Home Articles Interview: Norikazu Watanabe Managing Director, Sokkia Singapore

Interview: Norikazu Watanabe Managing Director, Sokkia Singapore

As you know, for over 85 years, Sokkia has been a world leader in the development of surveying instruments, primarily focused on the surveying, engineering and construction markets, although we have serviced several other markets such as mapping, GIS, industrial measurement and machine control. Mr. Norikazu Watanabe
Mr. Norikazu Watanabe
Managing Director, Sokkia Singapore

With inputs from Mr. Ibrahim Ghamry, Mr. Rohit Anand

Q. We would like to know about the surveying instruments, new developments and future trends to be adopted by Sokkia.

A  As you know, for over 85 years, Sokkia has been a world leader in the development of surveying instruments, primarily focused on the surveying, engineering and construction markets, although we have serviced several other markets such as mapping, GIS, industrial measurement and machine control. The core of our business has been our total stations, and we have been building on this part of our product portfolio with our market leading RED-tech technology. Our level and laser business continues to prosper and we are now seeing tremendous growth in our GPS business. We are continually looking to advance many aspects of our product line, and the economical feasibility of GNSS systems such as GLONASS and GALILEO push integration of these systems into our products at the forefront of our developments.

Q Do you have products, compatible with the GLONASS system?

A There has been interest in the support of GLONASS recently following the launch of additional satellites and the promise of further additions to the constellation. GLONASS support is a top priority of the organization at present and our customers can be assured that we are diligently working towards not only GLONASS capability in our products, but also GPS L2C and L5.

Q. What is your opinion on the impact of Galileo signal and modernization of GPS on the surveying field altogether?

A Looking to the future, and it may not be realized until the next “generation” of receivers released by all manufacturers, users of GNSS services can expect increased reliability in comparison to current products. Currently, manufacturers heavily rely on the GPS L1 and L2 signals. With the potential for the GLONASS constellation to be completed in the next few years, and GPS L5 as well as GALILEO potentially fully operational by the 2010 time frame, the quantity, diversity and quality of signals available will translate to high accuracy, instantaneous, highly reliable positioning and navigation. However, as a general statement, we don’t see the introduction or modernization of these GNSS systems dramatically changing the surveying landscape, not in the short term at least. There are various other technologies that may have a more rapid impact.

Q. Today photogrammetry is more accessible and large-scale maps are produced with photogrammetry. Will there be an impact of photogrammetry on terrestrial surveying?

A There have been several advances in the techniques and equipment used for photogrammetric surveying in the last two decades. The advent of high quality digital cameras and incorporation of GPS receivers on aircraft are just two. One thing that has traditionally been the domain of the terrestrial surveyor has been the coordination of discrete points used to rectify aerial photography and satellite imagery. This coordination aspect is likely to continue for some time yet, however low cost GPS based products such as our Sokkia Stratus product are proven to be ideal for this function. The attraction in the marketplace has been the affordability, ease of operation and quick turnaround time. The quality of data available from remotely sensed sources had advanced at such a rate that, yes, there is likely to be a significant impact on certain aspects of a terrestrial surveyor’s business. However, both systems will continue to compliment each other in some areas.

Q. Will Sokkia products expand to navigation systems?

A The navigation type devices used for recreational applications have not been a focus of our company till now. In future, if we see this type of product fits within the scope of our business model, we will pursue this avenue to diversify our product line.

Q. Can you have market response for Sokkia products region wise.

A Historically, the market for Sokkia products distributed via our South-East Asia headquarters in Singapore has been segmented with South-East Asia, South Asia & Africa contributing almost equal percentage and the Middle East Asia accounting for approximately double that of any of the stated regions . In more recent times, we are seeing increases in several regions, with countries such as India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Thailand becoming key markets for our products.

Q. What is the response application segments-wise for Sokkia products.

A As we have discussed, our core business areas of surveying, engineering and construction continue to grow well. Globally, we are seeing an increase in demand for our products in these sectors, and this is particularly so in this part of the World. Our GIS products are also seeing greater demand, and other applications such as hydrography are increasingly utilizing our solutions.

Q. Do you think there is manpower to work on these high precision instruments today? Are related educational institutions incorporating usage of these instruments in their curriculum?

A There is a shortage of qualified human resource available to meet the needs of the industry at present. Since the company’s inception, Sokkia has followed a policy to aid the industry by working with Universities to ensure tomorrow’s surveyors are learning with state-of-the-art equipment. We provide training, lectures and technical support to students. It is our way of giving back to the industry that has served our company so well for more than 85 years.

Q. Surveying is not a very paying industry. Is this a hindrance for good quality personnel to consider entering this domain?

A There is a sense of satisfaction in working as a surveyor. It takes a certain type of personality, someone who likes being challenged, working outdoors, in tough conditions. It is true that in many instances, the remuneration has been insufficient to attract and maintain a high quality workforce. While increasing salaries can offset this problem, the key issue is whether customers will bear the increase in costs to cover the additional expense for employers. It is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed by the industry at a local and national level.