In a new addition to our interview series, we discussed with Mark Benhard, Director of Corporate Communications of FARO Technologies – several facts about the impact of COVID-19 & evolving changes in the 3D technologies market. Faro Technologies is a Florida-based company, which deals in the development and manufacturing of portable, high precision measurement solutions, along with measurement specialty devices for industrial purposes. It offers 3D measurement technology solutions and relevant software platforms in the market. Their scanners find applications in numerous industries that include aerospace, automotive, metrology, healthcare, engineering, education, heavy industries, oil & gas, power generation, and others. Moreover, the company has adopted partnership and acquisition as its key strategies to expand its business. It has a presence in the Americas, Europe & Asia.
Inkwood: How will COVID-19 affect the 3D technology market in both the short & long term?
FARO: Like with most industries, COVID-19 has had a significant impact. As a Critical Infrastructure Industry designated by the US Government, FARO has been fortunate to keep its manufacturing facilities open. We have also been a predominately virtual company for years, so the transition to work from home for all non-essential manufacturing employees has been seamless. That said, many of FARO’s measuring products are applied in large-scale industrial assemblies – automobile manufacture, aerospace, etc. At present, those industries have been artificially suppressed with state-by-state lockdown procedures. But this is a temporary stoppage. In the longer term, 3D technology may stand to benefit.
Inkwood: How can 3D technology be utilized to increase the capacity of the healthcare industry to match the high demand due to the pandemic?
FARO: 3D technology has proven its worth in the mass production of facemasks. The ability to take a single facemask and convert that mask into thousands of data points to be rendered digitally, means that virtual templating can send/share such templates with dozens of public and private entities manufacturing said products. Longer-term, we see 3D technology’s applications to telehealth, having even more potential. In addition to keeping fewer sick patients away from hospitals, capacity is also designing or re-designing more efficient physical spaces. FARO’s AEC scanners and software are already doing just that – 3D rendering tight, hard-to-reach spaces, and discovering new ways to maximize space.
Inkwood: Which ways are you aiming to help your clients get back on their feet rapidly post the pandemic – Do you plan to bring some products/service on the forefront?
FARO: We have been working closely with customers throughout the pandemic in a virtual capacity. Every day we hold training courses, demonstrations, webinars, etc. to help them solve their measurement problems. Our team has also been reverse-engineering 3D product solutions from home! Customers want fast, efficient, money-saving, accurate products that can be used with a minimal user interface. These product values have been central to FARO for 40 years. But, now, as businesses look to reduce costs and streamline efficiencies – often to preserve their workforce and prevent layoffs – fast, efficient, safe, affordable, and precise has never been more important.
Inkwood: Is there a change of focus on the public safety front?
FARO: In the post-COVID world, keeping your distance from other people is the key to staying safe. That means the value proposition of non-contact devices is even greater now. For example, our non-contact 3D scanning solutions decrease the time operators spend at the scene of an incident and bolster social distancing guidelines. In the post-COVID world, non-contact means safety.
Inkwood: What will be your basic strategy to get into the market strongly so as to minimize the loss already caused in this fiscal year?
FARO: Thanks in part to our current focus on 3D technology, as well as the fact that our manufacturing plants remained operational throughout the pandemic, FARO is well positioned to re-emerge even stronger once the worst of the crisis has passed. Likewise, all our departments have made extensive use of remote working technologies that were already central to our global brand. Virtual trade shows are planned, virtual product demos are available online, and outreach continues to our customers across all digital channels. Lastly, the most basic strategy to minimize loss is for FARO to protect its people first. That means a steadfast commitment to social distancing and hygiene procedures that keep our employees safe.
Inkwood: Which industry had the largest contribution towards your revenue in the pre-COVID situation? How do you see this industry to perform the post-COVID period?
FARO: From a market segmentation perspective, 3D Metrology is our largest revenue driver. However, there is excellent revenue potential in public safety and forensic space, too. In the post-COVID economy, 3D Metrology will prove invaluable as industrial processes ramp back up. Gage R&R studies are an essential first step in ensuring product quality control. An economy that opens too quickly, or haphazardly risks quality control issues. That’s an added re-opening challenge that nobody wants.
Inkwood: Are you looking keenly at some technologies which will flourish in a post-COVID world?
FARO: Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and automation are related technologies that have significant potential. AI is a term that gets thrown around often, but rarely is it understood. AI begins with extensive data acquisition. Developing software that can action that data is what you might call “infant AI” which is already leading to business efficiencies that save money, identify product flaws, and free up human operators to perform tasks that computers can’t. AR has significant potential with its ability to combine real-world images with digital information. Imagine working on a post-COVID construction site with a few dozen people, and you are wearing a pair of AR goggles/glasses that use IR thermal detection to ensure safe distancing. Lastly, automation has significant potential. While today’s industrial machines are mostly large, bulky and dangerous to operate with a human close by, the future of automation will look entirely different. Humans will be able to work in proximity to industrial machines without risk of injury. Better still, these automated machines will be equipped with next-generation AI, and they will be able to teach other machines to perform new tasks. Research and application of these technologies are happening, and it will be exciting to see how it serves as a catalyst to save time, money, and keep the workforce safe.
Inkwood: What are the specific measures taken by your company to re-establish normal business functioning – does it differ from region to region?
FARO: We will always adhere to government and public health guidelines for social distancing and provide the ability for enhanced personal hygiene, including facemasks, gloves, handwashing, and hand sanitizer, to protect our workforce.