Nick Tune

Opinion Piece by Nick Tune, Atkins

The Golden Thread is not just a nice to have, its a must for all projects.

Most of us will have heard of the phrase Golden Thread due to the Hackett review into the Grenfell Tower disaster, so what is it and why is it so important?

Firstly, regarding the Grenfell context, the phrase was used to explain how the product data and the associated decisions that were taken in material selection, installation and maintenance were made.

Unfortunately, the golden thread did not exist. If the data had been available, it would have supported the investigators to quickly identify the traceability of the product and its associated meta-data which would have supported them with determining the reasons behind the asset failure.

So here is how I believe the Golden Thread concept should be adopted in your project and the benefits it provides. P.S. Think of it as passing the data baton through the project delivery lifecycle to meet all user’s data needs.

The start of the Golden thread is the most important step of all 1; Requirements. Specifying what information, you require (I will focus on data here) to deliver your job effectively, such as the data the designer requires to meet building regulations or the data an operator needs to deliver effective maintenance of the asset. By collaborating with the supply chain on the data requirements during the project lifecycle, you are laying the foundations for delivering a golden thread that serves in improving the delivery and management of the asset.

Step 2; data consistency. By ensuring that all actors in the supply chain use the same data specifications i.e. naming, attributes etc you are ensuring it that the information is interoperable and usable by all parties working on the project.

Step 3; Design. You have stated the data you require and the format you want it in, now you can utilise it to ensure you are meeting building regulations, automate design options, and provide the data that the contractor will require to support their delivery phase, such as the data they require to undertake 4D and 5D digital rehearsal.

Step 4; Construction. The golden thread of data from designer to contractor allows you to digitally rehearse your build programme, cost implications, health and safety etc before getting to site, which can subsequently reduce rework on site and drive up quality. The contractor also has the task of collecting the data that the operator requires such as the installed manufacturers products and their associated attributes. This is delivered to the operator in an Asset Information Model ie the as built drawings/model with associate data on the systems and products that make up the asset.

Step 5; Operations and Maintenance, the golden thread of the data is now passed to the maintainer/operator. Traditionally the contractor would have provided an O&M manual made of PDFs. The golden thread provides the information as models and machine-readable data in a structured data base. This can be used now be used as an operational digital twin to improve predictive maintenance and or operations such as reducing the energy consumption of a building.

At Atkins we are supporting the Golden Thread concept as a key element of our digital transformation programme. We are doing this by setting consistent data requirements throughout the whole of our global business, with our clients and supply chain partners data needs in mind. We are also supporting our clients to help set their data requirements throughout the project lifecycle and how they derive value from it.

By thinking holistically and planning a consistent handshake of data from actor to actor throughout an asset lifecycle we are unlocking the value of data i.e. the Golden Thread.

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