Do It Yourselfers...Beware

by Ken Smerz, as seen in LiDAR Magazine, published December 2015

Contractors Owning Laser Scanners

An emerging trend in the commercial construction world is for a contractor to start a department—deemed Virtual Design & Construction (VDC); Building Information Technology (BIM); or Technology/Innovation Group—to lead their company on the integration of 3d technology. The contractor purchases a laser scanner with very little quantifiable analysis or understanding of the possible applications, but because they believe it’s the wave of the future and they don’t want to get left behind.

The contractor then assigns an employee that they trust but has very little actual experience in 3d imaging. Nonetheless they’ve attended some conferences, maybe AU, and are going to lead the laser scanning and 3d modeling initiative. Or worse, the responsibility is given to a new-hire who promised they have prior experience…when they don’t. [News flash—most people simply do not have experience because the industry is still in its infancy.]

These contractors have created something that they don’t understand…so how do they manage or hold it accountable? But to hell with it—3d modeling is the future and the new VDC/BIM page on the website is going to drive customers. Whaahoo! Unfortunately in many cases it’s the dog that caught the bus.

As the story goes—things seem to start off all ducky. Everyone is throwing high-fives and it’s exciting. Then about a year or two the reality of the investment (hardware, software, and human capital costs) sets in and things don’t seem to go so good. Why? There are no quantifiable results. There is no measureable return on the investment. The creation of a giant cash sink-hole has been born.

Management is asking WTF? while the ‘3d department’ are scurrying around justifying their efforts. How was this situation born? There was no plan—only intent.

The 3d guys were new and didn’t realize how much help they would need. They didn’t realize they needed to incorporate humility into their development and seek out others in the industry who could offer assistance.

Management on the other hand didn’t commit to supporting growth over time. They didn’t realize that their projects are different in nature and require a custom deliverable unique to that project. They didn’t realize that the real cost of the business is the HUMAN capital investment—not hardware/software.


Next Steps

So how do you avoid this tire fire? Here are a few ideas:

As always—I appreciate your comments/questions and can be reached at

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