Robotic Total Station Training Essential in Tapping Into Efficiency
As the speed for building and designing greater and grander structures accelerates so must the technology with which these architectural feats rely upon. Keeping up to date with industry technology can be a full-time job, by the time a user acclimates to an operating system or device, a new update rolls out like clockwork. Robotic Total Stations, or RTS, are a prime example of this learning curve dilemma. Tackling that difficulty involves ensuring users are thoroughly trained as well as well-informed of the available educational resources when updates occur.
Robotic Total Stations in Action
A RTS is a surveying tool that records distances from the instrument to a specific point set by the operator. The RTS is often used in conjunction with a data collecting tablet. The data collector has the capability of uploading design plans, enabling the RTS operator to orientate the instrument to the project's specifications and complete the daily layout routine. The RTS increases productivity, ensures accuracy, and reduces labor costs - all are factors that make the tool an essential player at construction sites.
Matt Peters, a veteran Carpenter General Foreman who works for MC Industrial/McCarthy, has been using a RTS since 2006. He credits the instrument in simplifying and reducing the time needed in plotting and measuring a project space. Before the arrival of the RTS, laying out points and outlining the building's footprint was a time-consuming job; often requiring three to four workers utilizing a tape measure to plot a structure's layout. When using an RTS, the same job can be done using one to two workers and takes a fraction of the time.
Peters is currently overseeing the construction of a fast-track warehouse facility that will serve as an assembly hangar for the Boeing 777X. He and his team are currently utilizing the Trimble RTS 773 in tandem with the Yuma 2 tablet to measure and plot the 9.8-acre site. When estimating how much time it would have taken to measure and frame the area without the aid of an RTS, Peters says the time and effort would have been multiplied three times over and left room for human error.
"When you've got a site full of equipment, you can't really just run across it with a tape measure," describes Peters referring to the manual method. "It really does simplify the whole system."
When Peters was tasked with constructing an eight-story dormitory for Saint Louis University, he encountered challenges as the structure grew. Unlike single-story construction, vertical construction requires the same control features to be maintained throughout each floor. The RTS helped retain these project aspects and Peters attributes staying on schedule to the device.
Another advantage of the RTS is its ability to generate daily layout summary reports or deviation reports. These reports detail the variation between what was actually staked compared to the design points - keeping the project not only highly accurate but also allowing project managers to ward off problems from the onset.
Yet, with all the technological gains the RTS and data collector provide, those who use the equipment most often cite an inadequacy when it comes to training users on the devices. Corey Bell, a BuildingPoint Mid-America Representative, supplies general contractors like MC Industrial with RTSs and data collecting tablets. As someone who is familiar with these products, he has witnessed the training needs first-hand.
"Technology is not easy to adapt in an industry where people and processes have been in place for years, but once those same users see the speed and accuracy that these technological advances provide them it is a new daily game for them," explains Bell.
In-depth training of the technology not only makes operating the instruments easier, it also aids the operator in identifying issues when they arise. A well-trained user can understand why the problem is occurring and the steps that can be taken to correct and deter the problem in the future. Companies frequently invest in new, advanced technology and machinery, as well as provide training for said equipment. Yet, too often, the workers, or as Bell prefers "the boots on the ground", learn as they go.
Concerning the adaptability of the technology, Peters notes, "It's not too hard until they change the software on you. Then you're starting all over and trying to re-train yourself," Peters continues, "I still think the biggest gap is in training across the board."
Training Solutions and the Power of Knowledge
Peters sees value in training those who do not work with the technology directlyfor instance, management-level staff. Often, the tendency is to assume RTSs and data collectors are a catchall piece of equipment that can perform and build anything.
Both BuildingPoint and Trimble offer online training courses, as well as in-person classes for an array of products. While these resources are readily available, Bell believes the main reason why so many users remain untrained is the lack of knowledge concerning availability. "They believe that their experience will guide them through the hardware. They need to realize the importance and the value of all that training, increasing their efficiency," Bell concluded. Innovative technologies like the RTS are the future of the construction industry and the only successful solution for companies utilizing that technology is investing time and resources in comprehensive training.