While presenting at the ISEC-6 conference in Zurich, Switzerland, my wife and I were invited to take a tour of the Leica Geosystems manufacturing facility in Heerbrugg, Switzerland. It was a very informative experience to be able to see the assembly of high precision survey instruments. While we did not get to see scanners being assembled, we were able to see the assembly line for the new total stations. We were also able to see the assembly and testing of the Leica AD S80 Airborne Digital Sensor.
It was very clear from the tour that Leica Geosystems takes great care to ensure the quality of each instrument in order to ensure its reliability and effectiveness for the customer. I was very impressed with the organization and detailed work performed for instrument calibration and verification. Leica Geosystems has a very stream-lined process making the manufacturing very efficient. For those who attended the recent Hexagon conference, there was a talk discussing some of these calibration procedures. The workers were all very friendly and you could feel their enthusiasm for the work. Additionally, seeing the components of the instruments being assembled and integrated left me with a new appreciation for their complexity, which sometimes can get lost when you can only see the outer casing. I had heard about this from others who have toured the manufacturing plant, and feel privileged that I was able to experience it for myself.
One of my favorite parts of the tour was the show room and mini-museum. The show room displayed many different types of systems that Leica Geosystems provides including customization from the home user to construction surveying to engineering surveying. The mini-museum featured some of the Wild (one of the original companies that formed into Leica Geosystems) camera systems. We also got a history of the company and its start with Heinrich Wild producing theodolites. At OSU we still have a few of the Wild theodolites, although we do not currently use those in classes other than showing students how surveying has changed. (And it helps them appreciate the new equipment more!)
It is always interesting to reflect (no pun intended) on the roots of laser scanning and how surveying optic systems have evolved. When seeing the dramatic evolution of surveying instruments over the last 100 years, one cannot help but imagine how surveying will be performed another 100 years from now when our current scanners will be showcased in museums. I think this perspective will be helpful to me in teaching courses and passing on this experience to the students. Someday I will figure out a way to have a class field trip to take them there!
I thank all those involved in arranging the tour (Craig Hill, Ken Mooyman, Ingrid Goldmann, and Hans Weinbuch) and appreciate their time! It was an incredible experience once in a lifetime, that I will never forget!