What is Multi-Trade Layout?

August 7, 2023

Commercial construction projects require cohesive collaboration from the design stage all the way through installation. Communication breakdowns along this workflow can cost your project weeks in delays, pricey labor bills, wasted resources, and extensive requests for rework. 

Traditionally, manual layout has been a common source of miscommunication across trades, leading to communication breakdowns and conflicts. Multi-trade layout changes this narrative by automating layout across all trades and facilitating communication and collaboration in the field.

Multi-Trade Layout: Improving Communication Between Trades

Communication breakdowns happen naturally when projects rely on manual design, layout, and collaboration workflows. While this was completely understandable when better alternatives did not exist, that’s no longer the case. Better alternatives do exist. 

Construction technology facilitates easy communication throughout the construction project lifecycle, from design to installation. From Building Information Modeling (BIM) to robotic multi-trade layout, stakeholders can collaborate closely on project designs and bring those coordinated designs directly into the field. These easy-to-use technologies instill confidence in your designs, ensure clarity in your layout, and increase layout crew productivity all while avoiding rework.  

What is Multi-Trade Layout?

Multi-trade layout refers to the process of printing all interior trades’ layout in a single pass using an automated layout system. Multi-trade layout works best with a coordinated model, though it can also be used with individual trades’ models. Using a single tool to print all trades’ information ensures accurate alignment between mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and drywall trades, eliminating errors that may occur when each trade uses different control points or coordinate systems.

Once all trades’ layout is on the floor, the foremen for all of the trades can walk the floor together to evaluate constructability and coordinate with all the other trades. This immediate collaboration benefit means that problems can be resolved within minutes rather than weeks or months.

Prior to automated multi-trade layout, the communication and collaboration established during the digital design process would get lost in translation during each trade’s individual and manual layout. Now, trades can rest assured that the approved design will be exactly what gets built, without communication breakdowns or manual errors. 

Printing multi-trade layout compresses schedules -- in some cases, taking a 3-month layout schedule and compressing it down to several days. With each trade needing their own time on the schedule and a clear access to the floor for their own layout, traditional layout typically requires several weeks to months on the schedule. Multi-trade layout reduces the time needed by combining all trades’ information into a single file and printing it with a single pass over the floor. As a result, installation can start as soon as a section of the floor has been laid out, significantly speeding up project completion.

What are the Benefits of Multi-Trade Layout?

Multi-trade layout aims to optimize the trust, clarity, and efficiency for all stakeholders involved in the construction process, minimizing conflicts and maximizing functionality. Multi-trade layout allows different trades to work together seamlessly, reducing construction time, cost, and potential issues during the building process. 

1. Save Time

Multi-trade layout significantly reduces the amount of time needed to lay out large-scale commercial buildings. With unparalleled efficiency, the Dusty FieldPrinter prints the coordinated digital model on the construction site surface in a fraction of the time required by manual layout. 

Skanska, one of the world’s largest construction and development companies, used the Dusty FieldPriner to improve layout speed by 50% for a 3-story, 70k square-foot mixed-use medical facility. Ultimately, multi-trade layout empowered Skanska to compress construction schedules by 3 months, with 75% less rework. 


2. Improve Collaboration

Traditionally, construction projects stagger layout schedules across trades, with one trade performing layout after the other. While manual layout requires this staggered approach, it limits communication across the trades, resulting in conflicts and errors. 

Multi-trade layout breaks down the silos between trades, engaging trade partners early on in the process and encouraging collaboration. Instead of a staggered and disparate approach, trade teams work together to review the automated multi-trade layout and detect potential conflicts on the floor before installation starts. 

Helen Schneider, a Senior Associate at Perkins & Will, explains, “We can come out in the field and see that information on the slab in real-time, we can review it with the electricians, we can review it with the framers and we can detect clashes together in person.” 

3. Reduce Errors

While many construction companies have invested in virtual design and construction (VDC) software, including Building Information Modeling (BIM), this investment hasn’t yet been carried into the field. The detailed, coordinated model gets interpreted and then manually measured and marked onto the construction site surface for each trade. This manual process introduces error and risk into the construction project, with the potential for inaccurate measurements, messy markings, and poor alignment between trade layout. 

The Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter maximizes your company’s investment in VDC software by bringing the collaboration and accuracy of the coordinated model directly into the field. Dusty’s autonomous robot prints multi-trade layout in a single pass directly onto the construction site surface with 100% accuracy. 

4. Create a Single Source of Truth

Conflicts in the field often arise due to misalignment or incorrect measurements for layout across trades. With each trade team setting out their own layout, the completed layout on the floor doesn’t always reflect the coordinated model. Identifying the origin of the conflict can be complex and time consuming, resulting in finger pointing and frustration. 

Multi-trade layout creates a single source of truth across all trades’ layout. Uncertainty gets removed with all teams referring to the coordinated digital model printed on the floor. And, trades trust the accuracy of the layout. For instance, Noah Bull, Project Engineer at Level 5 INC., explains, “I feel really confident in our layout knowing it’s coming straight from our CAD files.”

How Does Multi-Trade Layout Work?

Typically, each trade is responsible for performing its own layout prior to installation. Crews will come in and start their installation one at a time for each floor. Once one crew is done, the next crew will come in to do their layout. Because layout has such a long duration, the early trades often start loading the floor with their materials, slowing down the layout process for the trades that come later in the schedule. Installation cannot commence until all trades have completed their layout.

Multi-trade layout prevents the need for this lengthy staggered schedule organized for each trade to have the necessary time and space for manual layout. Instead, Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter extracts layout information from the digital model and prints it directly on the construction site surface. An operator trained on automated layout directs the FieldPrinter, selecting which areas to print in which order. In addition to basic layout markings, trades can select supplementary information to be printed, such as room labels, part numbers, and work instructions for accurate installation. 

Working from one end of the floor to the other, the FieldPrinter can complete entire floors in a fraction of the time required for manual layout. Once printed, members from each trade can walk the floor together to confirm alignment before installation begins. With reliable, clear, and efficient layout, installation can start sooner with guaranteed accuracy across all trades. 

Getting Started with Multi-Trade Layout

Getting started with multi-trade layout is easy. The Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter only requires a dry, broom-swept floor, the same as manual layout. The Dusty Robotics team can help you prepare your digital files for printing, including the addition of custom information to guide installation. With Dusty Robotics, you can secure your competitive edge while ensuring trust, clarity, and efficiency in your layout. 

Contact our team to learn how to get started with multi-trade layout on your next construction project.

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August 7, 2023