The Business Of Laser Scanning: Why We Suck

A 411Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

So…to my knowledge, my company is the largest scanning service provider in the United States–and by a long-shot. We have more full-time employees, cover more geography, and service more vertical markets than anyone. Am I bragging– no. I’m stating a fact and I honestly wish there were more who were to our scale because it would make us all more successful. There’s so much opportunity for all of us–it’s amazing.

My simple premise is this—there’s an unbelievable technology out there–laser scanning–that is being significantly underutilized compared to the potential market opportunity. Laser scanning solves problems that are easily identifiable and we’re not using it. At least not yet.

How is that possible?? These are my random thoughts:
It’s easy to fail at laser scanning implementation. I’ve seen it, and I’m seeing it more. It’s almost an epidemic with general contractors who start an in-house scanning division and take about 2 years to complete their life cycle before ultimately giving up.
Too many service providers don’t articulate the problems they’re solving. They’re a solution in search of a problem. Their sales pitch doesn’t explain how they’re solving an existing problem, and instead they usually focus on "cool technology."
Universities are not teaching 3d technology…specifically, in engineering; architecture; and construction management. You might get a graduate student who knows some stuff, but in big universities across the country the professors themselves are so entrenched with their current course curriculum that they simply don’t teach the latest technology. The old tenured guys are a major road block.
It’s not easy to be successful in scanning and modeling. Despite what the scanner salesman will tell you, the scanner itself is only 20% of the equation for success. The real talent comes in the form of creating something from the data, and the great majority of providers miss that point completely.
Laser scanning manufacturers and software companies continually overpromise and under- deliver. They’re so focused on pushing product sales, they do a very poor job of completing the sales cycle by selling through…or providing a solution.
Fakers are everywhere…as a company who travels frequently throughout North America, we run across a lot of jobs where the end user has had an experience where a provider completely screwed up the job. In fact, it’s so bad, my first question when talking to a potential client is about their past experience. It gives me an idea of what misconceptions I need to clear up.
Service providers are liars and will say "yes" to a project while having no real practical expertise. They are simply trying to stay alive by driving revenue. There’s little or no accountability within the industry to provide quality.
General contractors think they should be scanning…why? Perhaps for self-performing real-time concrete pours, but otherwise why would they want to assume the liability by sharing data with others that could be completely inaccurate? There’s been one giant lawsuit that I’m aware of and there will be a lot more as GC’s perform in-house and share modeling/scan data.
We’re stuck in comfort zones using what we already know and have a fear of change. Old guys are still signing the paychecks and are reluctant to listen to the 20 or 30-year-old kid telling them it’s time to change. They grew up in the world of 2d…and it still works. Why change?
Techies run the scanning businesses–not entrepreneurs. As such, they fall in love with their own bullshit and can’t begin to create a business plan, or any components of one.
Service providers don’t pivot well and instead of listening to a client, they sell what they think will work and moreover, what they understand.
Owners still haven’t figured out [yet] just how valuable a tool laser scanning can be from a long term risk mitigation standpoint. When they do…and I think we’re still several years away…laser scanning will become commonplace in the construction industry, and bleed over into other markets as well.

We’re still at the front side of the Innovation of Technology Curve, but it’s changing. You will see more and more immersion of laser scanning in the immediate future.

Ken Smerz is the President of Eco3d ( Comments are encouraged at or on Twitter @KenSmerz.

A 411Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE