With each new hardware and software development in laser scanning, we’re promised easier operation, simplified workflows, more automated processing. It would appear that we’re quickly nearing a point where just about anyone can pick up a scanner, hit a few buttons and produce engineering-grade deliverables.

But even with all the latest advances, there’s far more to scanning than meets the eye. Scans don't always register as easily as the software developer says. Performing an accurate scan of a very detailed site or facility can be extremely tedious and requires advanced knowledge. Additionally, delivering a product that’s useable requires expertise. Ask any engineer or architect, and you will probably hear of them being burned by scanning in the past. They paid a large sum of money after seeing a beautiful scan on a computer that was running advanced point cloud software, but upon receiving the point cloud, they found they could do very little with it in AutoCAD or other drafting software.

It is easy to perform one scan. I could train someone to operate our latest scanner in all of five minutes. But while scanning is getting easier, meeting the needs of the client may well be getting more difficult.

Remember, a scanner is just a tool, and any tool is limited by the knowledge of the craftsman wielding it. In a LinkedIn discussion on this topic, Devin Drake, dimensional controls survey tech for Jacobs Engineering, aptly referenced the legend about the mechanic called in to resolve a problem with a piece of machinery. Within five minutes, the mechanic replaces a single bolt, which resolves the problem. He then invoices the company a large sum of money—not for replacing the bolt, but for knowing which bolt to tighten. Without that knowledge, the problem would have remained unresolved.

Everyone uses GPS today, but do they use it to solve problems that require the expertise of a professional surveyor? The same will happen for scanning. It is already happening with tools like Xbox Kinect; my kids use 3D scanning every time they play Dance Fever.

Regardless of the technology advances, complex projects that require scanning as the tool of choice will still be the projects that only skilled service providers can perform. By meeting each client’s needs and wants and delivering a product that saves them time and money, we as experts create a win/win for both us and the client. We make their projects easier and prove our value as professionals.