by Kristopher Welshman, VP of Operations and BIM Coordinator

As an Operations Specialist in the Navy, I served as a Tactical Information Coordinator (TIC), a role that involved orchestrating and prioritizing the flow of tactical information. Now, as the VP of Operations at Smarcon, I find myself immersed in the world of Building Information Modeling (BIM). At a glance, the two roles might appear to sit on opposite ends of a spectrum. However, the deeper I delve into BIM, the more I find striking parallels to my time as a TIC. The underlying thread? The unequivocal importance of effective communication.

The Role of a TIC in the Navy:

As a TIC, my primary responsibility was to ensure the timely, accurate, and effective communication of tactical information. This entailed filtering vast amounts of data, discerning which pieces were most vital, and then disseminating that information to the necessary parties. In the high-pressure environment of the Navy, even a slight miscommunication can lead to catastrophic consequences. It was therefore imperative that the information I dealt with was not only accurate but also reached its intended recipient promptly and in a format that could be quickly understood and acted upon.

Building Information Modeling at Smarcon:

In my current role at Smarcon, we specialize in BIM services. At its core, BIM is about creating digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of facilities. However, it’s not just about generating a model; it’s about ensuring that this model serves as a vital communication tool between architects, engineers, constructors, and owners.

Much like in my TIC role, BIM requires filtering vast amounts of data, discerning which pieces are most relevant, and then presenting that information in a format that can be understood, shared, and acted upon. Just as with tactical information in the Navy, the mismanagement of building data can lead to costly mistakes, misinterpretations, and missed opportunities.

Drawing the Parallels:

While the domains of naval operations and building modeling may seem worlds apart, the common ground lies in the way information is handled and communicated. Both require:

  1. Data Interpretation: In both roles, raw data is just the beginning. The skill lies in interpreting this data to create actionable insights.
  2. Prioritization: Not all information is of equal importance. Recognizing which data points are critical and which can be set aside is vital.
  3. Effective Presentation: The best data is useless if it cannot be understood. Presenting information in an accessible and actionable manner is key.

The Essence of Communication:

Whether you’re coordinating tactical operations at sea or ensuring that a building model effectively conveys its intricacies, the ability to communicate data and information effectively can make or break an operation.

As professionals, it’s essential that we recognize the universal nature of communication. It’s not just about speaking or writing; it’s about ensuring that our message is received, understood, and acted upon. Whether as a TIC in the Navy or as a BIM Manager, I am reminded daily that when communication thrives, success follows.

From the High Seas to High Rises: The Evolution of Information Handling

Having transitioned from my role as an Operations Specialist in the Navy, serving diligently as a Tactical Information Coordinator (TIC), to the bustling corridors of Smarcon as the VP of Operations, I’ve been on a unique journey. It’s a path that’s taken me from the echoing vastness of the open sea to the complex intricacies of modern building projects. Yet, amid these contrasting backdrops, a consistent theme emerges: the art and science of managing and communicating information.

The Anatomy of a TIC:

Onboard a naval vessel, the TIC operates in the nerve center. Here, the stakes are sky-high. Picture this: Screens aglow with real-time data streams, radar blips indicating friend from foe, and communication channels buzzing with encrypted transmissions. My task was no less than weaving a coherent narrative from these threads of information.

Interpreting this tapestry meant making life-altering decisions. Should the fleet change its course? Are those incoming aircraft friendly? When seconds count, every piece of data is a puzzle piece that can determine safety or peril.

Understanding the Naval Network:

To appreciate the gravity and complexity of a TIC’s role, it’s crucial to understand the tools at their disposal:

  • Link 11 & Link 16: These tactical data links enabled real-time sharing of tactical pictures across multiple units. Through them, naval vessels, aircraft, and land-based systems exchanged data seamlessly. This synchronized awareness ensured decisions were made based on the most current battlefield situation.
  • SAT J: As a satellite communication system, SAT J allowed for extended range communication. When a ship was beyond the horizon or out of conventional communication means, SAT J was the lifeline.
  • CEC (Cooperative Engagement Capability): Perhaps the crown jewel in tactical communication, CEC enabled units to share sensor data in real-time. This meant that one unit could engage a threat based on the sensory inputs of another, massively expanding the horizon of engagement.

The Blueprint of BIM at Smarcon:

Fast-forward to my role at Smarcon, where Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the name of the game. Here, instead of radar screens and encrypted channels, I find myself surrounded by digital blueprints and 3D renderings of future skyscrapers.

Yet, the BIM process is not just about designing aesthetically pleasing buildings. It’s about crafting a comprehensive digital narrative that speaks to architects, civil engineers, electrical experts, and every professional in between. Each layer of a BIM model adds depth to the building’s story, much like each data stream on my naval console added layers to our tactical understanding.

Navigating the Complexities:

Drawing from my naval experience, I’ve identified a few guiding principles that resonate in both worlds:

  • Layered Understanding: Just as oceanic depths have multiple layers, each with its ecosystem, both tactical information and BIM operate on multiple levels. The challenge is understanding each layer’s role and integrating them seamlessly.
  • Collaborative Synergy: In the Navy, the TIC collaborates with the ship’s captain, radar operators, and intelligence officers. In BIM, architects, engineers, and contractors must operate in tandem. Collaboration isn’t just an asset; it’s a necessity.
  • Forward Vision: In the Navy, the goal was always to anticipate and act, not just react. Similarly, BIM isn’t just about visualizing a building as it is designed, but anticipating future modifications, renovations, and usage patterns.

Building Bridges, Not Walls:

What stands out most prominently in my journey is the realization that, regardless of the domain, effective information handling is about building bridges of understanding. It’s about ensuring that data isn’t just collected and analyzed but is communicated in a way that fosters collaboration and forward action.

In closing, as I sit in my office at Smarcon, looking out at the city skyline dotted with structures that have benefited from our BIM services, I often find myself drawing parallels with the open seas. The principles I learned as a TIC — clarity, precision, and proactive communication — are as relevant in the steel and glass canyons of our cities as they were on the undulating waves of the ocean.