EarningsNemetschek just announced that is has invested in a startup and acquired a majority stake in another company to level up its 3D Building Information Management (BIM) portfolio to include time (4D) and cost (5D) in project planning*. As I’ve written before, 4D/5D is where many in the AEC industry are focusing their efforts: 3D design technology, by itself, can no longer yield the efficiencies asset owners and operators need — they want engineers and constructors (E&C firms) to make tradeoffs between design and construction processes and scheduling using information that isn’t visible from design alone.

Nemetschek, Hasso Plattner Ventures (Mr. Plattner was co-founder of SAP) and High-Tech Gründerfonds have invested in Sablono GmbH, a startup that creates software for construction project planning, control and monitoring. Sablono was spun out of the Technische Universitaet Berlin in 2013 and the first release of its Sablono Onsite is “imminent”. Sablono Onsite lets project managers and others use mobile devices to check and control the status construction work directly on the building site and make it available to other project partners in real-time.

In addition, Nemetschek acquired a majority interest in hartmann technologies GmbH, a developer of software for building-model-oriented processes in the construction industry. hartmann’s ice BIM products enable time-based and qualitative optimization of a building process, from the creation of the 3D model, through quantity takeoff and compiling contract documents to price calculations. Interestingly, hartmann’s ice BIM construct works with RIB Software‘s iTWO and Autodesk’s Revit — we’ll have to see how that plays out.

Financial details of the transactions were not disclosed, nor is their projected impact on Nemetschek’s results.

These are interesting moves for Nemetschek. The parent, holding company has been in a bit of disarray lately with board shakeups but the operating companies have been ticking over nicely. By partnering for technologies that engineering and construction firms know they need, Nemetschek brings to the market both a broader offering and a combo of older, proven brands (Graphisoft, Vectorworks, Allplan et al) and new, cutting-edge technologies.

Other vendors are promoting similar offerings, but the biggest stumbling blocks Nemetschek faces with its 3D/4D/5D portfolio are building awareness and displacing entrenched processes. The guy in the planning department who knows this stuff inside and out, and who creates estimates by hand for each project, is not necessarily interested in being replaced by technology. If his management decrees it, it’ll take time to map the stuff in his head to software tables and processes. Too, larger E&C firms created in-house tools to do some of what these COTS offerings have because COTS simply didn’t exist; replacing them will take time because of their interconnections to business systems. In either case, Nemetschek has to prove that its 4D/5D solutions are better, faster and save more money than what prospects are using today. But the real opportunity, at least immediately, is with those E&Cs who aren’t doing any digital planning at all — and that’s a surprisingly large number of prospects.

Note: I’ve always seen 4D as time, 5D as cost, 6D as operations or maintainability. Nemetschek’s announcement about these deals lists 4D as cost and 5D as time.