Geo Week News

February 23, 2023

Hilti introduces new digital layout tool, the PLT 400

The total station is designed to streamline workflows and address barriers for firms in the construction industry.
Application of the PLT 400 Total Station on a jobsite | via Hilti

Late last month, Hilti North America, one of the largest manufacturers of products for the construction industry, among others, introduced their new layout tool, the PLT 400. Designed to be operated by a single person, the total station was designed to streamline efficiency of this job task, with the company citing growing concerns around labor shortages and jobsite restrictions as the major concerns this tool can help alleviate.

This new PLT 400, which is now for sale, can work on its own but maximizes its toolset when combined with Hilti’s PLC 600 layout tablet and the company’s layout software, allowing for increased productivity. One of the top features of the new total station is its ability to take designed digital plans from BIM models and lay those out, rather than needing to complete the tedious process of first creating points on the plans. Per the company’s website, the PLT 400 is accurate to within two millimeters, has an operating range of seven to 656 feet, and can be used for up to six hours with a charging time of about 15 minutes.

Hilti produces a large number of products for construction sites, both in terms of hardware and software, so it’s little surprise that this newest total station integrates well with what the company has to offer. In the official release for this news, they call out integrations with ON!Track and Fleet Management solutions. The former is a tool tracking and asset management solution which allows those on site to track locations and status of tools, as well as manage things like safety certifications for workers. The Fleet Management tool assists firms in optimally managing tool usage.

With this new release, we have another example of how new tools are helping change the construction industry, allowing for more efficient workflows and keeping up with the demand for the industry despite barriers like worker shortages and jobsite restrictions. The global society is only becoming more populated around dense, urban centers, which in turn means more construction will be needed to accomodate these shifts. To that end, one analysis from last summer estimating the global market to grow with a 7.3 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through the end of this decade. Much of this demand will have to be met with an increased workforce, but allowing for more efficient and speedier workflows is a big part of that as well. Layouts specifically can be a time-consuming task, and tools like this, which allow for a more automated process with just one person, and the uncrewed ground vehicles from Civ Robotics can help speed up this process, and thus the entire project’s workflow.

Hilti’s announcement also calls out the worker shortage the construction industry is currently experiencing, a concern you’ll hear about from a large majority of those at the head of firms today. A recent analysis from ABC News estimates that the industry will need north of 500,000 additional workers above normal hiring rates to meet demand, and while that estimate may be a bit outsized, it does further emphasize the need for solutions that will counteract these concerns. With this tool, not only can the job be done faster, but it can be done by just one person, freeing up other workers to complete other tasks. 

As was discussed in the opening keynote at Geo Week 2023, the AEC industry needs to undergo further technological adoption. Much of the focus in that area is around software solutions, which are certainly important. That said, on-site technology aimed at speeding up tedious processes and opening workers up for other tasks is just as important, particularly given the current hurdles within the industry. Hilti’s PLT 400 won’t single-handedly solve these concerns, but these are the innovations that can make a tangible difference, particularly when stacked atop one another.

On this new product, Hilti Product Manager Michael Haugtvedt said in a prepared press statement, “We took customer feedback on our previous total stations and addressed those pain points with the launch of the PLT 400. This camera-based tool has enhanced prism tracking and upgraded communications making sure you stay connected and increase layout productivity on the jobsite, while a built-in calibration module helps ensure your layout is within spec every time you turn the tool on.”

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