In 1908, Charles Geisen, a professor of arts and letters, but also an entrepreneur, decided to establish "Usine Alsaciennes d'Emulsions" in Strasbourg, France. The industrial visionary started by producing waterproof coatings from asphalt. One year later, while looking for a material that was both impermeable, flexible and easy to install, he invented the product that would lead him to success: "Mammouth" jute sheeting coated with hot bitumen. The product's name and the company logo were both inspired by a frozen mammouth skin discovered in Siberia a few years earlier. The company quickly achieved success. But Charles Geisen could not find the manpower to install the coveringn, so he decided to create his own network of fitters, known as "Ahences Travaux Soprema". More than 100 years later, Soprema Entreprises is now a group in the forefront technology. On the strength of its know how in sealing solutions and its understanding of the construction sector, over the years, the group has extended its offer by gaining a strong command of new skills in coverings for buildings (smoke extraction, industrial and traditional coverings, cladding, airtight coatings, etc.) In 2001, the company launched the "Soprassistance" service offer (quick interventions, leak detection, roofing maintenance, etc.) and added expertise in metal frameworks to its offer in 2006, with the acquisition of SMB. Soprema Entreprises' frameworks activity was gradually reinforced by other companies (BCM, GH, Soteba, CCS and PL Maître). In 2006, the operations activity of the Soprema group was renamed Soprema. Today, the company operates a network of 53 branches and subsidiaries in France, specialized in all applications of coverings for buildings and the construction of metal frameworks. Driven by a strong spirit of innovation, the company remains true to its motto: "Ideas first. Only those who dare make progress."
A common digital platform
On building sites, the use of products and techniques is improved by combining traditional methods with innovative solutions (bituminous, liquid and photovoltaic sealants, green roofing systems, etc.), and through the development of contruction processes, such as the treatment of permeability to air of coverings on lightweight structures. "We are permanently faced with highly technical applications, involving complex shapes and new materials," explains the group's CAD department manager, Serge Goll. This department provides the design offices in the branches with the design tools required to meet their customer's specifications. "Every project is specific, and the CAD tool is used at every stage, from the order to the execution of the project,"he adds. Soprema Entreprises has plunged headfirst into the digital era in order to keep pace with developments in digital technology and to respond to the demands of every single contract. The company is working flat out to make the switch from 2D CAD to collaborative 3D CAD, including a PDM for project document management (non-geometric data) that will be shared by all the teams working in every branch office, as part of a clearly defined workflow process. "We are adopting BIM (Building Information Modeling). This is a revoltionarey approach in the construction industry that involves the use of a digital model capable of meeting the needs of every trade, with an adapted parts list," enthuses Serge Goll, who is in charge of the shift to digital in the profession's organizations. According to the specialist, this common platform offers a wealth of benefits to its users. "In the past, when changes were made to a project, everything had to be modified by hand, without any smart synchronization between the details, and the cuttings. These time-consuming operations resulted in mistakes and the loss of data," he explains. In the BIM-based approach, the resulting files (2D cuttings and other drawings) are updated instantaneously when changes are made to the unique model, and every participant can access the projects. BIM also offers immediate access to the properties - also known as attributes - of the objects that make up the building (dimensions, materials, technical characteristics, etc.). "The main advantage of this organization is the fact that we can insert, access, modify, and extract information quickly", adds Soprema's expert. The shift to digital technology is being driven by Missler Software's TopSolid CAD/CAM software. "We started working with the French software publisher back in 1996 with TopSolid's predecessor, TopCAD, for our comuter-aided drawing operations," recalls Serge Goll. "Four years later, we introduced 2D CAD on Citrix, with the help of Missler Software's Toulouse office." For 15 years, Soprema's CAD department and Missler Services developed modules specific to every aspect of coatings for buildings, based on TopSolid V6.
How TopSolid is masterminding BIM at Soprema
At the beginning of 2016, the company decided to switch to digital technology and implement BIM. "After going through all the trials and tribulations of a comprehensive benchmark of the specialized software available on the market in the most demanding professional scenarios, we realized that version 7 of TopSolid was the solution best suited to our needs and that catered for all the imperatives of th BIM processes, the production of drawings and cutting plans for our on-site teams and the creation of parts lists containing all the necessary materials," explains the specialist. Because it is compatible with the standardized IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) file format, TopSolid allows for easier exchanges of data with other software used in the construction industry. "The competence and responsiveness of the people at Missler was also a decisive factor in our decision. They are genuine partners, with whom we are currently developing a version of TopSolid adapted to our activity that will form the backbone of our BIM software solution later on in 2017", remarks Serge Goll. The world of digital technology opens up almost unlimited prospects. "For example, virtual reality allows for complete immersion in a construction," explains Soprema's CAD manager. "It can also produce 3D images of the different phases of our projects and cinematographic animations of the use of our products. RFID (radio-identification) chips can even be built into the materials, enabling our technicians to collect a multitude of data on a simple tablet."
The strong points of the BIM application implemented at Soprema Entreprises with TopSolid:
- A digital platform that improves the quality and the coherence of designs, while shortening the CAD process
- The competence and responsiveness of the teams at Missler Software
- A shift to a digital world with almost unlimited possibilities
Serge Goll concludes: "TopSolid helps us to adopt an industrial approach to our projects, by using a common digital model. It offers numerous advantages:real-time updates of the CAD files, a coherent design process, access to information, and the list goes on!"