian plans to continue these efforts in 2017.

They also purchased quite a lot of ad space here on Reit Add-ons, which we greatly appreciated!

Also, BIM One and BIM Track won the 2016 CanBIM Technology Award.

As far as future plans are concerned for BIM One, Christian said that one thing they want to develop further is city information modeling services with InfraWorks.

They're also growing their MEP BIM consulting business. They're doing the SysQue French language training in Quebec, and some support for them in the US since their acquisition by Trimble. They really like the SysQue product.

While BIM One is not a software reseller, they do a lot of training as well, especially for architects, contractors and manufacturers.

For services, BIM One targets Quebec and Ontario (the latter because Carl did a lot of work there).

In closing, Christian said that what he really wants to do is to help the construction industry to evolve. He mentioned that the productivity index in Quebec is really low because, in the past, the construction industry became non-productive. He wants to help change it to being very efficient and very productive.

The ultimate message behind BIM Track is that they want it to make a difference in the construction industry.

It was our pleasure to chat with Christian and we wish he, BIM One and BIM Track well!

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