Effective field layout is a vital step toward success in your construction projects. The information you collect about site measurements, material locations and more guides your project layout and can ultimately boost or hinder your productivity.
For many contractors, a construction field layout software can improve and streamline the planning process. You can amplify the benefits of this construction technology by choosing the right software. Let’s examine what you should look for in your software and what kind of value it might hold for your company.
Why Should You Invest in Technology for Your Construction or Contracting Business?
The International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants (IIBEC) reports that construction is among the least digitized sectors globally. It is second only to the agriculture and hunting sector. So why invest in construction technology if the industry doesn’t follow? Despite low adoption levels, construction technology has numerous benefits, including:
- Increased productivity: Construction productivity has stayed flat for years. This may be due in part to the fact that design-bid-build process is naturally disjointed and isolated. Adaptable technology can help contractors overcome and streamline siloed processes effectively.
- Improved accuracy and precision: Construction technology enables you to follow your building plans with greater certainty. It may also help you recognize errors sooner in the building process to save time and money.
- Better communication from office to field: Cloud-based technology makes it simple to transfer information between the field and the office instantly. This allows you to keep all the members of your team up-to-date with ease.
- Improved workflow: Comprehensive software compiles disparate information into one place. This can help you save time traditionally used for data entry and focus your attention on the task at hand.
- Appeal for the next generation of workers: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers under the age of 20 make up the smallest percentage of the construction industry. As older workers retire, the construction industry will need to attract and retain the next generation of workers. Construction technology is a desirable asset in the eyes of those who have used it for most of their lives.
- Competitive edge: Technology sets you and your services apart from your competitors. In addition to boosting your performance, construction technology can give you an edge in hiring, productivity and accuracy over competing businesses.
A common concern for any new technology is the learning curve and training time it will require. Fortunately, teaching layout professionals how to use new equipment and software is easier than you may think.
Many young workers can be considered “digital natives” who have grown up with technology for all or most of their lives. These individuals have a second nature sense for how technology works, and they expect to interact with it in their occupation. When you train your crew, the younger and older workers each bring unique strengths. Younger crew members can share their technology expertise, and older members offer insight into how layout processes fit into the software capacities.
Amid a busy schedule, training time may seem impossible to spare. However, the time you spend teaching workers to implement tech pays off when they can improve their overall field performance. You can regain momentum and even improve your projects with proper training. Depending on where you purchase your equipment and software, the manufacturer or reseller may also assist in training employees.
A final way to ease training concerns is to select technology that fits your specific needs. Software with an abundance of unnecessary features may be harder to understand and require longer training. A program that satisfies your needs and gives you room to grow without overloading workers with options provides ideal training circumstances.
Survey-Grade vs. Construction-Grade Field Software – Which Is Right for You?
Survey-grade and construction-grade field software are sometimes marketed as similar products. You may assume a survey-grade product makes the best construction field layout software because professional surveyors use it. This is not the case. In fact, using a survey-grade field software for construction layout may not be as effective as software specifically designed for contractors.
To illustrate the differences between survey-grade and construction-grade layout products, let’s compare two common software: the Trimble Access and the Trimble Field Link. The comparison findings can help you determine how to choose the best construction field layout software for your business.
Survey-Grade: Trimble Access
The Trimble Access is built to support the essential tasks a professional surveyor completes. Before construction begins, surveyors collect extensive data about property lines, angles, slopes, distances and more. Their work is foundational to map a construction site and determine the optimal placement for structural components. Surveyors pass their data to engineers, who then create building plans that contractors will eventually use.
Based on these job requirements, the Trimble Access offers some of the following features:
- Detailed coordinated geometry (COGO) routines
- Modules for different surveying types, including cadastral, land seismic, mines, monitoring, roads and tunnels
- Graphical staking for alignments, arcs, lines and points
- Feature coding and measure codes for repetitive tasks
- Volume computations and surface creation from topographical surveys and scan data
This is a remarkable tool for surveyors, but it may not provide the functionality construction layout professionals need.
Construction-Grade: Trimble Field Link
In contrast to the Trimble Access, Trimble Field Link is designed to accommodate field layout tasks a contractor completes before construction begins. Layout tasks may differ from one job to the next, but general field layout requires a professional to work from an engineer’s design to establish places for material, measure components, make cuts and more.
To support these tasks, Trimble Field Link has the following features:
- 3D modeling to see designs in real-time in the field
- A simple, customizable user interface (UI)
- Building Information Modeling (BIM) compatibility
- CAD-based field point creation
- Compatibility with robotic total station technology
- Ability to precisely match the digital to the physical world
- A unified hardware tablet and software system
Both Trimble Access and Trimble Field Link have overlapping capabilities. Though a contractor could conduct high-level survey tasks with Trimble Access, it ultimately does not have the contractor-tailored capabilities available through Trimble Field Link.
The Best Field Layout Software for Construction
When comparing survey-grade and construction-grade products, the best field layout software for contractors is one that strikes a balance between purpose-built capabilities and scalability. You want to be able to adapt your technology to your business’s needs, but you don’t want a product that is too complex for your regular tasks. Construction-grade software is designed with a contractor in mind and can help you achieve the middle ground you need.
The Importance of Choosing a Flexible and Scalable Solution
When investing in construction technology, it’s advantageous to choose something that gives your business room for expansion and adaptation. The following are a few reasons a flexible and scalable solution is a good choice for your business:
1. It Adapts as Your Business Grows
The BLS predicts the construction industry will experience 11% growth by 2028. Contractors will need to respond to this growth and an increased service demand by expanding their workforce and capabilities. Even if your company doesn’t experience rapid growth, you may decide to add to your services.
For example, a self-performing general contractor may specialize in concrete layout at the time they purchase equipment, but they may decide to expand into interior framing in the future. In this situation, a Trimble Field Link with an RTS873 robotic total station would be the best technology solution. This equipment would allow the contractor to conduct concrete layout outdoors with a prism in addition to framing layout indoors with a visible green beam.
If the contractor in this example commits to a survey-grade solution with a narrow application, they may not be able to adapt to their new workflow and tasks. An adaptable solution expands with you and saves you the hassle and costs of new equipment.
2. It Accommodates a Shift in Resource Needs
The resources you rely on today could change significantly in the next five to 10 years. It’s a widespread phenomenon. Tools and methods have evolved and improved to make construction more efficient, and you never know what innovation may transform the industry next. In addition to widespread advancements, you may decide to incorporate new resources like 3D modeling or mixed reality into your work in the near future. If you select a narrow, survey-grade software, you may not be able to address your resource needs adequately without new equipment.
Overall, a survey-grade software will keep up with and accommodate innovation in the surveying industry. What is relevant for surveyors may not be helpful for construction project workflows. The flexibility of a construction-grade layout software allows you to expand your resource needs at your preferred pace.
3. It Saves Time and Money
Choosing a solution that grows with you provides a greater return on investment (ROI). The longer you can use your hardware and software, the more the product will pay for itself. If the equipment improves your overall performance, your ROI will be even greater. A flexible product gives you the peace of mind that you’ll be covered for as long as possible.
Scalable solutions also save you time. When your equipment is out-of-date or doesn’t fit your expanded needs, you’ll have to dedicate precious resources toward finding and purchasing equipment, training your employees on the system and successfully implementing the product in the field.
Benefits of Using Trimble Field Link and Trimble Robotic Total Stations
General, mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractors can benefit from the Trimble Field Link and the Trimble Robotic Total Stations. Keep your business’s projects, needs, budget and workers in mind as you consider which layout product may be best for you.
Trimble Field Link for Construction Layout
As we’ve outlined, Trimble Field Link has features that support construction workflow and virtual design. One of Trimble Field Link’s greatest benefits for contractors is its simultaneous specialization and comprehensiveness within construction layout. Field Link is simple, but it’s well-equipped and ready to grow with your business. Contractors can use the precise features they want without the distraction of unnecessary, survey-grade capabilities. This setup makes Trimble Field Link incredibly dynamic, though some incorrectly market it as a de-featured alternative to Trimble Access.
In addition to the features described above, Field Link is compatible with Trimble Field Link 2D Office software. This program offers a simple tool to create data from a plan while using a desktop. Trimble Field Link 2D was intentionally designed as a straightforward program, so you can trust crews with different skill levels to conduct automated point creation.
Trimble Robotic Total Stations for Construction Layout
Trimble Robotic Total Stations (RTS) are excellent tools for construction layout tasks, and they work seamlessly with other hardware and software like Trimble Field Link. A Robotic Total Station has flexible, one-person operation to help your crew conduct their work efficiently and accurately.
To accommodate your crew’s needs, Trimble Robotic Total Stations have the following features:
- Simple setup with just a convenient location and two known points
- Ability to use a prism pole for positioning up to 9,843 feet away
- Reflectorless distance measurements to reach difficult or dangerous locations up to 800 meters away
- Light topographical measurements
- Capacity for hanger, underground pipe and sleeve layout
- Capacity for concrete form and anchor bolt layout
- As-built checks
The Trimble RTS models have virtually identical capabilities for accuracy and precision when compared to other geospatial equipment. Some models, like the RTS873, are better than survey-grade options because their features are purpose-built for contractors. A Trimble RTS has the advantage of contractor-specific capabilities. You can grow and expand within those capabilities without the need to purchase new, expensive equipment.
Contact BuildingPoint West for Industry-Leading Building Construction Sales and Support
Your construction field layout software should fit your projects. It should also come from a dealer with over 60 years of boots-on-the-ground experience in bringing construction layout solutions to construction professionals. If you’re struggling with it, we have solved it. With BuildingPoint West, there’s no need to settle.
BuildingPoint West is the single best source for construction-grade software. Our certified building construction sales and support staff has an intimate understanding of the type of workflow you experience in the field. We understand more than what it takes to lay out accurately in the field — we know how to fine-tune your process down to the minute details.
When you work with BuildingPoint West to cover your construction site layout needs, our expertise doesn’t stop at the sale. Our knowledgeable staff can help train your employees on the new technology to ensure a smooth transition to new software. To take the next step in finding your construction field layout solution, contact the experts at BuildingPoint West today.