When the job calls for precision, efficiency and safety, technology typically comes to the rescue. Here are some new pieces of cool technology designed to make electrical contractors more productive and profitable.
360-degree solution: Ricoh THETA Z1
The Theta Z1 360-degree camera helps contractors capture sweeping 360-degree views of properties, create as-builts, efficiently survey existing conditions and more. It offers the highest quality image within Ricoh’s Theta series. Among other features, the Theta Z1 has 23 MP-resolution, 360-degree still images using a large sensor and a new type of lens unit. The camera is equipped with two 1-inch back-illuminated CMOS image sensors, which is one of the largest for consumer 360-degree cameras. The camera enables high-quality, 4K 360-degree videos using the latest image stabilization technology with a range of shooting modes, including HDR rendering, interval composite shooting and multibracket shooting that can take continuous shots with up to 19 settings. Theta Z1 is compatible with Matterport’s new cloud software platform, which enables users to transform 360-degree images into Matterport 3D models. Users can directly post to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and share unique cropped images with Instagram. In addition, Ricoh’s Theta Stitcher, an application for stitching in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC, is available for free with the camera.
Connected control: Milwaukee Tool M12 Fuel 3⁄8-inch Digital Torque Wrench with One-Key
The M12 Fuel 3/8-inch digital torque wrench with One-Key is the industry’s first torque wrench with a motor that delivers increased productivity, precise torque accuracy and user-demanded reporting functionality. The 3/8-inch torque wrench delivers 50% faster installation time by replacing the hand tool or two-tool installation process and providing more control to reduce over-torquing fasteners. The 3/8-inch digital torque wrench provides 10–100 foot-pounds of torque range and accuracy for torque critical fasteners. The battery-powered torque wrench is equipped with Milwaukee One-Key connectivity that gives electrical contractors the power to track, report and manage their tool.
Introduced this month, the product delivers faster installation speed, precise torque accuracy and enhanced digital reporting that will change the way electricians apply torque to their fasteners. Milwaukee’s solution delivers quicker and more productive torque reporting to record and create a report faster.
According to Mike Monteleone, advanced productivity specialist at Milwaukee Tool, “The M12 Fuel digital torque wrench with One-Key will disrupt the industry by eliminating repetitive motion, increasing productivity and promoting greater accuracy while delivering a faster reporting solution for electricians and professional tradesmen alike.”
Accent on precision: Trimble mixed-reality device
The Trimble XR10 with HoloLens 2 is a wearable, hard hat-compatible device enabling workers in safety-controlled environments to access holographic information on the work site. It uses mixed reality for site productivity by providing precise alignment of holographic data on the job site, which allows workers to review their models overlaid in the context of the physical environment. Merging the digital and physical environments, the HoloLens 2 allows engineers to verify design versus field conditions or field personnel to visualize upcoming work before proceeding with installations.
Trimble’s X7 3-D Laser Scanning system enables professionals of all scanning levels to quickly and easily capture precise 3-D data to produce high-quality deliverables fast. The X7 solution automates several critical steps and is fully integrated with Trimble Field Link software to provide streamlined workflows specific to the building construction industry—from scanning to modeling and field layout.
Trimble SysQue provides mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) designers and contractors with real-world and manufacturing-specific MEP content that is ready for fabrication. It enables users to expand the constructability of the models by adding detailing, fabrication, manufacturing and installation specifications directly into the model. A Revit add-on that helps in all aspects of the modeling-to-prefabrication process, the software promotes the accuracy and overall success of the engineering workflow.
Using the Trimble Robotic Total Station laser measuring tool and Kenai tablet interface, contractors can import 3-D models and accurately lay out all points to be marked. When combined with Trimble Field Link, contractors can easily pinpoint locations from the 3-D model and document existing conditions for real-time data sharing between the field and the office.
Interactive communication: Ricoh flat-panel displays
Ricoh’s interactive flat-panel displays (IFPDs), or interactive whiteboards, transform modern workplaces in any industry and company, which allows for more collaborative and mobile workstyles while helping to protect sensitive information. Using the D7500 or the new D8600BK, companies can promote active participation during meetings, presentations and brainstorming sessions with vivid 4K resolution and 10-bit processing of more than 1 billion colors that showcase complex graphics and important documents. Team members and customers are brought into the moment during remote meetings and presentations with precise details and lifelike images and videos. A multipoint touchscreen enables users to create drawings, add annotations to documents and presentations, zoom in and out on images and toggle between tasks to enhance messages. ShadowSense technology empowers users to make and undo changes with precision using their fingertips or an optional touch pen. In addition, remote teams can join in through a mobile or smart device to share ideas in real time on private networks, and companies can choose to add a license that offers two-way collaboration with up to 19 additional IFPDs.
“Customers across multiple industries appreciate the enhanced display and collaboration capabilities of our IFPDs,” said Tosh Watanabe, director of the visual communications group at Ricoh USA. “For people in the construction and electrical engineering businesses, our IFPDs can provide the ability to view and annotate large blueprints as well as use AutoCad and 3-D software for enhancing discussions of architectural and engineering drawings.”
Allowing for remote connection, “Our IFPDs offer the ability to collaborate across construction sites and enable the home office to monitor progress at each individual site, ensuring that any problems can be addressed quickly and in real time,” Watanabe said.
Efficient field management: 360e software
Designed by contractors for contractors, 360 Enterprises (360e) ushers in a new era in field management with its quoting, scheduling, tracking and billing software. Understanding the pain points experienced by many small-to-medium-sized contracting firms—from inefficient job quotation processes to multiple disconnected computer systems that result in logistical errors, scheduling issues and other oversights. This cost-effective, mobile device-friendly field management software helps keep team members connected, avoids wasted time and duplicative efforts and capitalizes on business-building opportunities.
“Staying active in the industry helps us truly understand the ‘money pits’ of contracting and the often undetected inefficiencies that erode profits on a daily basis, and we’ve addressed them in 360e through such beneficial features as efficient quotation management, robust time sheet tracking, real-time sharing of schedules, change orders, images, files and more between office and field team members, and easy-to-use reporting capabilities,” said 360e founder Joe Rohan, a former contractor. “While other field-management software can be complicated, confusing and intimidating, 360e is a user-friendly solution that speaks the language of contractors and helps firms better navigate their operations, streamline their processes, take advantage of opportunities and grow profitably.”
Safety first: 3M DBI-SALA Smart Lock SRLs
3M’s DBI-SALA Smart Lock SRLs, the industry’s first connected self-retracting lifelines, help increase safety, productivity, convenience and confidence when working at heights by minimizing unintentional lockups.
According to Ryland Marek, 3M market development manager in electrical, commercial and industrial, “The DBI-SALA Smart Lock Connected SRL uses sensors to measure brake activity, providing valuable information on the condition of the brake while also recording usage activities as they occur.”
Through its connectivity, the Smart Lock SRL offers visibility to a brake event using the SRL service light, mobile app or web app. It helps contractors ensure that their SRLs are in good working condition prior to use, that they are being used when they’re supposed to be and tracks usage dates and activities such as extensions, retractions and pawl locks as well as active time.
“Our breakthrough SRL now offers all of the industry-leading features of our previous-generation Smart Lock SRL plus robust new connected capability for streamlined asset management,” Marek said.
Fully integrated flight: Microdrones Integrated Systems Drone
Used primarily for surveying, mapping, LiDAR—a surveying method that measures distance by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflected light with a sensor—and inspection work, Microdrones Integrated Systems offer a number of solutions to support modern contractors’ needs.
Among those, “the mdMapper1000DG will help electrical contractors achieve the highest level of data accuracy currently possible, cover more ground in one flight and use less people and equipment on jobs, all without using ground control points,” said Bret Burghdurf, marketing director. “Our mdLiDAR3000 and mdLiDAR1000 models are fully integrated systems for producing 3-D point clouds optimized for land surveying, construction, oil and gas and mining applications [to] help electrical contractors gather more data in less time and with a smaller crew, ultimately saving money.”
“Microdrones are designed to help contractors collect data efficiently and safely while cutting costs, saving time, and converting data into useful information. Our unique workflow of plan, fly, process and visualize streamlines the process to start making drones a part of your electrical contracting work,” he said.
While not every contractor is going out tomorrow to buy and deploy a drone, it’s always interesting to see the range of innovation in the tool world.