Those who fear not knowing their place in the world should Trimble. Trimble Navigation makes systems and software that combines 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). More than 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.
Field solutions (about a quarter 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.
Mobile solutions (more than 15% 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.
Advanced Devices (about 5% of sales) encompasses Applanix (mobile mapping), embedded technologies (boards, modules, chipsets, licenses), military and advanced systems (aircraft navigation), timing and synchronization, Trimble Outdoors (GPS-enabled cell phones) businesses, 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.
After a brief hiccup in 2009, when most companies around the world fell prey to the global recession, Trimble got its feet right back under it, growing sales in 2010 almost back to the 2009 total. In 2012 it reported revenue of $2 billion, up 24% from 2011. Net income was also up (about 27%), hitting $190 million. The strong results were powered by organic growth as well as late 2011 acquisitions Tekla and PeopleNet. All the company's segments turned in double digit growth, with mobile solutions jumping nearly 60% as it benefited from the PeopleNet purchase.
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 more than 30 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.
With principal facilities in China, India, New Zealand, a handful of European countries, in addition to its North American locations, the company focuses on growth in international markets as another major component of its strategy. The acquisitive company is particularly interested in opportunities in Africa, China, India, the Middle East, and Russia. Contract electronics manufacturers, principally Flextronics International and Benchmark Electronics, make some of Trimble's products at factories in China and Mexico.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Fast-growing Trimble uses acquisitions to help fuel growth by acquiring new technology and expanding its product selection. In 2013 it bought several companies to add to its agricultural division. In December it bought C3, a Wisconsin-based provider of crop and soil data that creates 3D models to help farmers improve crop yields. In September it bought Asset Forestry Limited, a provider of forest logistics software and services. In August came IQ Irrigation Assets in Christchurch, New Zealand, a supplier of hardware and software for controlling irrigation systems. Earlier deals include RainWave and Hydro-Engineering Solutions.
In 2012 Trimble bought Netherlands-based payroll and expense automation software provider Logicway, which specializes in the transportation and logistics industry. Also that year Trimble agreed to buy construction cost-estimating and cost-modeling software provider WinEstimator, as well as transportation and logistics software provider TMW Systems. Trimble then added to its PeopleNet acquisition from the previous year with the purchase of Canada-based GIS mapping, hardware, and hosted software provider GEOTrac Systems, which serves the North American oil and gas industry. Again that year Trimble bought 3D computer-aided design/computer-aided engineering and enterprise resource planning software provider Plancal. The Swiss company serves the construction-related industries of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) in Western Europe.