• The Customer Purchase Journey


My name is Agatha.

I have a plot of land by the countryside — overlooking the south-lake.

I need a modern three-bedroom family residence within half of the plot.

We are pretty conservative people, so we need a very sustainable, lively edifice we can call a (smart) home…

Back in 2007, Apple launched the first iPhone. Barely more than a decade later, iPhone has metamorphosed through way more than a dozen generations. Just a few years prior to the smartphone revolution, the telecom industry operated on analog, proprietary systems — Time Division Multiplexing (TDM), Private Branch Exchange (PBX) etc. Thanks to the endless smart gadgets today, life is pretty much on the cloud. Within a couple of minutes, you can unbox a brand new gadget, find your way to the cloud, and life goes on.

What a short customer journey.

  • How about the construction industry?
  • How short can the customer journey really get?

The digital evolution is gradually gaining its place in the construction sector. With the advent of such tools as BIM, Prefabrication, Virtual Reality, Visual Programming etc., the geriatric processes are giving way to more efficient ones.

An important argument of this write-up is why BIM is only half of the equation.

Anyways, let’s put on our imaginative cap and attend to Agatha.



The BIM Planning Vehicle

So Agatha,

How old are your kids?

What challenges do you foresee with the site’s location?

How would you like to experience the lake beside your home?

How would you like to interact with your home?

What expressions do you have in mind for your home?

Just like in a traditional building delivery process, it all starts with programming — client discovery.

The major difference is the team structure. Every stakeholder in the project is part of one big team — open and collaborative early enough.
For BIM Execution, the client goals are translated to BIM Uses. After which Process Maps are drawn for BIM deployment — unique to the project.
First the Overview Process Map; then detailed BIM Use Process Maps for every indicated BIM Use
After this, the Information Exchanges through the project delivery lifecycle is defined through an Information Exchange (IE) Worksheet.
Finally, the necessary Supporting Infrastructure required to Execute BIM on the project are identified.
So, this should typically take at least a series of four meeting between us, Agatha and her team, the Suppliers Team (yes suppliers at this stage) — with job tasks for all, in between.
This should take a month. The outcome of this rigorous process is a BIM Execution Plan, defining all the BIM Deliverables through the project’s lifecycle. Thus, everyone is aware of his/her role from day one, the required Level of Details (LOD), required infrastructure etc.



Our Internal Value Chain

Hi Agatha,

Here are your login details to the Common Data Environment (CDE).

This gives you real-time access to the progress of your project.

From any mobile-enabled device, you can make your own inputs.

You’re part of the design team now, Cheers.

The soft side to the delivery of Agatha’s Smart Home is Design Coordination. In simple terms, this is a series of Information Exchanges — by the various teams — according to the BIM Execution Plan.

This should ideally take a BIM Level 3, whereby every information goes into a Single Source Of Truth to populate the BIM Model — a digital version of Agatha’s home.

Just like in a traditional delivery, this process is in three major stages: Conceptual, Detail and Fabrication Design stages — with the client’s approval at the end of every stage.

Also, there are two sides to the design process — the Functional Design and the Aesthetic/Experience Design. These are informed by the client’s requirements — during the discovery process.

For example, the preferred interface through which the end users would interact with the home should be taken care of through the experience design.

Thus, the design would seamlessly blend the various Structural and Technology Systems.

Design coordination, therefore, is mostly an internal process — one side of the coin to the value chain. The final outcome is a Unified BIM Model.

With the right people and processes in place, this should take three months — a month for each design stage.

Refer to the Design Coordination of a Smart Home for more details.



Our External Value Chain

Hey John,

Based on our last BIM Planning Meeting, you can see we have got a new ‘order’ to deliver.

I’m sure you already have access to the project files, to extract the right quantities of materials to supply — as the design progresses.

Remember to be Just-in-time…Cheers.

As students of Lean Manufacturing, we follow the Lean Manufacturing Principles.

When it comes to managing our supply chain and inventory, we use a Pull System to avoid overproduction and excess inventory.

However, we also use the Leveling Principle to keep some materials in stock for emergency demands.

In relation to Agatha’s delivery, what this means is that our suppliers are simultaneously manufacturing the building components as the design progresses.

The moment the schematic design is complete, the PC (Prefabricated Components) Manufacturers begin to supply specifications for the various components.

This information goes into the detail design process. As the detail design is coming up, the PC Manufacturers begin to extract component quantities from the same CDE.

This is made possible because we employ an Integrated Project Delivery vehicle.

Therefore, the duration of the entire external supplies — manufactured to project’s specifications — is the same three months interval used for design.

It need not emphasizing that we and our various suppliers are part of one big team.

Refer to Delivery Coordination of a Smart Home for more details, and the various tools employed in the various aspects of the value chain.



The Assembly Coordination Vehicle

Hi Edu,

My software tells me Agatha’s project will be moving into the Shop Floor next week.

I’m writing to confirm that you guys are already rationalizing the BIM Model — so I can schedule to set up the Flow Process on the Assembly Line.


We had spent the first one month planning the project and the following three months designing the project — and simultaneously manufacturing the various components.

The rubber meets the road on the Assembly Line where Agatha’s home is sub-assembled. This would most likely be a Hybrid Fabrication System.

Refer to The Fabrication of a Smart Home for more info on the various prefabrication levels.

In line with Lean Manufacturing, we follow the One-piece Flow Principle — as against the batching system.

This enables us to bring problems to the surface, and stop to fix the problem — to get quality right the first time.

With the use of Visual Tools and Standardized Works, communication is enhanced and productivity maximized.

With the prefabrication ongoing in the assembly line, some traditional activities would begin on the site.

Such activities as site clearing, foundation etc. would be going on simultaneously with offsite fabrications.

After the offsite prefabrication, the sub-assemblies are transported to the construction site for final assembly. 

With the use of mechanized tools and a little labor, Agatha’s home would be put together in no time.

The assembly line coordination could take a month, while the site installations could also take another month — making it a total of six months to deliver Agatha’s home.



Facility Management As A Recurring Revenue Model

Hi Agatha,

Now that your new smart home is up, we will be coming over next week for a thorough walk-through and handover process.

In the interim, this is your login details to our Customer Care Portal — which also doubles for Remote Monitoring and Facility Management…

So the argument is that it is possible to deliver a smart home in just six months — saving time, labor and cost. This is often referred to as Lean BIM.

Handover typically involves walking the end users through the various systems in the home. Familiarizing them with various Control Interfaces. Testing every system and getting feedback from the customer.

The Facility Manager is also given full access to the Facility Management Portal. Contained within, is an accurate Record Model of the home, and every necessary documentation needed for reference.

Since 90% of a building’s cost is during maintenance, the need for an accurate record model becomes more important than ever.

During the handover process, the customer would be issued a Home Maintenance Contract. This is a binding agreement that adds the customer to a Customer Care Plan. It states the frequency of scheduled maintenance, the insurance packages etc.

From a business standpoint, this is a win-win for all. First, the homeowner is assured frequent maintenance of his home — parts upgrade, software/firmware update etc. On the other hand, it serves as a Recurring Revenue Model for the delivery company.

Refer to Facility Management for Smart Homes for more details.



The Various Use Cases

Tech-enabled homes still sound like a luxury to many.

But the future cities will need tech more than ever to address housing.

Whether it is a mass/public housing, standalone residences or estates, technology will play more utilitarian roles than luxuriant.

In a previous write-up, we focused on just one of the housing solutions — public housing.

A major case from the write-up was how Public-Private Partnerships could be used to achieve a good blend of both low-cost and luxury homes in the cities.

There are four major residential housing solutions: Tiny Homes (like Agatha’s), Luxury Homes, Mass/Public Housing, and Luxury Estates. The first two are standalone, while the last two are a network of homes.

Technology integrations in these solutions are determined by the client/end user’s requirements and budget.

In addition to the utilitarian technology systems like the Facility Management System (FMS), the luxury solutions can feature a lot more technology systems. Such as Entertainment Systems, Communication Systems etc.

Refer to Technological Components of a Smart Home for a full breakdown of all the Technology Systems.

A seamless blend of these solutions — accounted for in the city plan — sharing common infrastructure — is The Future of African Cities.

With the right infrastructure in place, feedback systems help to evaluate the post-occupancy experience. This, in turn, helps both the developers and the government make more informed decisions for better-functioning cities. That is the primary advantage of technology integrations in buildings — before luxury.

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***Adapted from Blaze Monthly Digest – December 2018.

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