Work Management Software for the Field

The new Trimble MEP layout solution (www.trimble.com) for mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractors takes advantage of several technologies to deliver a time- and labor-saving method of laying out points for setting sleeve and hanger locations on floors and ceilings. Requiring only one mechanic rather than two, it provides speed along with accuracy. The solution employs a Trimble SPS610 Robotic

The new Trimble MEP layout solution (www.trimble.com) for mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractors takes advantage of several technologies to deliver a time- and labor-saving method of laying out points for setting sleeve and hanger locations on floors and ceilings. Requiring only one mechanic rather than two, it provides speed along with accuracy.

The solution employs a Trimble SPS610 Robotic Total Station, a Trimble wireless handheld controller and Trimble MEP layout software to provide precise positioning on the jobsite. It enables one person to handle complex layout on the floor, the wall, to top of the deck or on the ceiling. Conventional layout methods using tapes are no longer needed.

Typically, the layout person attaches the wireless controller to a rod with a 360° prism mounted on top. The robotic total station automatically tracks the prism as the layout person walks around the site and communicates the current position of the prism to the MEP software through a radio link between the controller and the total station. This method most commonly is used when layout is done on top of the deck to set floor penetrations and hanger anchors.

Trimble MEP software, running on the wireless controller, enables layout points to be graphically selected from a digital blueprint shown on the controller, displays the current location of the rod and indicates the direction and distance to get to the desired location. Points can be laid out in either 2-D or 3-D.

When laying out points on the ceiling, the point to lay out is graphically selected on the controller, but instead of guiding the prism to the desired location, the robotic total station automatically turns and places a visible laser dot directly on the ceiling at the desired location. If the actual ceiling height does not match the design height, Trimble MEP automatically adjusts to point to the correct location and reports the difference between the design height and actual height.

Generally, as is done with the traditional two-person method, two points are used to establish control for layout. But with traditional methods, the control line used to lay out a specific point tends to move as points are located. The Trimble MEP layout solution locates each point from the original control, eliminating the compounding layout errors that occur with traditional methods.

According to Trimble, one person using the system can lay out 400 hanger anchors a day, whereas a two-person crew using conventional layout methods can average about 100 anchors a day.

Wireless capability in the controller enables data files to be e-mailed between the office and field. Field personnel can receive updated design data and office personnel can receive as-built and field measured data without losing time driving back and forth.

Data most often is generated by traditional 3-D CAD or MEP software programs. Points to be laid out and background data for display are exported from the office software and uploaded to the controller. If the contractor is not using digital data, blueprint data can be created directly on the controller using Trimble MEP software.

EService, a cell phone accessible software solution (www.eservice.com, 866/403-3475) is an on-the-go job dispatch and work order management application that is suitable for small and medium sized contractors. It enables free flow of job data between an Internet-connected office PC and personnel in the field carrying a “Get-It-Now” enabled Verizon wireless phone to which the software has been downloaded. This summer, the application also will be available on the Alltel Network with added location-based services.

The program, which carries a monthly fee, enables a dispatcher working on the solution's Web interface to create a job while on the phone with a customer and then allocate and dispatch the job according to the availability and location of each technician in the field. (Pre-formatted customer lists streamline scheduling existing customers.) The solution can also take into consideration workers' rosters, skills and current workload. The office can pass along any job or customer notes that might be helpful.

An auto-dispatch capability automatically can assign jobs immediately or for the start of the next workday. An audible alert is sent to the technician's phone when a work order comes in. The technician can accept or reject a pending job, providing a reason for rejection from a configurable drop-down list.

There are regular reminders if a pending job is ignored. If ignored too long, the job is returned automatically to the server and marked “missed” on the field device.

Other job management capabilities include automatic timestamps that allow administration to monitor and measure travel time, working time, down time and administrative time per job. Users also may review parts, labor codes, trouble-found codes and other resources added to jobs in the field.

Reports are available for open jobs, completed jobs, worker productivity, customer activity and full archived job details.

The program can be set up with multiple levels of user privileges, ranging from full administrator access through dispatcher access and down to read-only access.

ECONZ also has the ability to connect with a third-party dispatch system using a PC-based e-mail work order updater.

Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].

TAGS: PCs/Tablets