Want in on the latest technology but don’t know where to start? Joint venture of Bentley and Topcon aims to help. (Image courtesy of DCW.)
Bentley and Topcon had a baby and named it Digital Construction Works. Proud parents, CEOs of Bentley and Topcon, announced the birth at the Year in Infrastructure 2019, its annual showcase of customer projects this year in Singapore. Already a few months old, the baby answers to its initials, DCW.
It’s an odd name for a baby. For a company that wants to be known as a “digital integrator,” a service that would like to help construction and engineering firms partake in the tantalizing technology they have been too busy to implement, it perfectly captures both its raison d'être and aspiration.
Bentley is mad for digital twins this year and has made them the focus of Year in Infrastructure 2019.
Not Just Twins
DCW intends to do more than “digital twinning.” It plans on bridging every gap between technology offerings and the world of construction, calling itself a “digital integrator” on its company brochure. Listed is continuous surveying, which uses camera-outfitted drones and ground-based cameras to record construction as it occurs. Think of it as a high-tech, 3D, time-lapse photographor, as we hear more and more, a 4D model—X, Y, Z as three dimensions and time the fourth.
DCW is headed by Ted Lamboo, who served 25 years as a senior vice president. Before that, he worked 11 years as sales director at Intergraph. His specialty is reality modeling, a term applied to photogrammetry, primarily creating 3D models from digital photographs. The grey-haired Lamboo, who was born and lives in The Netherlands, does not fit the mold of the typical start-up CEO.
“We’ve been flying low,” Lamboo said, waiting for this moment for our public announcement. Unlike most start-ups, long on ideas but short on customers, DCW has paying clientele. “Shell Oil is one we can mention.”
While at Bentley, Lamboo and his team were able to help a customer digitize their projects. A light bulb went on at the company’s corporate headquarters in Exton, Penn. Bentley, which started selling MicroStation for infrastructure projects, had become so technologically driven with multiple acquisitions that the gap between what they offered and what customers could digest was as wide as the Pacific Ocean. Its own customers were begging for a little help in implementing the cloud, digital twins, point clouds from scans and other leading edge technology. Bentley, as a software vendor, which may have treated this cry for help as a support problem, clicked on the idea that a support service customers would pay for could be a business opportunity.
If it was a Bentley-branded venture, would customers of other software shy away? A new company not so closely tied to Bentley was needed. Bentley teamed with Topcon to split the parenting duties.
Topcon? Isn’t That a Prison Reality Show?
Topcon makes precision measurement products for civil engineers and surveyors. Its main competitor is Trimble, which has taken a big lead in diversification and expanded its portfolio with software acquisitions. In fact, Trimble’s acquisition of SketchUp made it the leading publisher of CAD software. What does Topcon get out of the DCW joint venture? DCW gives Topcon an instant software play with a major software company without having to acquire a lesser CAD company at an inflated price out of desperation.
Ted Lamboo, CEO of DCW (Image courtesy of DCW.)
Down in the Lab
DCW will have a “labs” in which they will help customers get more digital. There will be a digital twin lab, as well as a “solution integration” lab. Customers will see and participate in the research and development of a digital construction project. They will also be able to validate and test the modeling in a safe learning environment rather than risk breaking systems and procedures in place at their companies.
“We can do it for them start to finish or help them get started and as needed,” Lamboo said. “We’ll be able to digitize a customer site with a 3D model and put it on the cloud as a digital twin.”
Ewout Korpershoek, executive vice president of mergers, acquisitions and partnerships at Topcon (Image courtesy of Topcon.)
DCW is a joint venture unique in the industry, according to Ewout Korpershoek, Topcon executive vice president. It is an unusual arrangement between hardware and software companies. It’s not quite a spinoff, acquisition of a start-up or fully independent but is a fully funded company staffed by mature management ready to do business.
Of course, targets will be current customers of Bentley and TOPCON. Declaring itself unbound by its parents, DCW feels it can also chase Autodesk Revit’s and Trimble’s customer base. Korpershoek and Lamboo are confident that with the customers and credibility that each company has in the industry, there will be no shortage of targets.
“Bentley is full of people who work in the office, and TopCon is full of people in the field,” Korpershoek said. “DCW is the merger of both worlds.”
How much Bentley and Topcon drop into DCW can only be guessed. Fifty people making an average of $100,000 per year, and assuming that there will be enough to float the new company for three years, then rounding up comes to a wild guess of about $20 million. A joint venture makes sense compared to acquiring companies, a common but wildly expensive proposition practiced by Bentley, Siemens, Autodesk, Trimble and ANSYS, to name just a few. Altair is said to have paid more than $20 million for SimSolid, a company with less than a handful of people.
DCW’s CEO is located in Hoofddorp, outside Amsterdam. Its 50 people, mostly drawn from Bentley and TOPCON employees, are scattered all over the world. It is a U.S. corporation, incorporated in Delaware.