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First published 8th December 2015, last updated 30th April 2019.

Lee Jones

Lee Jones

Head of Manufacturer Operations, NBS

Product Data Templates (PDTs) are a simple resource to help manufacturers become BIM-ready. Today more than ever, it is important for a manufacturer to have structured data, in order to allow its use by other construction stakeholders throughout a project’s life cycle. This could be anyone from an architect, using that data in a specification, through to (but certainly not limited to) a facilities manager, using that data to maintain the product. The UK Government’s BIM mandate of 2016 required the use of COBie (Construction Operation Building information exchange) data for all publically funded projects. Having a completed PDT that aligns to requirements such as this will enable the manufacturer to provide this information upon request. NBS has standardized PDTs for over 5,700 different product types which are freely available. Lee Jones explains the ins and outs of these throughout this article.

What are PDTs?

A PDT is typically a simple Excel spreadsheet that contains a list of pre-set parameters (title fields) against which manufacturers can enter their product information. A Product Data Sheet (PDS) is simply a PDT that has been filled in with manufacturer information: it transitions from a template to a completed document. Every PDT contains standard parameters but also parameters unique to that specific product, hence the need for a PDT for every product type. For example, a door would require different parameters than a toilet to outline functionality, but both would require basic parameters such as brand, SKU, description, etc.

Why are product data templates so important?

PDTs provide information in a clear but also (importantly) ‘uniform’ way. This addresses two prior issues with construction data:

  1. PDTs use a single naming convention. This is known in the industry as a 'common data language'. The following example demonstrates why this is so important. Say, for example, that there are 3000 components in a typical residential property, and that you asked the manufacturer of each of those components to provide you with data such as the length of the product. The responses would likely include a multitude of terms. Some manufacturers may simply refer to length as 'length'; others 'product length', 'nominal length' or even 'overall length'. It would then be the responsibility of the requester to sort through each response and align them to their own data description for recording. To do this for over 100 fields of product data for each of those 3000 components would become a full-time job. Escalate this to a building such as a hospital and the quantification becomes almost impossible. Having data structured and named uniformly eradicates this issue.
  2. Accessing information. Many manufacturers’ product data is held in a variety of ways (catalogues, pdfs, websites, in files and folders). A PDT aligns and gives structure to much of this information. Buying a car is a good analogy to explain the historical issue here. You generally wouldn't buy a car without being able to compare specifications for things such as fuel efficiency, warranty, performance and so forth. Yet historically, architects and specifiers have had to do this for buildings in construction. They simply do not have the necessary data at the time that they need it to compare manufacturers' products.

Having PDTs helps improve construction efficiency. PDTs are now commonly used by the industry, and having them available as a manufacturer increases your potential to be specified.

Where to find PDTs?

There are over 5,700 standardized PDTs freely available from NBS. These are the work of years of industry consultation and were initially delivered alongside the UK Government-funded BIM Toolkit, which was developed to allow contracts to be monitored against BIM Level 2 requirements. Below are the steps to follow in order to use these:

  • Step 1 List the product types that you sell.
  • Step 2 Register with the NBS BIM Toolkit, doing so is free and takes just a few seconds.
  • Step 3 Search for your product and select it.
    Search for your product and select it
  • Step 4 Click on the 'Level of Information' tab and download the Manufacturer Product Data Template.
    Download the Manufacturer Product Data Template


Loading Product Data Templates...

How to use a PDT?

Once you've downloaded your PDT, you should complete it by entering your product information to create a Product Data Sheet (PDS). A PDS is simply the name given to the PDT once it has been completed with your specific product information. To complete the template, list your products one by one and add your product information to the spreadsheet. The templates provided in the NBS BIM Toolkit are the ideal starting point for a manufacturer wishing to provide consistently structured product information. By using the NBS product data templates, your information will be attractive to clients as it is in this standard NBS format. Manufacturers can add further properties if required when completing the product data sheet: for example, product life cycle and operational performance properties.

To guarantee that your product data sheets can be easily discovered you can upload completed product data sheets to the widely used ribaproductselector.com external link product library for easy locating and use by specifiers. By placing product data sheets on ribaproductselector.com external link, your product data sheets will be placed in front of thousands of construction professionals when they are searching for product definitions to suit the needs of their projects. Download the product data templates for your product range now and take advantage of the opportunity to get them in front of designers by uploading them to ribaproductselector.com external link. If you get stuck, just get in touch via info@thenbs.com, we’re here to help.

What's the future for PDTs?

To date, the properties defined in NBS PDTs have used the language from the relevant BS or BS EN standards for that construction product. Following the UK Government Level 2 programme, there are a now a number of UK and CEN initiatives that are currently looking to enhance PDTs. NBS will work with these industry initiatives to ensure that the NBS PDTs are enhanced and maintained over time.

Beyond PDTs

PDTs are a way for manufacturers to enter the world of BIM. Data needs to be provided across all product types as a commonality. There are, however, enhanced solutions to further aid specification; hosting your content on the established NBS+ platform will see your product information become available at the point of specification by thousands of specifiers. If your products are suited to 3D representation, BIM objects are a further source which specifiers are using daily and will enhance your opportunity to be specified. NBS can help you in all aspects of these requirements. For more information on how we can help manufacturers get the most out of BIM, view www.thenbs.com/for-manufacturers external link or contact us at manufacturers@thenbs.com.

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