Laser Scanning Knuckleheads

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My Truck Cost More than My Laser Scanning Business 

Laser scanning is still in its infancy, but there is no disguising the fact that it’s easier and less expensive to put a horse in the race than ever before. The accelerating democratization of lidar technology integration into a variety of work spaces, fueled by the lower cost for software and hardware, is making it easier than ever – with an increasing demand. Adding fuel to the fire is the continual emergence of “3D” in our society, making it more desirable than silly old 2D.  

Most small business start-ups require substantial capital investment; a long-term franchise agreement; personal guarantees, or a line-of-credit against your rich old uncle’s house. Conversely, a laser scanning service providing company can be up and running from their garage and a home PC for under a $100k. Aside from owning a hotdog cart, how many other start-ups, dare I say “technology” businesses, can make the same claim?

Damn Rookies 

So with the emergence of The Rookies, what does this mean? Some would argue it’s horrible because projects are now going to these low bidders and they’re going to screw up the ground the early adaptors have been paving. Another problem is The Rookies sometimes are so enamored with the technology they might not understand the business of the business … software costs, annual renewals, calibration of instruments, gross profit on labor, and the biggest anchor of all, employee training. Assuming they understand all this, do they have a plan for marketing and securing long-term revenue?

Or perhaps they’re revenue starved so why not take work for cheap to keep them in the cash flow, and impress the new client at the same time. We’ve had this experience with the small guy trying to tackle a big client and the big client coming to us wanting to know why I’m ripping them off. Really??

I of course encourage them to investigate the experience level and history of the new provider before they pull the trigger.

It doesn’t seem right that you worked hard to pioneer the introduction of laser scanning, 3D modeling and BIM … only to have others steal the prize. How are we supposed to compete with that?    

The Glass Really is Half Full 

My bar stool logic suggests that the new guys will actually help us all. Have I lost my mind, or was it the whiskey talking? I believe that as new as the provider industry is, the added competition will help us all.

Why?

There will be more opportunities for all of us. The more zealots spreading the word about the benefits of scanning, the less time you’ll spend educating and the more time you can spend bidding to what we hope is an educated client. HINT: INCREASE YOUR BID LOG.

With more players in the market, it will be easier for the law of the jungle to prevail. So the strong will survive. Those who are doing it right – offering a quality product – will prosper over the long run and the fakers will be smoked out. You can differentiate your company easier now than in the past. HINT: BUILD YOUR REPUTATION.

As the technology continues to improve (the same technology opening the doors to the new guys), you should become better at what you do. Your own scanning and post-processing time should be reduced … and isn’t labor the true variable cost for all of us providers? So take your experience and leverage it to your benefit. HINT: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR EXPERIENCE, AND HELP YOUR CLIENTS ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS.

The increased competition will force you to become more financially savvy to the metrics of your own business. You’ll be forced to make better business decisions than ever before because you can’t survive if you don’t. HINT: KNOW YOUR FINANCIAL METRICS.

How many markets are still really untouched? In other words, what industries can benefit from fast, accurate measurement? If you break it down, the list is huge. Examples include ship cargo hulls; luxury estate management; theatrical stage design; computational fluid dynamics (think energy efficiency); etc. So the new competition should open up doors to otherwise dormant markets. HINT: IDENTIFY YOUR VERTICAL MARKETS

Improvise, Adapt, & Overcome 

(I have a soft spot for our Marines.) We cannot control the industry, but you can control your business. You can make a difference to your clients because no two projects are identical. We are a long way away from having this become a commodity market. Have a plan and get your team ready to execute the plan.

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About Author

Ken Smerz

In an attempt to shine light on the rather significant question that service providers throughout the U.S. have struggled with, I’ll be authoring a series of articles that address some challenges service providers face and hopefully offer some constructive advice gleaned through my work running Precision3D Scanning. I want to emphasize that my opinions are just that—and nothing makes me more qualified than anyone else trying to earn a living in an emerging marketplace. I encourage your feedback.

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