The Business of Laser Scanning: Situation Report

A 257Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

A/E/C Commodity?
Recently I was speaking to another service provider and the conversation turned into a discussion on whether our industry is becoming `commoditized’. We’d both recently lost jobs in a competitive bid situations to operators who we felt did not have the experience. My friend and I concluded that there is definitely more competition, and the profitability seems to be shrinking as well.

My belief is we are nowhere near becoming a `commodity’ market, although I would acknowledge that the market(s) are in constant evolution. I think this is especially true in the commercial/industrial construction world and that’s because they’ve been the early adopters who see the value of 3d measurement…and modeling.

Within the construction market contractors have even developed their own `3d discipline’ Building Information … Modeling, or BIM. Think about that, no other vertical market has coined a term, or created a practice to integrate "3d" technology into their industry.

We as service providers gravitate toward opportunity–any opportunity– and that’s clearly in the construction market. It’s where the money is. Architects, engineers, and contractors have the allocated budget to spend…so that’s where we hunt. It’s unquestionably the most competitive space to work in if you’re offering a scanning, or 3d modeling.

What’s holding us back?
So if we’re still in a new and emerging industry, with greater opportunity than ever before, what’s holding us back? There are very few providers I know of that are "killing it" and making the profit they’d envisioned. I think these are all considerations:
3d Data capture is not as foreign to everyone as it was 5 years ago, but the adaptation of the technology still remains slowwwww. Many companies do not want to integrate something that’s not immediately understood; has sketchy ROI; and can’t be easily managed. 3d solutions are typically not the next logical step, but rather a good leap ahead of their current operational practices.
Outside of `construction’ the world is still working in 2d. It’s been understood since a cave man figured out how to draw on the rock wall and it’s still everywhere. We are still very early in "other than construction" opportunities.
We as providers are so worried about being cutting edge and pulling off the next great project that we don’t focus on projects that drive recurring revenue that’s critical for financial success. A lot of base hits can be just as good as one home run, and they’re easier to execute.
Maybe you’re not as good as you think you are…? Nah, not me! I suspect the truth is few of us ask for honest/blunt feedback with a client after we’ve delivered the project. How many of your clients called you already for the next job?
Very few of us are offering reasons why the customer should pick your company over mine. In other words, define your specific value proposition. Do you really provide a unique solution? Can your client articulate that??
How many of us have a clear business plan? Do you have a 1, 3, and 5 year budget? I’m betting there are a lot of us who are operating without.
Too often we sell 3d solutions to problems the client didn’t know they had. Listen to your customer needs, and fill that need. Fix their problems.

So back to discussion I was having with my friend–I think we’re still on the front side of the innovation curve. But the market is going to become more cluttered with those that purchased a scanner, and bought Revit…and then offer it to others. And the competition is going to offer services at a low price to drive revenue. It’s going to get worse before it gets better and part of the business cycle we’re in today. "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Ken Smerz is the President of President/CEO of Eco3d ( a service provider that travels throughout the nation working with A/E/C and forensic clients. He can be reached at with any questions or comments you might have.

A 257Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE