LEXiCON: Laying the foundations for efficient and effective product data
Author: Hanna Clarke – CPA Digital and Policy Manager
It feels like every year the construction and built environment industry becomes ever busier. Challenges such as regulatory reformation, Brexit and sustainability are coming from every angle. True to form, 2022 is blossoming into an atmosphere of frantic demand. Targets are up, resources are low. Through all of this, the industry is carving itself anew, trying to learn its lessons and strive to be sleeker, safer and more effective.
In the quest to achieve these goals, ‘digital’ is the word du jour. We know that digitalisation is key to increasing productivity, consistency, and efficiency. The ground gained in the last few decades to fully digitalise has been an approximation. Until we can exchange structured digital product information the very foundation of the processes we are trying to imbue are unsound.
Why don’t we already use structured digital product data?
Creating structured product data is easy. We can create digital Product Data Templates (PDTs) so manufacturers can populate them to make Product Data Sheets (PDSs). The information will be in the same structure every time. As such we can make them readable by both computers and humans, and can exchange them digitally. The technology to create digital PDT’s and PDS’s has been around for well over a couple of decades, so why don’t we just get on with it?
The problem comes down to our industry – or more specifically, our industries. Construction and built environment encompasses hundreds, maybe thousands of different occupations and professions. We’re an unwieldy beast, whilst not having a consistent language to communicate with. Every actor in this play needs to know various aspects relating to a product and potentially would like to know a lot less about other things. As such, which singular ‘expert’ can decide what should or should not be included in a PDT?
Spoiler alert: there is no such person. You need perspectives from those who are creating product information, those who specify with it, those who procure it, those who install it and those who maintain it – to name but a few. It is with this multiplicity of views that we can decide what should and shouldn’t be in a PDT.
Thankfully, we have a marvellous model to ensure that we consider all these necessary views, namely: consensus.
So what is LEXiCON and what does it do? LEXiCON is the people, the process and the application to create, manage and publish PDT’s:
- The People: ‘Relevant Authorities’ appropriate to each industry lead on their sector’s work to create working groups on different product topics. Each working group is to be made up from both members of the ‘Relevant Authority’ and other ‘interested parties’.
- The Process: The process ensures an agreed route to bringing on the right perspectives, achieving consensus and demonstrating due diligence.
- The Application: This gives a clear route for ‘Relevant Authorities’ to create, manage and publish their PDT’s on a free-to-access platform.
LEXiCON seeks to provide a source of informed, trusted, consensus-driven PDT’s for the use of the entire supply chain. It aims to encourage and support those parts of industry that are beginning their journey of standardising product data, but also provide opportunity for those already creating digital PDT’s to converge and align.
LEXiCON and BSI Identify
LEXiCON is one piece in a far greater jigsaw in the effort to ensure that our industry can work more efficiently. When it comes to LEXiCON and BSI Identify, there is a natural symbiosis.
A simple property within a PDT could prompt a manufacturer to fill in a unique identifier, such as the BSI Identify UPIN. The resulting PDS would navigate to all the other appropriate product information, such as installation and handling instructions, information on warrantees and guarantees, and testing evidence.
This product information would sit efficiently in the project information all the way to handover, operation and even demolition. Equally, with the UPIN affixed to the actual product, anyone would be able to scan that product at any point leading to all the manufacturer’s information. This includes the PDS which will define the product acutely according to its characteristics and performance.
The aim of the game is to make product information easy to interoperate, comparable, exchangeable, and traceable and accessible. Safe in the knowledge that you can access all the right things at the right time, it will free up our industry to concentrate on other priorities; such as how to make our projects safer, greener, and more creative. The overall approach to work will reduce risk while being more cost-effective, time-effective, and resource-efficient. Perhaps then, we might be able to take a breath.
The LEXiCON Project is led in partnership by the Construction Innovation Hub and the Construction Products Association (CPA). For more information about the LEXiCON project, click here.