Laser scanning service provider Quantapoint, Pittsburgh, PA, recently announced it has executed more than 600 laser scanning projects since its inception. In a market where service providers are considered experienced when they have a dozen or more projects behind them, Quantapoint’s execution of 600 projects makes it the one of the most, if not the most, experienced service provider we’re aware of. Recently we got a briefing from CEO Eric Hoffman to learn his views on what’s driving market growth, what’s holding it back, and how Quantapoint is addressing these opportunities and challenges.
What’s driving growth?
Spar Point research indicates the industry is enjoying double-digit growth. Not only Quantapoint, but nearly all of the experienced laser scanning service providers we’ve spoken with this year, report that business activity levels are very high. Demand for laser scanning and as-built data capture and data management seems to be quite robust. Quantapoint’s Hoffman attributes the increased demand to “more new early adopters in multiple market segments” as well as more repeat business from those firms that have successfully used the technology already and are back for more. Hoffman’s not prepared to say the technology is mainstream yet: “we’re walking through the deep snow, making new markets.” The company is expanding into new areas such as upstream oil and gas operations and power generation.
Quantapoint has also been expanding its geographic coverage and now has representatives in Mexico, Venezuela and Nigeria as well as satellite offices in Houston and Chicago. Hoffman says the company has no plans to expand into geographies where there are already established service providers such as continental Europe.
Quantapoint already services the general construction market, another area the company reports is enjoying steady growth. Quantapoint got its start capturing existing conditions data for architectural customers. The company has scanned several Frank Lloyd Wright residences and has recently completed scanning Monticello for use in an interactive educational web site.
Power market uptick
According to Hoffman, the power generation market – fossil and nuclear – is characterized by facilities that are going past their design life and moving toward second lives. With the exception of some greenfield work in cogeneration, much of the capital investment in the power generation sector is focused on modifying these existing assets to extend their useable lives. Documenting the existing conditions at these power generation facilities is a market that Quantapoint is aggressively pursuing. Hoffman says the company has hired Eric Hale, a seasoned power industry executive, to develop these opportunities.
Hoffman believes the requirements of the power sector differ from other facilities markets. For example, power generation asset owners find more value in tools for virtual walkthroughs for demolition and construction sequencing than do their counterparts in the refining sector. Scanning nuclear power plants obviously places demands on the hardware not found in more benign environments. Hoffman says his company has been able to accommodate these requirements more readily than some of its competition because Quantapoint manufactures its own scanning hardware and can modify it for specific applications. Another service provider we spoke to said that often there are issues about who is liable for equipment damage in nuclear environments and that getting insurance coverage for these liabilities is very difficult, or impossible. // <![CDATA[ geovisit(); // ]]>
What’s holding laser scanning back?
According to Hoffman, the major constraint on faster adoption of laser scanning is awareness and education. In order to further accelerate growth, the whole industry needs to educate prospects and customers about measurement fundamentals to understand the advantages and limitations of the technology. Even the terminology the industry uses to describe itself is in flux, which adds to the confusion.
Even experienced customers need better methods to specify project deliverables and to compare proposals with adequate rigor. According to Hoffman, the technology sometimes challenges long-held beliefs about the fundamentals of surveying and measurement. Customers accustomed to nominal CAD geometry find themselves wrestling with measurement uncertainty and variance and how to stack up tolerances. Despite these limitations, Hoffman says his company’s growth is constrained not by market demand for its services but rather by its ability to scale to meet the demand.
Internal training and education is key to future growth
It is difficult to hire laser scanning practitioners straight out of school. Few educational institutions offer curricula in the specialized skills required to capture existing-conditions data for industrial facilities. However, these skills are key to growing a laser scanning service business.
Quantapoint trains and develops its own people. Hoffman says new hires are first screened for a fit with the company’s culture including work ethic. The job involves extensive travel and long hours in the field – 10-hour days are the norm. New hires start as apprentices and receive training in laser scanning and facility safety. It takes about a year of practical laser scanning experience to progress from apprentice to lead to senior lead, which also requires good project management skills. Another requisite for promotion to senior lead positions is demonstrated customer-interaction skills.
Quantapoint also recently promoted John Shipley to Director of Services. Shipley, who has been with the company for six years, will have both scheduling and quality responsibility for all Quantapoint projects. Hoffman says its internal training program will help the company scale its capacity to meet customer demand. // <![CDATA[ geovisit(); // ]]>