Progressive Firm Profile: Woolpert
This article is part of a series on progressive surveying firms that was launched in POB's October 2011 issue. The series is now called Points of Progress. To inquire about having your firm profiled in an upcoming article, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Company Name: Woolpert Inc.
Headquarters: Dayton, Ohio
Year Established: 1911
Number of Employees: 650
Primary Services: Professional design, geospatial and infrastructure services
Woolpert experienced its best year in its 100-year history in 2007. Although the firm has been impacted by the recession in the last several years, its geospatial group has continued to grow.
To maintain its position as an industry leader, Woolpert reinvents its service offerings every three to five years. For example, 10 years ago the firm started to see the impact of low-bid, off-shoring of geospatial data production. Woolpert invested heavily in technology to automate its processes so the firm could be competitive on price without compromising quality. When commercial development began slowing drastically in the U.S., the firm began reinventing its surveying group, shifting the group’s focus to markets such as energy, asset management, and hydrographic and bathymetric surveying. To that end, the firm is investing in new technology such as laser scanning, mobile mapping, and hydrographic and bathymetric sensors.
Woolpert’s primary strength is its diversity and size. “We are a traditional architectural and engineering company with a very large geospatial presence,” says Jeff Lovin, CP, PS, Woolpert senior vice president and director of geospatial services. “Our position as one of the largest geospatial firms gives us the capacity and resources to sustain our business during an economic downturn. While the demand for A/E services may be less right now, the demand for geospatial services is still thriving.”
The firm’s longevity is also key. Through 100 years of business, Woolpert has established a reputation for quality service throughout its various markets.
From a technology standpoint, LiDAR is one of the firm’s best assets. Lovin notes that Woolpert was a pioneer in aerial LiDAR 15 years ago. “Over that period of time, we have accomplished many firsts and maintain a large percentage of the market share today, typically capturing around 75,000 square miles in a season. We are now looking to parlay this knowledge and expertise into the laser scanning and mobile mapping markets.”
The firm is always looking ahead. Its Applied Research and Development (ARAD) group is solely focused on identifying and pursuing the next technology related to the geospatial profession. “While geospatial firms typically wait on the hardware and software providers to develop and market the next opportunities, our ARAD group is in many instances pulling the manufacturers along with us to provide new and innovative services to the market,” Lovin says. “This places us ahead of our competitors and will hopefully keep us there for years to come.”
Lovin believes mobile mapping and laser scanning technologies will continue to offer new opportunities in the coming years. “We saw what aerial LiDAR for the photogrammetry market more than 15 years ago,” he says. “Laser scanning and mobile mapping will have that same level of impact, if not greater, for the surveying profession.”
It’s a profession that, as a whole, is evolving. “With the ongoing recession, the private market may never return to its peak and because of this, there is not as high of a demand for the traditional boundary and construction surveying work,” he says. “However, the evolution of mobile mapping and laser scanning has brought on new demands for the surveying profession and has changed the way we survey. Those firms that embrace this radical change will be able to continue to have successful surveying operations.”