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.
Field solutions (about 20% 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 (another 20% 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.
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.
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 49% of sales in 2013. Customers in Europe made up another quarter of sales, while Asia followed with 15%.
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 35 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.
As a leader in its industry, Trimble Navigation is a $2 billion company. In 2012 it reported revenue of $2.29 billion, up 12% from 2012. Profits were also up 15%, hitting a record $218 million. Cash flow from operating activities is also growing alongside revenue, reaching $415 million in 2013, up from $340 million in 2012.
The strong results were powered by organic growth as well as the 2012 acquisition of TMW. The engineering and construction and mobile solutions segments enjoyed double-digit growth, while the advanced devices segment grew 5% and field solutions experienced a decline due to softness in GIS markets.
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
Fast-growing Trimble uses acquisitions to help fuel growth by acquiring new technology and expanding its product selection. In April 2014 it bought engineering and development firm GeoDesy and GeoDesy Free Space Optics (FSO) of Hungary, which strengthened its ability to serve customers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In June it bought Mining Information Systems (MIS) of Australia to expand its products for the mining industry and Utah-based MAYBIM, a provider of 3D Building Information Modeling (BIM) services.
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.
Also in 2013 it bought CSC (UK) Ltd., a maker of software for the analysis and design of steel and concrete buildings.
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.