Robotic Layout: Improving Productivity, Saving Time and Money

Robotic Layout: Improving Productivity, Saving Time and Money

 

Time is money. Have you ever heard that saying? Of course you have. We all have. In the construction business, it’s the first commandment. Hourly employees, deadlines, job schedules, good use and management of time is how our jobs are either profitable or total catastrophes. If you can save time on your job, you do it. 

Right?

 

Well, here’s a huge time-saver that many aren’t using, yet. And, no exaggeration, it alone can revolutionize your job productivity. 

 

Robotic layout maybe one of the best kept not-all-that-secret secrets in construction today. 

 

Who can benefit from robotic layout?

  • Plumbers 

  • HVAC installers

  • Electricians

  • Drywall contractors

  • Concrete companies

  • Specialty contractors for elevated floor systems, like in casinos. 

 

How Robotic Layout saves time and money

Robotic layout removes the guesswork, the repetitive measurements, and the backend fixes in installing plumbing, electrical systems, walls, you name it. 

 

For example, typically a plumber starts their work on a project when it’s nothing but a dirt parking lot. With the engineer or BIM company blueprints, they must stake and string line to recreate the planned structure in order to mark where the plumbing must be installed. And all before any actual construction has started. 

 

It’s a painstaking process of gathering precise measurements and placing stakes in the ground. It takes time, manpower, and mistakes that are made are rarely known until after the concrete is poured, the walls built, the bathroom stalls installed, and you find out the plumbing is off two inches from meeting the ADA requirements. 

 

That means breaking up the concrete, adjusting the plumbing, and creating even more wasted time, manpower, time, and, therefore, money. 

 

With robotic layout, the blueprint dimensions are inputted into the robot. It’s given two accurate points for triangulation, which takes roughly five to ten minutes. Thirty, tops, in a worst case scenario. Then, the robot starts mapping out the points for the plumber. It’s done in hours, not days. And done with precision. 

 

The same principles can also be applied to wall and ceiling markings, such as the metal plate points for the walls and the hangers for the electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC units. Instead of having workers pulling measurements, they can go immediately to the installation with confidence each mark, either for the wall or the wiring or piping, is marked within a fraction of an inch accuracy according to the blueprint. 

 

Time and money saved. 

 

Why is robotic layout not the industry standard?

Even though robotic layout has been around for ten years, there’s been a slow transition from its creation to its implementation. Many companies are shy about changing their methods, either due to concerns it’ll only add cost or simply from the unfamiliarity of robotic layout. 

 

So, I asked one of our recent robotic layout clients, who had never used it before, to give us some feedback. Here’s what he said: 

 

Project: Tulsa Technology Center, Lemley Campus

Client:

Colburn Electric

Jeff McGuire, project manager

 

Scope:

$5 million electrical work

 

“This was our first time to use robotic layout. I made the decision and everyone in the office was against it. But, I was looking at the job and figuring out what it would take for my guys to do that layout and preplan all of it versus having Integrated Design come in and do it,” said McGuire.

 

With two guys doing the layout, they’d be expected to work without walls or structures to use for triangulation, and all while working around the other installers – plumbers, drywall, etc. – also working to mark their layout. 

 

“It took Integrated Design an hour where it would have taken us two days,” he said.

Not only did the layout go faster, the electrical conduits went in before all the other installers had started their installations. Conduits were installed without needing to move around already constructed walls or installations from the other trades on the job. It was an open floor. Primed and ready. They didn’t have to worry about maneuvering their scissor lifts around walls, accidentally damaging a frame, and dealing with a back charge. They would work freely. 

“All the drywall had to be cut around our pipes, instead of us cutting into the drywall. That’s not usually how a job goes,” said McGuire. “Usually, it’s the opposite.” 

It also meant their piping could be installed without waiting for the concrete to be poured first, which requires drilling from the bottom to drop-in supports and additional cost to meet OSHA requirements. Robotic layout eliminated all that time and extra expense. 

 

But was it accurate? 

“Everything lined up perfectly. We did no rework of any kind,” McGuire said. “And we put our conduit in way, way early instead of what we normally do. So, instead of drilling from underneath and spending weeks and weeks of work, we’re done. We were ready to start installing conduits on a wide-open floor with no other trades even there.”

 

With a tight budget for the job, Coburn Electric was able to save approximately 30% on labor costs by using robotic design. It earned McGuire some pats on the back, too. 

 

“They (Coburn) love it. They’re blown away by it. They can’t believe what I’m saying, but they can now see the hours. They know that we saved,” said McGuire. “I would absolutely use robotic layout for every job.”

 

Time absolutely is money. 

 

Talk to you later,

Shawn

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