Service Providers: Should Service Providers Worry About Falling Equipment Prices?

A 261Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

In one word, yes. In two words: Yes, but…

Fourteen years ago when we purchased our first 3D laser scanning system–the CYRAX2400 and its processing software CGP we were sure we would have a maximum of 5 years until "every" surveyor would have one. We expected rapid equipment price reductions would make this technology affordable for most surveyors. We believed we would have only 5 years to get into the market and establish large gap of knowhow and experience before others would be right behind us.

We were wrong (very wrong)–it took 11 years before the Faro Focus3D was introduced at a very low price and the race actually started. Now 3 years later we see 3 trends that will significantly affect all service providers/surveyors in this field, probably in the future:
Plant CAD manufacturers like Aveva, Intergraph, and Bentley have added point cloud processing tools (pipes 3D modeling mainly) to their packages. AEC CAD manufacturers like Autodesk and Bentley are trying as well, but with not a lot of success– yet. This effort will continue.
Significant drop in the price of scanners with increasing ease of use. This will also continue until "every" surveyor can afford it.
Significant improvement in point cloud processing tools–moving toward partial/full automation.

So how shall we react? Some would say drop the price. Yes, price dropping is very tempting. People tend to do that as first-aid when facing competition. But, the nature of pricing is very snaky–it goes one way only. It is a mental issue, a state of mind. Once you quote a cheaper price, you have fixed a new benchmark for your customer, but more dangerously you set up a new working point in your perception. The next time you’ll start from that point. Eventually you’ll hit the bottom in more ways than one.

Sure enough, there is another way (as always). We call it "Give and Grab". 3D capturing and especially 3D processing are not just another faster/better tool in the surveying toolbox, as most vendors want us to believe. It is a new and completely different philosophy of surveying or geometric documentation and analysis. As soon as one understands that it opens new opportunities it breaks the glass ceiling of surveying. It enables positioning the surveyor in a completely different position, one where he can then extend and improve his role in the game.

Instead of providing data he may also become a problem solver, and people are willing to pay much more to solve their problems than for data that they can get from anyone. You can quote $1500 for a "scanning day" plus $700/day in the office, but you can also charge $8000 or even $14,000 for the same day, plus 3-4 office days if you just do it the right way- The Other Way. Whenever the tool and its price are the only factors making the difference, you’ll find others doing the same thing, sooner or later.

In 2001, after 12 months of a tough life with a newborn technology and a lot of work in trying to sell its advantages, we came across the most important insight for us–It is all about the application. We have to invent the market and highlight the needs. Since then, we continually invest great effort in searching for new problems to solve.

Don’t make it cheaper, make it differently and improve your position in the project. Make yourself highly valuable to your customer! That’s the rule.

Arik Degani is the CEO of Mabat 3D Technologies LTD. He has a M.Sc. in aeronautical engineering from TechnionIsrael Institute of Technology

A 261Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE