In an exclusive interview with Geospatial World, Rayward Chung talks about what makes Asia Pacific one of the leading markets for Trimble, the focus verticals and the future strategy
APAC Sales Manager – Mapping and GIS, Mobile Computing Systems, Utilities Field Solutions
Trimble Navigation New Zealand Limited
From being a technology company, Trimble is now a complete solutions provider. How has been the response from the users in the APAC region? Are they more receptive towards the complete solutions that the company offers or do they prefer Trimble mainly for technology?
It varies from country to country. For instance, in Malaysia, we have excellent adoption of both field and office software. The advantage of being a multinational company is that we can learn from one country and apply those lessons learnt in another country. This requires us to have own software – and we are currently addressing this with about 2/3rd of Trimble staff being involved in research and development and new software.
Are there any initiatives to inform the users about the shift in company profile?
Yes, we are moving away from feature and benefit oriented communications to ideas that revolve around getting more done and being more efficient. These are the kinds of messages that drive business decisions. We are interacting more and more with customers to find out their requirements – and the limitations they face. In the process, we get to know about solutions that take care of all the things they want to do.
Trimble is growing very fast but we can’t write software for every situation ourselves. To help us meet the requirements of more customer applications, we facilitate third-party software development with our SDK (Software Developers Kit).
Are these APAC-based companies?
Most of the companies that we have acquired are from North America and Europe but developing applications for the APAC region. Historically, the APAC region has not developed a lot of software. They develop software for their own use, but there haven’t been many software houses writing software that can be applied to different industries.
How is the performance of the APAC region vis-à-vis other regions for Trimble?
Performance has been very strong. The APAC region is growing fast for Trimble Mapping and GIS and will continue to be a significant area of focus for our group.
What makes APAC one of the leading markets for Trimble?
This region is registering the fastest growth, with many countries in the region being developing economies. They are learning very quickly and recognising the potential of geospatial technology. For example, Indonesia is a huge country with thousands of islands. They have had a low level of adoption of technology but all that is changing. They are realising that once they start using new technology, they can become a lot more efficient and capitalise on their natural assets.
Then there are large and thriving economies like China, Singapore (in terms of per capita) and Korea who are also contributing the growth in APAC.
Which are the key vertical areas for the company in the region?
We have developed a new vertical in forestry. We have established utilities as a separate vertical. Countries are realising that in order to improve their economy and improve the standards of living for their people, their infrastructure has to improve. Utilities is a very important segment of infrastructure to ensure clean water, electricity and getting rid of wastewater.
Positioning and monitoring is improving because technology is improving all the time. With greater number of GNSS satellites now up in space, much greater accuracy can be obtained and as an example of this, we now have a handheld unit obtaining cm accuracy. The uptake of mobile solutions is very fast in the region.
You have talked about digital field data collection technology. Can you elaborate upon the technology and its benefits?
We have observed that more than half of the organisations still take the paper and pen route when they have to collect data. We believe the reason why they continue with this practice, even though it significantly increases the chances of errors, is because of tradition and because they haven’t had the opportunity to use new techniques. Also, many of these countries rate their labour cost as low but as the standards of living increase, the cost of labour is increasing which was not the case earlier. This makes the adoption of technology even more pertinent.
Introducing digital systems reduces errors, reduces costs and increases efficiency of the field staff because they can send the data back to the office immediately. There is minimal risk of mistakes, the field staff don’t have to think about travelling back and forth and losing any information that’s written on a piece of paper. It makes the whole process of data collection much more accurate and efficient.
Are the products/solutions customised or localised for the region?
Generally we have the same basic products throughout the world. A localisation we do is in languages. When people choose the hardware, they can also choose the language required. Insofar as the method of operation is concerned, how the software is used is pretty general, but we do customise to suit different applications and countries.
Have any products been developed based on insights from this particular market?
Yes, we have just come out with a new product called the Juno 3 Series. This product was developed based on feedback from our APAC customers. Our previous products could not be used in certain areas in the region so we developed this product specifically to suit this region.
What are the challenges of operating in this market?
Just the sheer diversity amongst the disparate countries. A lot of people, particularly from Europe and North America, consider and bundle the APAC region as one homogenous entity. But the region is not homogenous; there are lots of significant differences amongst the APAC countries. Even neighbouring countries operate differently. Eg, Thailand is very different from Laos and Cambodia; Singapore and Malaysia are also very different from each other even though they’re right next to each other.
What is your future strategy for the Asia Pacific market?
The APAC region is definitely increasing in importance in business for Trimble. As Trimble doesn’t sell products directly to customers, we are strengthening our dealer network. We are ensuring that they are better trained; have more and more information and better equipped to understand Trimble capabilities. Our dealers do not just refer to our catalogue but have an in-depth understanding of specific user requirements in order to provide them with the solutions that they desire.