Innovation: It’s More Than the Technology

Firmatek has a legacy of innovation. Innovation is one of our core values and defines how we have made our mark in the industry. We pioneered the use of lasers to measure stockpiles and have continued to introduce new and better technology to the industry over our 25+ year history. While we usually talk about innovation in the context of new technology, and that is a very important part of innovation at Firmatek, it is about more than just the technology. It is about seeking out and embracing new solutions in all aspects of the business. Everyone is involved in the innovation happening at Firmatek.

The development and success of our Drone Solutions Program is a great example of the spirit of innovation across the company.

Above: Firmatek drone kit materials offered through the Drone Solutions Program.

Technology Innovation

We knew we needed to develop our Drone Solutions Program, so we started researching and testing the different technology available. We compared it to our LiDAR, which we knew to be very accurate. We had drones from all the major players, including our competitors. We tested fixed wings and copters of all kinds.

We also tested about every flight planning app and stitching software out there, which we continue to do. We are a service provider and need to give the best to our clients. So we continue to test new tools such as AeroPoints and the Loki.

Our team of field and processing technicians, as well as our drone team, work hard to make sure we are on the forefront of technology without sacrificing accuracy. It is a continual process of testing and learning.

Program Innovations

In addition to working through the types of technology we needed to use, we also were continually working with our clients to develop the best solution. We started with a plan that included a fixed wing drone, a leasing program, and an upfront package price based on the drone and a number of deliverables. Our sales team continued to talk to clients. They got feedback from clients about what was working with our program, what they liked about competitor programs, and what they wanted to see in our program.

So we iterated. The sales team drove the package innovation. First, we moved away from the fixed wing drone. As we evaluated the technology, we standardized around the DJI P4P. Second, we moved away from upfront payments because we learned our clients wanted more flexibility and the ability to spread payments over time. Finally, we moved towards credit packages. Instead of a client choosing what deliverables they wanted to receive at the beginning of the program, now they could choose as they go. If they decide later they want topographies in an addition to stockpiles, there are no extra charges. No matter what insights the client wants from the data, their package includes it.

Now, we have large enterprise level programs that include dedicated email addresses and formal plans that can be customized and easily rolled out to nationwide clients. As we continue to work with clients, we continue to develop and innovate within our Drone Solutions Program.

Process Innovations

Internally, as we have developed our Drone Solutions Program, we have had to innovate our processes. We were used to a client requesting a service, scheduling that job, a field tech doing the job, delivering that one job to a client, and sending invoices for it. We have a process that works pretty well for that.

All of a sudden, we had no idea how to track the drone jobs, how to invoice, what to do about renewals… the list goes on. So we brainstormed, we built processes and systems, and we tried them out. Then something changes, so we do it again. And again. And again. It is a continual process of innovation and learning. We learn new things, we create new programs, and we find new problems to solve.

For those in the company that love process innovation, this is the sweet spot. Just because these guys aren’t testing equipment and finding the next new piece of technology, doesn’t mean they aren’t innovating. The solution could have been to try and make the new program fit into the old process. But our team is always looking for ways to make the process better, so we quickly established that new processes were going to be the way to go. And we continue to build on and make adjustments to those systems as the technology and program changes.

A Culture of Innovation

It is important to remember that innovation happens on fronts that are not just new technology. We cannot be an innovative company if the only people that are innovating are the people who interact with lasers, drones, and software on a daily basis. To keep developing and growing, everyone needs to seek out and embrace new solutions in the role that he or she plays on a daily basis. We are lucky to have so many people at Firmatek that are constantly evaluating and bringing improvements to the table. We have a growth mindset that fosters innovation.

This article has been contributed by Firmatek President, Lauren Elmore.