Based in Sunnyvale, CA, Trimble Navigation, Ltd. is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of positioning, surveying and machine control products. The product portfolio is centered on the integration of global positioning system (GPS) technologies into these products, although the company also includes optical and laser technologies. Currently, management estimates revenue by ultimate end applications, which are information tools for field operators (approximately 81% of revenue), components in other systems (15%) and service-enabled solutions (4%). Management's focus has been on the commercial, and to a lesser degree, government end markets, while the consumer market has been avoided.
The GPS system consists of a constellation of 24 orbiting satellites and ground monitoring stations that are controlled and maintained by the United States Department of Defense (DoD). A GPS receiver can calculate accurately any worldwide position within 10 meters or less. The accuracy may be enhanced via a new supplemental system developed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and designated the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), which incorporates additional satellites and ground reference stations. This increases the overall positional accuracy to within three meters in any place throughout the U.S. and portions of Canada and Mexico, for properly equipped gear. Each satellite transmits low-power encoded radio frequency (RF) signals at two different frequencies one for military use and the other for civilian use. A GPS receiver must be in the line-of-sight of at least three different satellites to get a two-dimensional location (latitude and longitude) reading, or four satellites for three-dimensional positioning (which includes altitude data). The GPS receiver uses each of the satellites' relative positions and triangulation algorithms to determine the precise location of the receiver. Specifically, atomic clocks onboard the satellites supply key time-tag information required for calculating the time taken by the transmitted signal to reach the GPS receiver. The relative distance between the satellite and receiver can be computed, given this timing information and the known transmission velocity of the electromagnetic energy. Like wireless handsets, RF signals can penetrate (with some signal attenuation) clouds, glass and plastic, but not solid objects like buildings or hills.
Trimble is organized into five business segments Engineering and Construction, Field Solutions, Component Technologies, Mobile Solutions and Portfolio Technologies. The Engineering and Construction (E&C) segment is the largest unit, accounting for 68% of fiscal 2006 revenue. Primary segment product applications include surveying, machine control and construction layout, which target the building, highway, marine, mining and general construction verticals. Construction products include the Spectra Precision Laser line (for interior/exterior building), grade control lasers (for highway/road), the HYDROpro line (for marine), the MineStar line (for mining) and the computer aided earthmoving system line (CAES, for ore mining machine control). Functionally, the products enable accurate measurement and surveying that aids in site layout. The machine controlling systems are used for heavy construction equipment used in the construction, grading or mining process. End customers of the products include surveyors, architects and civil engineers. Management estimates that the company has more than a 30% share of the $1.2 billion market. Management has also formed two key joint ventures (50% owned by TRMB) with Nikon and Caterpillar Caterpillar Trimble Control Technologies, LLC (CTCT) and Nikon-Trimble Company. CTCT, which began operations in April 2002, develops guidance and machine control products for earthmoving equipment, with application in the construction, waste and mining industries. Under the agreement, Trimble manufactures and sells products at cost plus 15% to CTCT. Trimble sells CTCT products through its dealer channel, while Caterpillar sells Trimble products as factory or dealer-installed options on Caterpillar earthmoving vehicles. The Nikon-Trimble Co. sells lower-end Nikon mechanical total stations (which use an infrared laser beam to measure distances at sites) and Trimble GPS and robotic total stations within Japan. Outside of Japan, Trimble is the exclusive distributor of Nikon's products. The Nikon-Trimble Co. focuses on developing surveying instruments, including mechanical total stations used in the construction industry.
Trimble Field Solutions (TFS) is the second largest segment, contributing 15% of fiscal 2006 revenue. Primary product applications include farm tractor guidance and geographic data collection systems. The AgGPS product line contains mapping, guidance and machine controllers for use on farms or agricultural applications. The product portfolio includes EZ Steer, EZ Guide and autopilot products. Management asserts that Trimble has greater than a 25% share of the agriculture market. Geographic information system (GIS) products are used for database collection and the mapping of fixed utility assets, urban assets and natural resources. Potential applications include electrical transmission tower mapping, sewage systems and floodwater analysis.
The Trimble Mobile Solutions (TMS) segment contributed 6% of 2006 revenue. Products provide fleet management solutions through a combination of hardware and software applications. Equipment is supplied via an OEM as a factory option or installed in the after-market. To date, the company has successfully penetrated the concrete trucking and waste management trucking vertical end markets.
In fiscal year 2006, Trimble combined the CT and PT units, including Applanix Corporation. The rationale behind the combination was that the units generated a relatively small amount of revenue and had certain common characteristics in that they were hardware-centric and distributed directly to OEMs. The Component Technologies (CT) segment used to supply GPS-based chipsets, boards and modules, and also provides technology licenses to major OEMs, primarily for the automotive and wireless communications infrastructure end markets. Automotive applications included in-vehicle navigation and automotive telematics, using GPS engines, antennas and sensors. Key products include TrimTrac and Thunderbolt GPS Disciplined Clock. TrimTrac is a GPS/GSM location device that targets vehicle-tracking applications, such as vehicle monitoring, security and theft recovery. The Thunderbolt GPS Disciplined Clock is integrated within wireless CDMA (code division multiple access) base stations as a precision clocking reference that synchronizes calls within a wireless network (to facilitate call hand-offs between base stations). The Portfolio Technologies (PT) segment was previously comprised of the Military and Advanced Systems business. Currently, the product line includes navigation modules, antennas and embedded sensors. The Force 5 unit is a GPS dual frequency module that provides precise position service (PPS) information that is compliant with the military's new open architecture GPS receiver application module (GRAM) guidelines. Applanix, acquired in the third quarter of 2003, was consolidated with this business unit. Applanix develops products that integrate GPS technologies into inertial navigation systems (INSs). The combined segment generated 11% of 2006 revenue.
Trimble's products are designed in-house using proprietary technology. Trimble manufactures all of the optical and laser products. Manufacturing of GPS-based products is outsourced to Solectron, an electronic manufacturing services (EMS) company. Competition varies, depending on the specific markets served. Topcon Corporation and Leica Geosystems are the top competitors in the E&C unit Leica Geosystems and Thales Navigation in the TFS segment Symmetricom (for telecom infrastructure), Japan Radio Corporation, Motorola and SiRF (for automotive) in the CT unit Command Alkon in the TMS segment and Rockwell, L3, Raytheon and Thales in the PT segment.
Trimble has an aggressive merger and acquisition strategy, having added Applanix Corporation, MENSI S.A., TracerNET Corporation, GeoNav GmbH, Pacific Crest Corporation, Apache Technologies, MobileTech and Advanced Public Safety, XYZ of GPS, Quantum International, Eleven Technology, BitWyse Solutions, Visual Statement, XYZ Solutions and Meridian Project Systems and @road over the past fourteen quarters. These acquisitions are small in comparison to Trimble. Previously, the two joint ventures were accounted for using the equity method, with net results being posted under the affiliated operations line item below the operating income line. However, as first the Nikon and then the CTCT JVs became profitable, the company decided to include the related expenses above the operating line. Trimble booked a $9.3 million deferred profit on the CTCT venture in the fourth quarter of 2005, as future operations were expected to be profitable. The JV relationships are expected to broaden the product portfolio, open up cross-selling opportunities, expand its geographical presence and deepen penetration in existing markets.
Products are marketed through dealers, sales reps, JVs and other distribution channels, supported by sales offices in over 20 countries. TRMB's development, manufacturing and logistics operations are spread across the U.S. and Western Europe. Geographically, 2006 sales were as follows the U.S. 54%, Europe 25%, Asia 12% and Americas (ex-U.S.) 9%. Trimble did not have a customer that accounted for more than 10% of revenue in 2006.