Solo Notes: Outside the Box
December 2, 2011
When Mark Hanna went looking for business opportunities that drew on his surveying background, he discovered a demand for accurate geospatial services in some unexpected places. His firm, PrecisionPoint Inc., is built solely on providing 3D scanning and modeling services to fill these needs. In an interview with POB, Hanna shares how his bold and innovative path led to success in industries not traditionally served by surveyors.
POB: Why did you decide to open your own business?
Hanna: The decision came after an unexpected job loss. After a six-month job search, I decided that I should pursue my lifelong goal of self-employment. I had always been very entrepreneur-minded and had considering starting a company of my own before, but the timing and the economy were not ideal. This time, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to move ahead and execute my business plan. Having been involved in the 3D laser scanning industry for a number of years and seeing firsthand the need for 3D scanning services in untapped markets, my company was born.
POB: How did you get involved with 3D technology?
Hanna: As an engineer and surveyor, I’ve been involved in 3D technology for some time; however, it wasn’t until my employment with FARO Technologies that I became fully immersed in the technology. I joined FARO as the Midwest region account manager a few years after they introduced their line of phase shift scanners. It was an exciting time to be involved with laser scanning since it was gaining broader exposure, not just in the surveying profession but across multiple industries such as forensics, industrial documentation, historical preservation, and film and video.
POB: Do you think it’s the future of the surveying profession?
Hanna: Yes, I do. The recent introduction of native point cloud integration with Autodesk and Bentley Microstation products is a great example. Our clients are getting more comfortable working with the 3D scan data and are finding it’s easier to utilize with their existing in-house design software. In fact, we have seen a surge in demand for point clouds from many of our clients simply due to this integration. Also, point cloud processing tools that enable semi-automation of features, such as pipes and building elements, are significantly reducing modeling time. And although I’m not currently involved in mobile scanning, I also see that as another significant growth area.
POB: What has been your biggest success so far?
Hanna: My company’s biggest success is [a project we handled for] an international system integrator of conveyor systems for airport luggage and parcel packages. The client was transitioning from 2D into 3D design, so laser scanning was a natural fit with this transition. Existing conditions documentation of these large and complex facilities through traditional means was a tedious and time-consuming effort, often plagued with missing information that would lead to costly redesign and rework, reducing customer satisfaction. Compared with traditional methods that would take weeks to document, the facilities could be scanned in days. The point cloud was then used as the basis for their design. The resultant high-quality point clouds was like bringing the project site to the designer’s desktop.
The 3D integration made possible by our scanning services resulted in increased confidence with the “as-is” conditions documentation, a reduction in design time due to higher-quality 3D data, minimized costly redesign efforts at time of construction and system installation, and higher net profit and improved customer satisfaction.
POB: How did you develop your business strategy?
Hanna: What’s different about PrecisionPoint is that the business was built solely around 3D scanning. I felt that there was enough potential demand in the marketplace for 3D scanning services that the business could stand on its own, serving these untapped markets. So far, this strategy has proven successful; we have a very diverse customer base and have been successful in finding business in non-traditional markets that many surveyors might not consider for growth opportunities.
POB: How do you stay on top of the latest trends and technologies?
Hanna: 3D scanning hardware and software are continuing to evolve at a rapid pace, and staying atop these trends can be very challenging. I have found participating in webinars and asking our vendors to keep us up to date has been tremendously helpful. Furthermore, I make an attempt to attend the SPAR International every year to network and get a first-hand look at the latest trends.
POB: What most excites you about the future of the surveying profession?
Hanna: 3D scanning has already changed the surveying landscape and can be the next major evolution in the surveying profession. Like many technologies before it, it’s another tool that will be at the disposal of the surveyor. As more surveying professionals readily adopt 3D scanning technology, I’m hopeful it will lead us into more diverse applications and industries that may not have been served by surveyors in the past.
Mark Hanna owns PrecisionPoint Inc., located in Carmel,, Ind. PrecisionPoint, Inc. is a national geospatial and surveying professional services firm that provides 3D spatial solutions for a number of industries. It employs the latest 3D laser scanning and BIM technology to provide accurate and precise 3D solutions. For more information, visit http://precisionpointinc.com.
Solo Notes is a regular feature in POB and highlights the experiences and strategies of solo surveyors and small business owners. To share your story for a future issue, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.