Solibri is a trailblazer in the automated checking of building information models and it has been a leader in this field for many years. I had the pleasure of discussing with CEO Ville Kyytsönen how the company is expanding its offering and future-proofing its customers’ success.
“When I learned that Solibri was looking for a new CEO, I had an extremely positive impression of the company and I still have,” stated Kyytsönen. “Solibri has always been a trailblazer with its leading and quite unique product.”
Kyytsönen’s career has been in BIM development. His work on the development of Tekla BIMsight and Trimble Connect gave him the experience necessary for taking on the CEO position at Solibri almost two years ago. Kyytsönen also knows the realities of the construction industry, which has a pressing need to improve its productivity but is still a slow mover in adopting digitalization.
Under Kyytsönen’s leadership, Solibri has renewed and expanded its offering, creating software that enables customers to collaborate efficiently and gain new value from using BIM in their processes.
The full potential of BIM has yet to be unleashed
“Even though BIM is on its way to becoming mainstream in most AEC firms in developed countries, how it’s used is still tied to the past. For many, BIM is a tool for generating drawings or displaying 3D views of a design,” as Kyytsönen noted.
Most often, the full capabilities of BIM as a tool for managing information are not used. The creators of a BIM model regularly don’t add the data that the next team in the project chain could use. Hence, there’s a lot of rework and guesswork in construction. Furthermore, clients are not aware of the real potential of BIM, so they buy drawings instead of valuable information. Thus, the business case for BIM is often, at best, tenuous.
The poor quality of the information in models is most evident in BIM-based building permitting. Building authorities receive models that are missing essential information that would have allowed automated model checking. For example, designers may not have included accessibility or fire safety information in a machine-readable form. Such omissions are understandable if the designer’s commission does not cover that work.
BIM is no longer just for experts
As more people are getting involved in digital construction processes, BIM experts and heavy users have become a small minority in the workflow. Making BIM easier and automating it for the majority is critical for reaping the full benefits of model-based construction. Being able to automate processes is a key success factor, as is the delivery of information in a format that best serves the user.
Solibri aims to make the transition to model-based construction as smooth as possible. It allows clients to check automatically that what they are getting from designers is what they paid for. Similarly, designers can use the tool to self-audit their models. For many, the valuable output of BIM is not the graphics and the 3D but the information. Using BIM through Excel is answer to many real-life challenges in construction.
Integrated project delivery (IPD) and project alliancing are gaining popularity as they solve many of the problems inherent in traditional construction, which separate more than unite project participants. When the whole project consortium is working toward a common goal and the risks and rewards are shared, then the benefits of integrated BIM are self-evident.
Being able to combine models via IPD and inspecting them in Solibri saves time and helps to eliminate costly errors. It also allows findings to be recorded, so that the best solutions are passed on to the next project. Kyytsönen calls Solibri a “neutral party” in the process.
Solibri’s renewed offering
Solibri’s user base is about 50-50 designers and construction companies. The biggest customers are international contractors. The top 1% are heavy users with a desktop license, doing rule-based assessments. A larger group are companies that want to standardize their BIM environment and pass all their models through Solibri. They use Solibri as an interface to the models.
Meeting the needs of the latter user group is the one the reasons why Solibri reorganized its offering last year. Solibri Site allows them to view various models and search for information without mastering the rule-based functions. Solibri Office, on the other hand, is a model checker with the full functionality.
Solibri Anywhere is a basic tool that everyone should have. It’s a model viewer that can now manage combined models. Many customers have all three products for various purposes and use cases.
Solibri adapts to its customers’ needs
Instead of buying licenses, customers now have a subscription option. This allows them to pay flexibly for the tool when they need it. Optimizing a license by combining subscriptions and floating licenses is also possible.
“Solibri has, perhaps, been profiled as a high-end product, in terms of costs,” Kyytsönen admitted, “but if you consider the new product family and the overall cost, especially being able to use Anywhere as part of the overall solution, they are comparable to any other BIM product out there.”
The change that makes Solibri even more versatile is the introduction of Rule API. A small, but growing group of customers are organizations that have established their own BIM requirements. With the API, they can now develop proprietary rules that check whether a model complies with their requirements. This also opens business opportunities for professional rule-developers to offer services to the growing userbase.
Developing new features, fixing bugs, and optimizing performance in addition to keeping up with the evolution of open standards, like IFC and BCF, means that Solibri is continuously developing and improving. Instead of an annual release, big bang, Solibri releases updates continuously.
Managing the continuously expanding model files requires both powerful hardware and capable software. Ensuring that the software performs well is a key issue for Solibri. The company tracks usage data to understand how its customers are using its products and how the products are performing. This gives invaluable insights for product development, as does the feedback from Solibri Society, a community of advanced users.
“Modern BIM products can, in fact, already do what’s needed fairly well. However, we know we can further improve our products to make them easier to use and implement,” stated Kyytsönen. “As a software company, we naturally want to enhance our products, but our bedrock is solid.”
A transformation in the making
Every BIM product in the market does visualization and can display model data. What makes Solibri different is its ability to check a model using parameterized rules that dig deep into a model’s data structure. That and the accumulated knowledge of the industry form the bedrock that new technical solutions are built on.
Customers have shown interest in mobile BIM apps, and there are already several in the market. Solibri is still considering whether there is value in providing its own mobile solution. In contrast, a more substantial change, the move to cloud apps, is under way.
“Today, 99% of our business is in desktop apps. However, we know that our customers are excited about moving into the cloud, which will change both our technology and our business logic,” Kyytsönen pointed out. “We’re definitely in a transition.”
Visit solibri.com to learn more