His Coordinates

“Business momentum has been rising each month during 2013”

Aug 2013 | No Comment

Francois Erceau

General Manager, GeoInstruments
Spectra Precision Division

Ashtech invests heavily in the development of cutting-edge technology. Please elaborate.

The Ashtech name has always been synonymous with original, innovative technologies and ground-breaking solutions, and we continue that tradition within the Spectra Precision business. The focus of our innovation is evolving, as we aim to deliver products that are simpler, easier to use and easier to deploy across a wider range of users.

How does the OEM business of Ashtech contribute to the overall business of Spectra Precision?

The Ashtech-branded GNSS boards and Integrator-ready GNSS receivers are now managed as part of the Trimble Integrated Technologies (OEM) business. That business sells not only GNSS technology but also digital radio technology and other integrator offerings including software and services. The Ashtech GNSS OEM portfolio nicely complements the existing Trimble “BD” range of GNSS boards, providing integrators with a wide range of options and capabilities to choose from.

How has been the journey so far after formation of Spectra Precision’s GeoInstruments business?

During 2011, our main focus was on merging the Spectra Precision/Nikon and Ashtech teams, with emphasis on R&D, Sales, Marketing and Operational Support functions. During 2012 we streamlined our product portfolios and expanded the range of products available to our combined sales channels. We also rationalized our back-offi ce systems to take advantage of our parent corporation’s powerful business infrastructure.

To refl ect the maturity of our integration, we have recently renamed the combined Spectra Precision/Nikon/Ashtech business as the “GeoInstruments” business area within Spectra Precision.

How signifi cant is the accessories market share for Spectra Precision?

We offer an extensive range of accessories tailored for our Spectra Precision and Nikon branded surveying and construction products. Additionally, we have within Spectra Precision a vast array of more generalized accessories under both the Spectra Precision and SECO brands. Overall, our accessory portfolio is the broadest in the industry: bar none!

What are the new product and solution scheduled for release this year for different market segments?

We are continuing to streamline our product portfolios, replacing older products and closing the few gaps that remain. With our combined organization we can leverage greater R&D resources and the steady stream of product announcements already this year demonstrate our commitment to meeting our customers’ needs. In January we launched the NPL-322 entry-level refl ectorless total station family, and in March we introduced the world’s lightest GNSS RTK receiver, the ProMark 700. We continue to refi ne our Survey Pro fi eld software, with a new version shipping in April. And our new Layout Pro solution for construction has recently been updated with support for the FOCUS 30 robotic total station.

As they say in show business, “there’s plenty more to come”.

How your products like ProMark and Epoch address the users’ needs in GNSS surveying?

Our ProMark and EPOCH GNSS systems are designed by surveyors, for surveyors. We integrate all the features you’re going to need in the fi eld (including cellular and UHF communications), and we leave out anything that’s just going to get in your way. Simply Powerful is our promise and these sophisticated but easyto- use GNSS systems are precisely that.

Tell us about the key features that help FOCUS® 30 Total Station to meet the users’ requirements.

FOCUS 30 is an amazing instrument: it boasts innovative tracking capabilities, high speed and superlative accuracy. Coupled with the Ranger 3 data collector it ensures productive surveying all day, every day.

In addition to our Survey Pro software for intensive professional surveying applications, we now offer the FOCUS 30 robotic instrument with Layout Pro software, for construction layout applications. The introduction of mechanical total stations revolutionized the way layout is done, but there’s a quantum leap in productivity when you use a robotic instrument to do layout. The digital CAD design literally leaps off the page and onto the ground, enabling rapid, accurate construction immediately after the design has been signed off.

How do you look at the marine and avionics applications?

Within the GeoInstruments business, our sophisticated ProFlex 800 GNSS receiver is frequently used by marine integrators.

In the avionics arena the main product offerings are the Ashtech-branded boards and systems promoted by the Integrated Technologies business of Trimble. The avionics industry has extremely specialized requirements, for example FAA certifi cation, and meeting those requirements requires specialized attention and business focus.

What is Spectra Precision’s preparation to the challenges of multi-GNSS scenario?

As you know, we have been at the vanguard of GNSS-centric technology from the beginning, and indeed we are the only mainstream GNSS vendor offering GNSS-centric technology today. Our Z-Blade GNSS engine allows all available GNSS signals to be used interchangeably, eliminating reliance on any specifi c GNSS system. So, for example, our Z-Blade GNSS receivers are capable of operating in GLONASSonly or Beidou-only mode if required.

The next few years will bring a plethora of new GNSS signals, and the days of inadequate coverage would seem to be gone, at least for those GNSS receivers that can make use of the new signals without being hampered by old restrictions (such as a reliance on at least 4/5 GPS satellites for example).

Which market segments are your main targets for GNSS receivers?

Within the GeoInstruments business, our main GNSS target markets are land surveying and mobile mapping (GIS). For the most part these markets are addressed with out-of-the-box solutions, but in some regions we work with 3rd party software companies to deliver localized solutions. And we continue to work with a range of special applications such as waste management and on-machine control. Our mobile mapping products are used in a wide range of applications, from natural resource management to urban asset management and utilities.

What are the marketing challenges faced by you at Spectra Precision?

Our products are sold under the Spectra Precision (all portfolios) and Nikon (optical portfolios only) brands. We continue to acknowledge our history through selective use of the TDS (Tripod Data Systems) brand for surveying software in the US market, and the “Powered by Ashtech” moniker which indicates GNSS products with embedded Ashtech technologies.

Do you think Ashtech is better positioned now after its acquisition by Trimble?

Ashtech customers now have a far wider range of products to choose from, spanning not just GNSS technologies but also optical instruments, lasers, radio and cellular communications technology, software and services. So clearly we are better positioned to serve the needs of those customers, both now and in the future.

For our staff, of course, there is also a much wider range of opportunities as we are now a part of a much larger organization, with many career options and the chance to participate in major projects that would have been beyond our capabilities as a smaller private company.

How do you synergize your marketing and branding strategies of various products?

We sell products under a number of brands, the broadest being Spectra Precision itself. The Nikon brand is of course rightly famous and is carried by many of our optical products. And while SECO is our primary brand for generic surveying and construction accessories, we also sell rebranded accessories to many 3rd parties and many of our competitors pay us the compliment of selling our accessories with their own surveying and construction products.

How does Spectra Precision address the requirements for user-friendly and cost effective GIS/GNSS solutions?

Spectra Precision is focused on providing solutions that are easy to learn and use, and which are robust and reliable in the toughest conditions. So our R&D investment is focused around those product virtues, particularly those of simplicity and reliability. Some vendors rush to add more bells and whistles to their products, often making them more complex (and frequently doing so without actually adding features of real value to mainstream customers). We prefer to put our effort into features that serve to make our customers more productive, from the moment they open the box.

How do you see the growth of surveying and mapping market in near future?

The last 5 years have been more diffi cult for construction and surveying markets worldwide, with the multi-wave fi nancial crisis causing a slowdown in market activity across the globe. But we see plenty of bright spots emerging and most of our key markets are now growing again, even those in Western Europe. Business momentum has been rising each month during 2013 and with the fi t between our product portfolio and our customers’ requirements now better than ever, we are confi dent that we’re going to continue helping those customers work productively and accurately in future.


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