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How to Perform Layout in a Fraction of the Time with Just One Person

It can take a two-person team days or weeks to complete layout using manual tools. But with a robotic total station, you only need one layout pro and a few hours. In fact, a single person can lay out 300-400 points per day on their own as opposed to only 30-40 points with a team of two.

Since construction layout can account for as much as 25% of a project’s cost, anything you can do to improve layout efficiency can have a positive effect on your bottom line. Here’s a closer look at how a single layout professional can set up a highly efficient workflow and complete layout in a fraction of the time with a Trimble robotic layout station.

Step 1: Prepare Data

Before you begin layout, you’ll need to do some data preparation. If you don’t have a CAD department or you’re working from paper blueprints and PDF drawings, you can upload the project files into Trimble FieldLink, Trimble’s field software solution. In the software, you can do things like scale the drawings to dimension, insert points like hangers and sleeves, and create control points. This work can be done either in the office or out in the field using the tablet.

Because the robotic total station integrates with FieldLink, you can also access the 3D model of the project and any other relevant project information while onsite. For example, you can view the 3D model on the tablet before laying out points to help align your work to as-built conditions and ensure greater accuracy. 

The 3D model is accessible on the Trimble T10 tablet.

Step 2: Perform Layout

Trimble’s self-leveling robotic layout stations position and orient themselves on the jobsite. Once orientation has been established, there are two ways to perform layout: using the prism pole or the laser. While prism pole layout is the more familiar method, laser layout using Trimble’s Visual Layout technology is an even faster way to lay out points on clean, flat surfaces such as ceilings or floors in already-built environments.

Prism pole (or rod) layout

1. Select the points to lay out. Using the tablet, pull up the plan or model and choose the points you want to lay out. Generally, the first step is to select your control points. This also helps you orient yourself to the space.

2. Shoot the control points. Move the prism pole, taking care so that it continually faces the instrument, and line it up over the first control point. Make sure the pole is level. Select the point on the tablet and the instrument will take a measurement. Repeat the process for the other control points. 

3. Lay out points. In prism layout mode on the tablet, select a point in the model or plan. The tablet shows where you and the prism pole are standing in relation to the instrument. Take the prism pole to the point you want to lay out. As you move the prism pole, the info is conveyed on the tablet so you can always see where you are in the space as well as when you’ve reached the point. Stake the point, confirm on the tablet screen what the point is, then mark it. Use the tablet to identify the next nearest point and repeat the steps above. 

Using the model on the tablet screen, you choose the next point to lay out.

Laser (visual) layout

1. Select the points to lay out. Remove the tablet from the prism pole and switch to laser layout mode. Choose between layout on the ceiling or layout on the floor. Aim the laser on the instrument close to the point you want to lay out. 

Once the laser has found the point location, it turns green so you can easily see and mark the point.

2. Lay out points. Select Aim, and the green laser on the instrument will find the layout point. The laser will turn red to take the measurement. Once the instrument has found the location, it will turn back to green again. You can then mark the point and store it on the tablet. Repeat the steps above for each point you want to lay out.

To see how much faster and more accurately you can
complete layout with a robotic total station, watch the video.

Step 3: Collect & Document Information

As you’re performing layout, you can use the tablet to collect and document information and site details. For example, you can collect points on a variety of structures in the space, such as a sleeve, bolt, or ductwork, to document work performed and compare it back to the model to ensure accuracy. 

You can also take photos with the tablet and superimpose labels over the images to add notes. Using a collaboration platform like Trimble Connect, you can then upload the layout points and images to share with teams back in the office. If the design changes, your CAD team can also use Trimble Connect to ensure you have access to the most up-to-date information while out in the field. 


A daily layout summary report in Trimble FieldLink makes it easy to track your layout productivity.

Using the calendar feature in the software, you can record the dates you performed layout, as well as the time it took to perform layout so you can see the average points laid out per hour. This helps you understand and quantify the productivity gains you get from using the robotic total station, which makes it clear how the tool quickly pays for itself.

Improve Layout Speed & Accuracy with a Robotic Total Station

When you get started with robotic layout, you can perform layout faster and more accurately. From data preparation to layout to data collection, documentation, and reporting, one layout pro can manage the entire layout workflow on their own—and in much less time than with traditional layout methods. The time you save adds up to greater productivity and increased profitability. 


To see a one-person layout workflow in action, watch the live demo.

About the Author

Bryan Williams, Segment Manager, Field Technology Group, Trimble Buildings. Bryan has nearly 30 years of international experience working in the construction industry as a site engineer, construction surveyor, project supervisor and consultant. He has spent the last 15 years developing and marketing intelligent positioning solutions for the construction industry as part of Trimble’s Buildings.