Technology is a significant contributor to the digital transformation that is changing our society. In the geospatial industry, we have seen several major technological advances over the last few decades. The first advancement has been sensor focused, where data collection, either in an airborne or terrestrial application (LiDAR, GPS, etc.), has increased productivity and quality exponentially. The second shift has involved sensor fusion, where positioning and data collection capabilities (GNSS, scanning and imaging total stations, terrestrial LiDAR, etc.) have been combined to create sensors that enable accurate and timely data collection and positioning in environments that were once inaccessible to single-sensor systems. The third shift has been industry-specific solutions. We believe the next phase will be integrating along an industry continuum and providing solutions to customer problems through analytics.
The mission of our founder, Charlie Trimble, was that of an innovation in which GPS would become the “next utility.” Although the acronym IoT was unknown at that time, his vision was that GPS would be one of many positioning and information nodes that various industries could utilize. When Steve Berglund took over, his mission was to transform the way the world works by utilizing multiple IoT nodes (technologies) coupled with field and enterprise software to solve specific industry-related problems. He focused on overlaying an industry workflow to significantly enhance innovation. This transformation revolutionized the industry and catapulted Trimble to a 10x growth trajectory. As Trimble’s third CEO, my focus will be to pursue an era of increased connectivity with the workflows and lifecycles in the markets we serve. This will integrate these technologies and enable the corresponding stakeholders to further improve productivity, quality, transparency, safety and sustainability in agriculture, construction, geospatial and transportation industries. Automation is a key element of our strategy to accomplish this integration.
Meanwhile, advances in the back-haul systems such as 5G will enable more tasks to be done at the point of work. This can facilitate and accelerate the automation of work processes in several sectors. Also, 5G will enable training, support and service to occur at the site, where the work is done, because rich content can be sent bi-directionally. In addition, because of timely access to field data, 5G is expected to enable near real-time visualization and analytics
Everyone has had some impact of the global economic slowdown. However, the diversity in Trimble’s solutions, markets and geographies is our strength, which allows us to balance the ebbs and flows of the macro economy. In addition, our solutions create significant scale in productivity, which benefits our customers both during an economic high and a downturn. Our solutions improve the productivity, quality, transparency, safety and sustainability of our customers’ businesses. Since Trimble’s core market segments (construction, agriculture, geospatial, transportation and others) only have a minor overlap, the market and geography diversity create a hedge during a downturn.
The geospatial industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry and provides jobs to millions of individuals worldwide. In addition, the technologies, capabilities and services of the industry fuel multi-trillion-dollar markets such as construction, agriculture, transportation, forestry and utilities. These markets form the basis of the GDP of many regions and countries, which impacts the worldwide macro-economic environment. In addition, on a local level, analytics developed from data from these industries can be used as a leading indicator of a potential downturn.
Trimble typically invests approximately 13-14% of its revenue in R&D and product development. Acquisitions, for example, have played a role in our strategy to establish beachheads in new market, fill in product line gaps or add new technologies to our solutions’ portfolio. More importantly, continued innovation and industry domain experience are the primary drivers that will allow Trimble to focus on organic growth as our principal strategy in the industries we serve.
Trust from our customers does not come from our technology investments, it comes from developing high-quality and affordable solutions that solve their problems efficiently. In addition, trust comes from having a worldwide dealer and partner network, along with a support and service organization that can assist our customers 24/7, even in the most remote areas of the world.
Trimble’s investment in innovation is core to our business as well as the industries that we serve. There are two levels of investment. Firstly, we focus on sustaining innovation by continuing to innovate with an existing solution. For example, sustaining innovation in the transformation of GPS to GNSS. Secondly, we dedicate a considerable amount of our R&D budget to new innovations where we look at new technologies and how they can be integrated and adapted to our various industries. The Trimble SX10 or SiteVision are examples of new innovation.
We are continually transforming our employee base through acquisition of capability, new hiring as the result of attrition and an active internal training program. This is a normal evolutionary response to a changing world landscape. This has enabled Trimble to continue to be on the forefront of technology in the geospatial industry. As an industry, we all have an obligation to encourage and engage more youth who are interested in this exciting profession and the opportunities it provides. We have a diverse and capable workforce that we believe is the best. They are extremely self motivated to learn new technologies and are not threatened by bringing in individuals with new skillsets. Our culture is to embrace change, not run from it.
Data privacy is both required and expected. Innovations in how we collect, process, analyze and present data can actually strengthen data privacy. Trimble works with leaders in the industry, such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft, to augment our solutions and ensure data privacy is a key attribute of our applications.