What I mean by that is that some thought has to be given to the effect of the removal of problem solving in the field rather than just the celebration of its removal. In my experience some of the most intelligent people I have ever worked with are those that have a vast understanding of construction and how to achieve building something successfully. A lot of those same individuals are not college educated and could be considered by general society as being less educated. But in my experience they have more empirical knowledge than a lifetime of college could teach. And yet through the BIM process it seems to me that the end goal is to solve issues so that those same individuals don't have to use their experience to solve issues in the field. I have to ask myself if this is a good idea. What is the effect on these individuals if we remove their ability to make judgement calls about putting work in place at the time work is installed?
My concern is that this will remove the one thing that I think keeps them motivated to be excellent at their jobs. I think that at the end of the day people want to be able to go home to their spouse and crow about what problems they were able to solve that day. To show to others that they have provided something special through their ability to solve problems and provide answers. I worry that when we solve those issues in advance, down to the smallest detail, that what we are doing is removing the ability of the individuals putting work in place to solve those same problems. Essentially turning our workforce into mindless automatons that are just supposed to follow instructions. Where's the motivation in that job? What are those individuals supposed to brag about to their spouses when they get home?
There is some precedent to this question that I plan to investigate but I find the question no less interesting. It seems that manufacturing has already walked this path. That industry has seen an incredible increase in production as a result of automating their workflows. Does that mean that the morale of the average UAW worker is higher or lower as a result? Should this even be a consideration of the AEC industry? Should we care about the individuals need to feel effective if we can increase productivity through virtual methods?
I seriously struggle with this idea. I don't see that we have effectively gotten to the point where this is an issue but I think it is the inevitable result. My only solution to date is to involve those putting work in place as much as possible. Bring them in as soon as possible so that they own the solution to the virtual problem as much as the physical problem. I just don't know if it is enough to keep our workforce motivated. In an industry with a workforce that is decreasing in both size and competency I am not sure that removing simple human motivating factors like pride in individual achievement is a good idea.
I could see how one might disagree that this is an inevitable result. I could even argue that if it was an inevitable result, that it is better overall. But neither of those ideas help me reconcile the fact that we could unintentionally be decreasing the morale of our our workforce while trying to increase their productivity. I have been given the privilege to work with some amazing individuals and I am not totally convinced that even the best BIM /VDC process is an acceptable substitute for their construction judgement. If there is a human side of BIM that needs to be considered, it's that of the individuals who on a daily basis try to make real the plans of those that do not fully understand the skill and dedication it takes to achieve them.