His Coordinates, Interviews

“The surveying equipment industry continues to be highly dynamic”

Feb 2012 | No Comment

François Erceau

General Manager
Spectra Precision / Nikon / Ashtech

“Our innovative GNSS portfolio and expertise complements Spectra Precision’s powerful brand and global reach,” was your statement after Trimble’s acquisition of Ashtech. Would you like elaborate on this?

The Spectra Precision business within Trimble had very rapidly assembled a portfolio of optical and GNSS surveying products. While Spectra Precision had in-house engineering, design and manufacturing capabilities on the optical side, the GNSS products had been sourced from a variety of external suppliers. Acquisition of the Ashtech GNSS portfolio and the full suite of Ashtech in-house GNSS expertise has allowed us to instantly create a fully balanced surveying business. The combination of our reseller channels has also expanded the reach of both product portfolios.

How will you be positioning your products in the market after Spectra and Ashtech merger? What will be the new branding?

Our primary product brand is Spectra Precision. Where GNSS products contain Ashtech technology, we are using “Ashtech” as a supporting Technology Brand (e.g. “Powered by Ashtech”). The Ashtech product brands (e.g. ProMark, ProFlex) will continue, as these are well-respected and carry a long history of GNSS innovation. As a business, we also continue with the respected Nikon brand for a portion of our optical product portfolio.

How is this acquisition going to help your existing users?

Our customers benefi t in several ways:
• We are now able to offer them a wider portfolio of interoperable products and services, from a single source. Customers needing a mix of optical, GNSS, laser and software products can now purchase those all from a single manufacturer, guaranteeing compatibility and productivity.
• These products can now also be bought from a single reseller, making for one-stop shopping and a single point of contact for technical support or product training if that’s required.
• By leveraging the wider Trimble portfolio and the Trimble supply chain, we can now offer customers even greater value for money and access to a much more diverse ecosystem of accessories and 3rd party products.

Do you think there will be any overlap with the traditional ‘yellow’ Trimble products?

Trimble created the Spectra Precision brand to address a difference set of customer needs from those targeted by the ‘yellow’ Trimble-branded Surveying solutions. In general, Spectra Precision products are intended to address the needs of mainstream surveying customers, for whom factors like cost-effectiveness, simplicity and reliability are highly valued. In contrast, Trimble surveying products are more often sold in the form of comprehensive market solutions, with greater emphasis on the latest technologies, vertical market capabilities and peak performance.
A given survey or engineering customer might well be able to select discrete products from either the Spectra Precision or Trimble portfolios. But in general one or other of these portfolio offerings is going to be a better fit to that customer’s needs, because of the way that portfolio has been tailored to a different segment of the market. Is there overlap? Probably a bit. But that helps to ensure that the customer’s needs are always covered fully, whichever product they choose to purchase.

Nikon is also a part of Spectra Precision. How are its products going to add value to the Spectra Nikon Ashtech portfolio?

Nikon is a highly respected optical surveying brand, and the fact that our fi eld and offi ce software now interoperates with Nikon optics and Ashtech-sourced GNSS ensures that loyal Nikon customers can use the best of both technologies with confi dence. Similarly, Ashtech surveying customers can now more easily incorporate Nikon optical instruments into their daily workfl ow where necessary.

What are your plans to cater to the needs of the conventional surveying market?

The Surveying equipment industry continues to be highly innovative, with new technologies and capabilities continually redefi ning the state of the art. Some technology companies focus on adding new features and their products become more and more complex as a result. This is fine for technophiles and early adopters, who are willing to deal with complexity in exchange for (potentially) a competitive advantage and a gain in productivity. But for mainstream customers the bleeding edge of technology is not a comfortable place to be; they prefer the reliability of mature technologies, refi ned products and simple workfl ows.
Given our target customer profi le, our investment in R&D innovation is focused on making both GNSS and optical instruments more costeffective, more simple to operate and more reliable over the longer term, while still delivering high performance and high productivity at all times.

What according to you are the emerging application segments offering promising market opportunities? Is there any rethinking on strategy to reach these segments after the acquisition?

Spectra Precision has built a strong position in many emerging markets; Ashtech has done likewise. In most cases the reach of our strongest sales channels are complementary, and the expanded product portfolio enables us to deliver increased capabilities to those channels and their growing customer bases.

In the changing world economic situation, what according to you holds the highest potential for growth?

Emerging markets are of particular interest given the “mainstream” nature of the Spectra Precision target customer, and our strong emphasis on value for money and simplicity. That bodes well for our future growth as a business, given that most emerging markets are expanding much more rapidly than the fully developed markets, who are struggling to shake off the recent recession and return to growth.

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