Marc Habets, Technical Director at ETIM International spoke at the Digital Europe conference recently

Shaping the building sector of the future: why the EU needs more digital in construction.

This article is adapted from a speech delivered by Marc Habets, Technical Director at ETIM International, at the Digital Europe conference in September 2020.

Watch again

The Digital Europe conference was also recorded and you can watch Marc’s (at 15:15) session here.

Marc Habets, Technical Director ETIM International

Marc said,

“It’s not only product ranges that are growing rapidly, also the information requirements per product. Products tend to have a shorter product life cycle then in the past, with a quicker time to market. That product data must be digitally available goes without saying.

“Data quality is very important and has even become a strategic asset. Standards in product data management are crucial to make product databases easily accessible for users and customers. You don’t want to search for a product, you want to find it!

“In a time were BIM has started a new digital era in the construction industry, a reference to the Tower of Babel might seem irrelevant, but is it really? To achieve efficiency in business processes, to work together in building information models, we need a universal machine readable language to communicate data. Product data are vital in all business processes: marketing, purchasing, logistics, design and engineering, production, maintenance and demolition.

“In the past, suppliers could distinguish themselves with high quality product data, giving them a competitive advantage. Today it is a necessity! If you don’t have complete and accurate digital product data, it will hurt your business. Your customers will not find your product online and applications cannot work without the proper data input.

“There are many standardization initiatives on product data, but often aimed at specific sectors, regions or applications, still not enabling one universal language. As a result the availability of product data is still a big issue in the construction industry.

“ETIM is a de facto classification standard for technical products that offers a solution. More importantly, actual ETIM based product data are readily available around the globe. We should not forget that standards are only a means to achieve the real goal, which is data availability!

“ETIM is a classification standard that not only categorizes products, but also describes the products using standardized features. Using a fully coded structure makes ETIM language independent AND machine readable. You don’t exchange words but codes and can translate those back to any local language version.

“ETIM offers efficiency: One single format to publish and exchange product data in a simple and flat structure, making it easy for all suppliers to deliver their product data and saving costs in the entire supply chain. Started from the electrical sector, since long ETIM has extended its scope to HVAC and plumbing, building materials, tools and hardware and even shipbuilding, thus covering most of the construction industry.

“ETIM secures quality: using predefined features and values combined with a strict model governance leads to a proven reliability.

“ETIM is a true industry standard: open and free to use, neutral and governed by the industry itself, representing the best know how in a supplier independent way. Having an industry standard is the only sustainable solution. Commercial solutions can for sure act quicker and offer better short term results in data availability, but an industry should not make itself dependent on commercial parties when there is a risk that they can monopolize the market by means of vendor lock-in.

“Standards are often criticized for being slow and rigid, not able to offer the flexibility needed to meet with the market’s quickly changing demands. In addition to our regular 3 year cycle for major releases, we offer a dynamic ETIM release with daily updates of approved changes, for those that are able to process that in their IT systems. This reduces our ‘time to market’ to a minimum of 60 days, while still respecting our model governance.

“Starting as a ‘catalogue standard’, ETIM is widening its scope including features for maintenance, environment, lifecycle, etc. An important recent extension to ETIM for BIM is ETIM MC or ETIM modelling classes, with parametrical features to enable a 3D geometrical representation of products. Not as static object, but generated real time from product data, using a generic object template. So a manufacturer no longer has to pay a lot to get his products available as BIM object, he just needs to provide the modelling class parameters in a flat file. A first implementation in the Dutch Uniform Object Library shows very promising results.

“ETIM started in the Netherlands in 1991 by the Dutch installer association, ETIM is now represented in 24 countries by 22 local member organizations and still growing steadily. Recently we launched a Global Industry Membership, to allow multinationals with central product data management to work more closely together with us in the development of the standard. But no matter if you are a global industry member or member of a local ETIM, you have direct influence on the model development. ETIM is based on the market’s expertise and commitment of the sector is key in ETIM’s success.

“Our mission is to ensure that professionals select the right product solutions, wherever and whenever needed, from a single source of truth. We do so by offering a single, unambiguous and uniform interface to exchange all manufacturer product data, that should or can be processed electronically.

“Concluding my statement, we are not and will never be the only standard. We work closely together with peer organizations like buildingSMART and ECLASS, to ensure that our standards are aligned and harmonized where possible, for the benefit of our users. The ETIM classification is integrated as context in the buildingSMART data dictionary, via IFC enabling an interface to use ETIM based data in in all BIM applications that need product data.

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my statement with you today, hoping that it can contribute to the awareness for the importance of high quality, standardized product data.”