How to Convince Your Boss You Need a Robotic Layout Station

June 15, 2020 Bryan Williams

So you see the value in a robotic layout station, but your boss isn’t as convinced. Making a case for a new technology tool can be challenging when your company is trying to save money, not spend it.

But tools can’t be looked at as merely expenses. They’re necessary to do the job. Some tools even make the work more efficient and effective, paying for themselves many times over. The bigger culprits affecting your company’s bottom line are things like poor productivity and rework. 

Rework costs the construction industry billions every year and accounts for 30% of the work performed, some experts say. It stands to reason, then, that if you could minimize rework, you’d also increase productivity and improve profitability as a result. 

By improving the accuracy and efficiency of a critical workflow like layout, you can also significantly improve your company’s bottom line. Layout can account for up to 25% of a project’s cost, so anything you can do to increase layout efficiency will translate to greater profitability. A robotic layout tool that can automate the layout process without sacrificing accuracy or quality allows you to do just that. 

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While the advantages are obvious to you, your boss may still need some convincing that technology is the answer. Construction remains one of the least technologically advanced industries. Yet technology has the potential to deliver the increased productivity that’s needed so badly. 

Why do so many in the construction business cling to outdated methods when there are better, more accurate, and more efficient ways of doing things? Because change is hard. To do things differently would mean disruption. Decision makers, like your boss, may fear that it will take too much time to implement. Or that your workers won’t adopt it. Or that it won’t deliver a measurable return on investment.

This is where you come in. With the right information, you can convince your boss that layout technology is intuitive to use, easy to adopt, and will pay for itself many times over—no matter how tight your budget is. Read on to get some helpful guidance to help you make your case.

A Robotic Layout Station Saves Time

Since traditional layout methods rely on manual tools and processes, it can take several painstaking days to lay out all of the points needed for a project. When performed this way, layout is extremely time consuming, which means there’s little hope of completing the job faster and making up time in the schedule.  

How a robotic layout station can help: Speed is one of the biggest selling points of a robotic layout station since its measurement and positioning functions are automated. A 2014 Construction Executive article found that a two-person layout team using manual methods could lay out 75 points per day. If they used a mechanical total station, the two-person team could complete 150 points per day. But when a robotic layout station is used, just one layout professional can lay out 300 points per day—twice as many points as a mechanical total station and four times as many as a two-person crew using manual tools. And depending on the type of job and level of experience, some layout professionals can lay out an estimated 600-800 points per day.

The savings realized: Let’s say you have a large project that requires laying out 12,000 points. Based on the findings above, you can estimate that a team of two would need 160 work days to complete the job working 40 hours per week and not counting overtime. On the other hand, a single layout pro using a robotic total station could complete the job in just 40 work days. 

Bottom line: A robotic layout station handles layout faster, potentially cutting the amount of time needed to perform layout by 75%. You save days, even weeks, allowing you to shorten project schedules and improve productivity, not to mention create competitive advantage.  

A Robotic Layout Station Saves Labor

The construction industry’s labor shortage is a well-known and much-talked-about problem. Especially if you’re a smaller company, you’ve probably felt the pain of trying to find and retain the skilled workers you need to staff projects appropriately, let alone be able to scale up operations if you should choose to. 

Do you know what to look for in a robotic layout station?
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If you’re still performing layout manually, you’re only making things more challenging by continuing to use an unnecessarily labor-intensive process. 

How a robotic layout station can help: A robotic layout station does the measurement and positioning itself and is controlled by a tablet. Because of the tool’s ease, quickness, and accuracy, it reduces labor needs from two people to one. A single layout professional can perform layout, moving freely around the site with the controller while the tool does the work. And since the technology is so intuitive, it usually takes only a couple hours of training to get workers confidently using—and preferring—the tool. 

The savings realized: Using the same example from above, you have a project with 12,000 layout points. If you assign a two-person crew to work eight hours per day at $75 per hour (for a total cost of $1,200 per day), you can estimate it will take them 160 days and cost around $192,000 for them to complete the layout. But if you used a robotic layout station and a single operator working eight hours per day at $75 per hour (for a total cost of $600 per day), the work would be completed in just 40 days, reducing the cost of layout to just $24,000.

Bottom line: By using a robotic layout station for layout over manual methods, you can cut your labor requirements by more than half and reduce your labor costs by as much as 87.5%. 

A Robotic Layout Station Protects Profit Margins

You already know that traditional layout methods require too much labor and time, but they’re also prone to human error. Should a measurement be missed or miscalculated, by the time the mistake is realized it will already be too late and require costly rework. Rework has the potential to quickly shrink profits when you factor in the costs of additional materials, equipment, and labor that are often required to rip and replace work. 

How a robotic layout station can help: A robotic layout station is able to perform layout more thoroughly and with greater precision. By removing the potential for human error and the negative impacts of fatigue, the tool is able to achieve greater accuracy and efficiency. This doesn’t negate the role of the operator. On the contrary, the operator can come out from behind the tool to interact with the environment and gain a better overall understanding of the site. By shifting their focus from doing the tedious work of layout, layout professionals are able to oversee the overall layout process and apply their knowledge and experience to identify potential problems or discrepancies between the design or model and the actual site conditions. When layout professionals are able to catch and fix potential issues before fabrication or construction begins, you avoid much costlier problems, all of which can quickly derail the schedule and erode already-thin profit margins. 

The savings realized: Using our 12,000-point project from above, let’s say the estimated cost to build the project is $5 million. Using a robotic layout station, you won’t only minimize the amount of time and cost of labor to complete layout, you can also minimize mistakes or even avoid them entirely. It’s estimated that rework accounts for an average 5% of the total cost of a construction project, and it could be as high as 10-15%. Assuming the cost of rework comes out of your profit margin, your ability to minimize rework could result in significant savings. In this example, if your gross margin is 18%, you stand to make $900,000 gross profit off the job. But if you must forfeit a conservative 3% in rework costs, you’ll give up $150,000 in gross profit and reduce your profit margin to 15%. 

Bottom line: The accuracy of a robotic layout station allows you to minimize or even reduce RFIs and rework that can quickly erode your margin. 

Make a Solid Business Case for a Robotic Layout Solution

Your boss has a lot to think about—from how to overcome a shortage of skilled labor to how to ensure your projects are completed on time and on budget. You can help address these business challenges and make your job easier with a robotic layout station. 

You see now that by increasing the accuracy and efficiency of layout, you can make a direct impact on your profitability. Borrowing from what you’ve learned here, you can confidently explain that a robotic layout station is easier, faster, more accurate, and ultimately less expensive than using manual methods. You can share the math to demonstrate how the improvements in productivity can significantly reduce project costs. And you can make a solid business case for how a robotic layout station reduces the risk of costly rework.

Take the next step by learning what to look for in a robotic layout station. 
Get the guide to learn more.

Want to test drive a robotic layout solution? Request a free no-obligation demo now.
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