“The Future of…” Series 3 – Setting Out (Digitally!)

This is the third in our series of “The Future of…” posts where we’ve been looking at trends within the construction industry. We’ve already covered ‘Augmented and Mixed Reality’, and ‘Construction Robotics’, so where next? Well, I did mention that I may mix up Trend 3 due to popular demand so here goes….

In this post we’ll be looking at the move away from paper, or more specifically, taking a closer look at  the future of ‘Digital Setting Out’. What better way to start than with two fitting quotes, one is from 50 years ago, the other I heard just recently!

“The most dangerous phrase in the language is: ‘We’ve always done it this way’.”

Grace Hopper, American computer scientist and US Navy Rear Admiral. (Computer World, 1976)


“Do it once, do it right and your other issues will go away.”

Jamie McCann, Managing Director, AV UNIBRAK. (KOREC case study, 2022)

We get it. Changing from what you’ve always done can be scary, but when we have such feature rich constructible models using our state-of-the-art software in the office, why, when we attend sites, do our site operatives work from GA plans printed on A0 paper?

BIM (Building Information Modelling) was the new kid on the block, but that was a few years back, and now it is mandated on most sites to some level. At some point I’m afraid the traditional methods of creating triangles from gridlines, using a tape measure and a piece of string as well as a laser will become obsolete, and just as we’ve seen with the mandate of BIM, digital setting out will be required on sites.

I get it, it looks scary and is a financial investment for most businesses that for now, they can function without. However, I can guarantee that some of your competition is conducting their set out with digital processes and have been for some while.

Why would you want to be left behind? Your company is known for being forward thinking.

The Data Disconnect

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We have so many different types of software that we use nowadays, from people using 2D CAD plans, PDFs, and full-blown complicated Revit, SketchUp and Tekla models, that it can mean that sometimes we only see issues when they come into sight simply because we do not have a “single” source of truth.

Trimble’s hardware bridges the gap between the office and field, and the digital and physical worlds.

Four drawbacks that can be bridged with good software

  • The disconnect within the Construction Industry
  • The confusing number of “single” sources of truth
  • Data that does not flow freely between the office and the field
  • The cumulative lack of communication that has resulted in over 75% of projects running beyond schedule and over budget*

*McKinsey Article

30 minutes to learn three vital tasks

Trimble’s ethos is to ensure we have connected people and workflows. But with complex technology, surely there’s a huge learning curve in order for people to grasp the technology? This is an understandable viewpoint, but we’d like to invite you to think again.

Within 30 minutes, we can show you how to use the technology on site, even if the site operatives have never seen the CAD/BIM plans before. It’s so simple, that the operative will most likely end up chasing a laser around a slab or soffit for most of the day.

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Connect Office to Field

With Trimble Connect, construction is simplified to suit the “drag and drop culture” of today (Mark Lawton CEng FCInstCES – Skanska). Trimble Connect is the web sharing platform where we share all our models, all our site schematics etc. It’s a fancy DropBox! Anyone on the project then has access to the information which before was siloed in the office.

Utilise software plug-ins to Automate

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The Trimble FieldPoints extension, available in SketchUp, Revit, and AutoCAD, enables designers to convert BIM data to precise points to be laid out in the field. New designs and layout points are shared back to the common Trimble Connect project

Layout points with FieldLink

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With the design approved, the Layout Technician can now load the layout points and BIM model from Trimble Connect to Trimble FieldLink. Using a precision instrument, such as a Robotic Total Station, Rapid Positioning Tool or GNSS Receiver, the user is guided on a tablet or in mixed reality to precisely and efficiently.

Not only can we simplify the setting out with FieldLink, it ensures that the work on site is accurate, repeatable and reportable. You don’t get that luxury with a tape measure!

As always, there’s no reason to listen to me….

…because quite a few of our KOREC construction customers have been using this hardware on their own projects already. These projects range from ventilation set out to steel erection, and ultimately, we understand that it’s the opinions of the users of this technology that hold the most relevance.

Since we started this piece with two great quotes, I’d like to end with five more!

“The Trimble equipment clearly provided us with the best possible scenario, primarily because it combined the accuracy we required (consistent millimetre positions) with ease of use. Our setting out team members are not IT experts, and we could see that the Trimble RPT600 system would be easy for them to adapt to within days and in fact they were up and running after just a couple of run throughs.” – Gabriel Asante-Boadu, AV Unibrak Head of Design.

“We have total confidence in the accuracy of the RPT600 and therefore in the quality of the work we undertake for the contractor.” – Gabriel Asante-Boadu, AV Unibrak Head of Design.

“With the Trimble X7, a job that previously took us 4 hours can now be completed in minutes!” Jamie Green, Hillcrest Structural Managing Director

“Working with ground-breaking technology such as this gives the Hillcrest team a chance to flourish and attracts a new generation of draughtsmen to the industry.” Jamie Green, Hillcrest Structural Managing Director

In our next newsletter, we’ll be turning the spotlight on ourselves and asking a very important question, Have we been missing a trick? Why it’s time to focus on how the technology is used rather than how it works.

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