Why 3D Scanning Is a Smart Idea for Structural Contractors

March 27, 2020 David Burczyk

As a construction professional, you’ve probably seen 3D laser scanners in use on construction sites. These powerful tools make it possible to quickly capture as-built and current site conditions. They’re able to gather precise project data in a fraction of the time it would take when using manual methods, providing greater efficiency and ensuring greater accuracy. The data can then be used to produce a composite point cloud that gives a realistic visualization of current conditions, in essence bringing the field back to the office.

Scanners have traditionally been a tool reserved only for specially trained professionals or outside technicians. Because of their technical nature, scanners weren’t the type of tool just anyone could use. But 3D laser scanning solutions have come a long way. The newest scanners are so intuitive and low maintenance they can be used by virtually anyone with minimal training.

Curious about easy-to-use 3D laser scanners?

Download the eBook to learn more.

At the same time, construction professionals of all kinds are learning about the ways scanning can help them address their challenges and reduce their risks. If you’re a structural contractor responsible for the steel or concrete elements of construction projects, the use of 3D laser scanning can help you improve your processes and manage risk across three key areas.

3D scanning can increase productivity

The labor shortage continues to be a problem for construction contractors across the board. In April 2019, there were 434,000 vacant construction jobs. Metal building contractors and erectors in particular are concerned about the labor shortage, with 60% saying in a recent Top Metal Builders survey that finding good help is the biggest challenge they face.

Finding enough skilled workers to adequately staff projects is even harder when you’re still relying on time-consuming, manual methods. For example, traditional data collection in the field is a labor-intensive task, requiring multiple people and several days or weeks to complete. 3D laser scanning makes it possible to collect detailed field data in much less time and with fewer resources, giving a much-needed boost to productivity.

Case in point: one company found it took two weeks and four workers to complete a 3D model of a test area on the jobsite. At that rate, the company estimated the entire project would take 3,000 hours of labor. But when they employed a 3D scanning solution, their team was able to scan the entire project in 300 hours, which amounted to a 90% reduction in labor. 

Because 3D scanning streamlines workflows, it reduces labor requirements and helps you make more efficient use of available workers. It’s a viable answer to the industry’s ongoing labor shortage since you’ll need fewer skilled workers to perform critical tasks. You’ll see increased productivity when you can do more with the team you currently have.

Get the eBook to discover how 3D laser scanning  can boost your productivity.

3D scanning can shorten project timelines

Poor productivity is a big contributor to the schedule overruns that are so common in construction. Large construction projects already take 20% longer to finish than originally planned for. And if you’re still using manual processes to collect field data, or if an outsourced provider needs to make several return trips to capture data they may have missed, you’re creating unnecessary delays in the project schedule. 

3D laser scanning helps you efficiently collect accurate and complete data the first time. You eliminate the need for the time-consuming manual methods of data collection you may have had to rely on in the past. Structural professionals, including designers, engineers, and concrete foremen, along with layout specialists and project managers can scan right in the field to collect the exact data they need, when they need it. When your team has all the information at their fingertips, they can make quick decisions on the spot and speed up workflows. 

3D scanning helps you significantly reduce the time spent capturing site data of any size facility or project. It can even shorten the schedule by as much as 10% on industrial projects.

“Transparent access to accurate, appropriate, meaningful project data could mean the difference between a minor course adjustment and a colossal project failure.” 

— KPMG 2019 Global Construction Survey

3D scanning can reduce project costs

When taking measurements and capturing as-built data, it’s easy to make mistakes and errors of omission, especially if you’re relying on a team of people with tape measures and other basic tools to do the work. If errors or omissions do occur, they’ll likely require rework, which wastes valuable time, effort, and expensive materials. According to a recent study, 22% of rework is due to poor project information.

A 3D laser scanning solution allows you to efficiently and accurately collect points of data about the site. The points you collect with the scanner are used to create a detailed point cloud. The point cloud then provides a realistic model of the site, making it possible to visualize as-built conditions and identify potential problems before they occur.

When you’re able to capture precise and thorough information about as-built conditions, you’re also able to identify and solve problems upfront and avoid or minimize costly rework later. In fact, 3D scanning may be able to reduce total project costs by 5–7%. 

3D laser scanning can reduce total project costs by as much as 7%.

— Rhodes Group

Ensure Accurate, Efficient Structural Work with 3D Scanning

3D laser scanning can bring enormous benefits to many contractors in construction, including those responsible for the structural integrity of a construction project. Because so much of a project’s success depends on accurate placement and installation of concrete and steel components, it only makes sense that you’d want to improve your processes and manage your risk to ensure the rest of the project goes smoothly. 

A 3D laser scanner can help you increase productivity, shorten timelines, and reduce project costs. And it doesn’t need to be an intimidating tool that only specialists or outsourced service providers can operate. There are new 3D laser scanners on the market that don’t require extensive training and can easily be used by a range of structural professionals right in the field. 

To learn more, get the How Concrete & Steel Contractors Solve Their Most Costly Problems eBook.

About the Author

David Burczyk

David Burczyk is the Segment Manager for the 3D Capture Portfolio with Trimble Buildings. With over twenty years of AEC industry experience promoting technology and collaboration among design and construction teams, David brings a comprehensive understanding of Building Information Models (BIM) and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) processes. Through the use of 3D capture and positioning technology, David is focused on the development and implementation of tailored solutions to advance the field productivity of AEC contractors, architects, and engineers.

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