N3CD.COM: 300% Growth In Our LiDAR Business Since We Went With Mobile LiDAR and TopoDOT
CASE STUDY by Sam Hall PSM VP, Geospatial
At WGI, we have around 120 people in our geospatial consulting division, which makes us one of the largest teams in the Southeastern United States.
About four years ago, we looked at the market for terrestrial mobile LiDAR equipment and saw the ability to pull in a significant amount more data. So we invested in Leica equipment and looked around for the right 3D point-cloud acquisition and extraction software. We picked TopoDOT because it was the right product at the right price: it’s perfect for transportation applications like airports, road and rail, which made it ideally suited to our linear projects like levee management.
Return on investment
We’ve seen a 300% growth in our LiDAR business since we went with mobile LiDAR and TopoDOT. Revenue per employee is now $240,000 per year, and the ROI meant we paid for everything within nine months. It’s made me very popular with my boss!
Dramatically increased surveying capacity
Since 2004, we’d been using some ground-based LiDAR, but the static collection capacity was so limited. Since we took on mobile LiDAR and TopoDOT, we’ve gone from surveying three-quarters of a mile per day to an average of around 300 miles per day. We recently covered 2,200 miles of Louisville highway in four days!
TopoDOT comes with a bunch of very useful tools which impact dramatically on productivity. For example, instead of us having to physically extract each physical feature, like the edge of a curb, TopoDOT lets you create templates for those features. Overall, TopoDOT has increased our productivity by around 500%.
Changing the way employees work
Previously, with ground-based LiDAR, we had a very small team who did all the field and office work, including developing the data products. Within six months of investing in mobile LiDAR, we had four people full-time on TopoDOT, doing 40-50 hours per week. Now, there’s a dozen of us in the team, and the revenue per employee has shot up to $240,000 per year!
The majority of the team spend 50%-100% of their time acquiring, processing or extracting point cloud data. Before, everyone did everything; now, two of them are involved in data acquisition and the rest do the rest; this means that everyone can be very focused and accurate.
Dealing with the skills shortage
“There’s a global shortage of people qualified to do this kind of surveying, which means we’ve always got 30% more work to do than people to do it. We’re taking on interns and doing our bit, but realistically we’re looking to technology innovations, like we see continually coming out of TopoDOT, to reduce our dependence on humans.
Access to new markets
Using mobile LiDAR with TopoDOT has enabled us to move into markets we couldn’t access previously. For example, we can now offer asset-management projects for the public sector; today, this accounts for 10% of our business – and it’s growing.
The big advantage for the taxpayer is that we can save money and deliver best value. We’ve recently cataloged an entire water system involving 300,000 pieces of equipment – anything from gate valves and hydrants to pump stations. The information the water company now holds is so accurate and up to date, they can go straight to a leak and fix it with the right parts, more quickly and more efficiently. This means they can cut the amount of lost water, optimize their parts management systems, develop the most effective planned maintenance programs, and prioritize their capital improvements. All of which saves the taxpayer money and helps us to win those bids!
We’ve shown that we can complete a complex survey of a county-wide water facility in just 18 months from proceed to delivery, surveying 2,400 miles on- and off-road, with multiple easements on private and public land.
Not too long ago, we inventoried an entire electricity co-operative, including 1,200 poles and transformers. We simply would not have been in the market for this type of work before. Not only are we now able do it, but we put four interns on that project – they couldn’t believe their luck, but it also helped us because it’s so hard to get qualified people. As it happens, we produced a great result and came in under budget.
Working with the TopoDOT team
TopoDOT are very proactive and responsive to any queries we raise; if we have a problem, they fix it – and put that fix right into the software for the whole community’s benefit. And there’s no question of being pawned off to a tech support helpline in another country: we’re in direct contact with TopoDOT’s programmers in the US.
We also enjoy a personal relationship with the team at TopoDOT which goes far beyond what you’d expect – I’ve gotten to know Ted Knaak well, and he’s been supportive in helping us win business.