How to Be Successful in Reality Capture

Adding reality capture to your surveying tool set can create significant opportunities for new business. Jason Larson, PLS, of McLaren Engineering Group, provides insights on how to do it well.

Surveying has the critical role of providing existing conditions data to inform key stakeholders as they make design decisions. Today, the traditional roles and methods of surveying are still relevant, but advances in reality capture technology such as 3D laser scanning offer new opportunities for those poised to take advantage of them.

In the webinar Surveying Reimagined, Jason Larson, PLS, technical director and principal of geomatics for McLaren Engineering Group, explained that traditional approaches to surveying create a linear relationship between the amount and detail of data provided and the overall cost of the project, and the approaches tend to be very labor intensive. He noted that holistic reality capture, in contrast, offers a new way to think about success in surveying, as it allows for a decrease in field labor while simultaneously increasing the level of data captured.

“At the end of the day, it’s just a tool. It’s the means and method for how we get the job done. But it’s faster, cheaper, safer, and we’re collecting a whole lot more information.”

– Jason Larson, PLS

But having the right tools is only one piece of the puzzle. Building a reputable, high-value reality capture service requires several other key considerations.

Make Sure You Have a Good Business Case

If you’re thinking about investing in technology, you should first make sure that incorporating reality capture makes good business sense for your company, Larson advised. Each company is unique, so you shouldn’t enter reality capture just because your competitors are offering it. But you do need to stay current with technology to remain competitive. This situation challenges everyone to seriously consider when and how to get involved in reality capture.

For success in reality capture, understand how contract terms can alter the effectiveness of your strategy (lump sum vs. cost-plus/T&M contracts, for example). Most agency work projects are done under cost-plus contracts, which leads to fewer incentives to improve efficiency. However, lump sum contracts offer significant financial incentives for efficiency increases, so they can offer a convenient entrance into reality capture.

Consider the Financial Commitment

Between equipment, software, and staff costs, reality capture can be a significant financial commitment. But you shouldn’t let that scare you away, said Larson. Offering comprehensive reality capture to clients can open exciting opportunities for new business and streamline workflows. To become proficient in reality capture and develop a reputation for providing supreme results, you’ll need to use the technology and software frequently.

'Eat Your Own Dog Food'

Limiting the use of reality capture technology to specific types of projects or applications will prevent you from becoming proficient and fully realizing its benefits. Instead, use the technology everywhere and scan everything so you can understand all the creative ways it can be applied.  This approach will also help you train your team to become reality capture experts.

Figure Out What Your Clients Need

Client requirements vary greatly depending on the type of project being completed. Every project has different needs for aspects such as data precision or the level of detail. Sometimes the client doesn’t even know what they need. You have to be able to ask the right questions and use your expertise to understand the scope of the project and tailor the solution appropriately.

Use the Right Technology

A broad selection of laser scanners is available, each with specialized capabilities. Understanding the benefits and limitations of each solution will help you use the right tool for the job. Sometimes the best solution is a blend of different tools and data capture methods to provide superior results. In other cases, you might determine that laser scanning isn’t actually the best approach.

“On almost every project, there’s a mindset workflow where we’re evaluating: What can we do? What do we need to do? What do we want do?,” Larson explained. “And it all comes down to identifying the best tool to get the information the client needs in the shortest possible time.”

Fortunately, with the increased availability of rentals, you’re no longer limited to the technology you have in-house. A rental lets you benefit from short-term use of technology without the overhead of an outright purchase. It also allows you to experiment with new technology as you develop the business case for making a technology investment.

Realize the Benefits of Reality Capture

Reality capture increases project efficiency, minimizes field time and associated costs, and increases the level of detail in your deliverables. It also reduces the exposure of your crews to at-risk situations on a project, and it allows you to capture data that would not be possible using traditional surveying methodologies.

“At the end of the day, it’s just a tool,” Larson said. “It’s the means and method for how we get the job done. But it’s faster, cheaper, safer, and we’re collecting a whole lot more information.

“One of the advantages of investing in technology the way McLaren has is that we have more tools at our disposal,” he added. “This gives us the confidence to go after complex and unusual projects and know we can complete them successfully.”

Note: This insight is from the webinar, Surveying Reimagined: How Ingenuity and Innovation Create New Opportunities. Watch the full webinar here >


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