Those who fear not knowing their place in the world should Trimble. Trimble Navigation makes systems and software that combine global positioning technology with wireless communications to provide location and position data and make it actionable. Using GPS, laser, optical, and other technologies, the company's products target areas such as surveying, construction site project management, mapping, mobile personnel management, and mobile and fixed asset management. They are offered to end users, such as government entities, farmers, engineering firms, and public safety workers, as well as equipment manufacturers (OEMs). About half of sales are made outside the US.
To establish certain operational advantages, Trimble divides its business into four segments: engineering and construction, field solutions, mobile solutions, and advanced devices.
Engineering and construction products command more than half of sales and include, among a wide range of others, construction machine guidance systems and robotic optical surveying instruments.
Mobile solutions (about 25% of sales) start where field solutions end: at the mass workforce level. It makes hardware and software used to handle scheduling for field service technicians and other mobile personnel. It also provides in-vehicle GPS receivers and other systems for tracking mobile assets. Mobile products are sold under the brands Trimble, PeopleNet, TMW, and ALK Technologies.
Field solutions (15% of sales) get used right where the name suggests - out in the field. Trimble markets such products to the agricultural and geographic information system (GIS) sectors. Agricultural offerings include systems that provide navigation guidance for farm equipment. It also sells handheld data collection units designed to work with GIS databases. Utility companies use such systems to gather information about transmission poles and have the data automatically stored.
Advanced Devices (about 6% of sales) encompasses Applanix (mobile mapping), embedded technologies (boards, modules, chipsets, licenses), military and advanced systems (aircraft navigation), Military and Advanced Systems, and ThingMagic (UHF and radio frequency identification (RFID) reader modules and services). Most of these products are hardware focused and are typically marketed to OEMs, system integrators, or service providers.
Trimble has principal facilities in Canada, China, India, New Zealand, a handful of European countries, in addition to its North American locations. The US is its largest single market, accounting for 50% of sales in 2016 (ended January). Customers in Europe made up another quarter of sales, while Asia followed with 14%.
Contract electronics manufacturers, principally Flextronics International and Benchmark Electronics, make some of Trimble's products at factories in China and Mexico.
Sales and Marketing
Trimble pitches its products to customers via dealer partnerships on all products except advanced devices and mobile solutions products. It also uses representatives, joint ventures, and other sales channels, supported by offices in 43 countries. Trimble sees its existing markets as underpenetrated, offering opportunities to expand adoption of its products as replacements for lingering traditional methods. In that regard, product development is also a key strategic component for both maintaining and broadening the company's ability to serve its target markets. It ramped up advertising spending by about $5 million to $39 million in 2014.
In 2016 revenue decreased 4% to $2.3 billion after several years of increases. A 16% decrease in sales from Field Solutions was blamed on softness in agriculture markets, particularly in the OEM channels. Revenue from Advanced Devices also declined 5% in 2016. The mobile unit, however, posted a 7% increase.
Net income dropped 43% to $121 million in 2016 due to lower revenue and an increase in research and development and restructuring charges.
Cash flow from operations in 2016 was $354.9 million, compared to $407 million in 2015.
The company focuses on growth in international markets as a major component of its strategy. The acquisitive company is particularly interested in opportunities in Africa, China, India, the Middle East, and Russia.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Trimble continued its acquisition tear in 2017, 2016, and 2015 -- some 15 deals with prices between $2 million and $13 million. Recent acquisitions were made to add capabilities that extend beyond navigation and, in some cases, into the cloud.
-- Network Mapping Group (NM GROUP), which develops data modeling and 3D visualization services, expanding Trimble's offerings for the energy industry. NM Group gathers data through remote sensing, runs the data through its data analysis tools, and creates information products such as 3D asset models, engineering assessments, and risk analysis. Utilities use the output to improve asset management, efficiency, and compliance.
-- Müller-Elektronik, a German company that makes software and hardware for precision farming applications. Trimble expects that the combination of its products with Müller's will provide manufacturers a wider selection of precision farming tools for tractors, combine harvesters, field sprayers, drill machines, seeders, and other implements. The deal was expected to close in the third quarter of 2017.
-- Sefaira Ltd., a developer of cloud-based software for the design of sustainable and high-performance buildings. It enables Trimble's Design-Build-Operate (DBO) portfolio to include tools for designing high-performing buildings.
-- Cadec Global Inc., a provider of technology for foodservice and private fleets.
-- PocketMobile, Sweden based, provider of enterprise mobile workforce solutions for international customers in the areas of postal service and logistics, security, and field service.
-- Manhattan Software, which provided Trimble with design-build-operate software for building owners, facilities and real estate managers.
-- Fifth Element, a provider of forestry enterprise and mobile software for logistics and harvest operations.The acquisition expands Trimble's forestry presence in Northern Europe. Fifth Element works in a software-as-a-service model.
-- Linear Project GMBH, a provider of scheduling software for linear infrastructure projects.
-- MAYBIM, a provider of 3-D BIM services for mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) contractors across the US. MAYBIM's suite of 3-D BIM professional services allows for contractors to scale their BIM capabilities regardless of the requirements from the building owner or general contractor.