Brazil's Surveying Growth

From meeting the requirements of a recent geo-referencing law to planning for the upcoming Olympic Games, business is brisk in Brazil, and the demand for surveyors is rising.
By PSM Staff

Brazil’s dramatic economic growth in recent years has certainly included the surveying profession. Marcos Guandalini, a surveyor and sales director of Alezi Teodolini about trends in his country.

Professional Surveyor Magazine: 
Marcos, describe your surveying and business background for us.

Marcos Guandalini: Alezi Teodolini was founded by my father the same year I was born, 1979, so I have been familiar with the company ever since I was a child. I started working here when I was only 18, in 1997. My first experience was in the maintenance department, repairing and fixing equipment. After acquiring that experience and knowledge, I joined the sales team and, at age 25, became director of the sales department.

I graduated in 2005 from Faculdade de Engenharia Agrimensura de Pirassununga (FEAP) as a surveying engineer, and now I am getting a master’s degree at the University of São Paulo. In 2008, I was invited by FEAP to return to the university as a visiting professor due to my extensive experience in the surveying area.

What are the predominant types of 
surveying performed in Brazil?

Since 2003, the 10.267/01 cadastral law established that all Brazilian rural properties have to be geo-referenced according to the Brazilian Geodetic System. This law has generated a huge demand for land surveyors in Brazil, and most of them are using post-processing GPS solutions to measure the boundaries of rural properties.

An accuracy of 50cm is expected for each measurement point to comply with the certification standard. As of today, 10% of the rural property measurements are already certified by the Brazilian Federal Agency, or the Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (INCRA).

This organization is also using GPS equipment to inspect properties in the certification process.

Since 2006, Alezi Teodolini has delivered to INCRA more than 252 Ashtech ProMark 3 GPS receivers. In addition, during a two-year period Alezi Teodolini 
supplied dedicated training sessions to every INCRA branch, north to south. 
INCRA surveyors are using the ProMark 3 GPS to verify the coordinates and 
perimeter accuracy of rural properties.

Raster images are used as a background map in order to guide INCRA technicians in the field. To guarantee the quality of this verification, INCRA is performing L1 post-processing centimeter-accuracy surveys.

In addition to the land register certification, INCRA is also performing environmental-protected-area mapping and registration. For those mapping applications, sub-meter accuracy is enough.

In what ways is being a major distributor of surveying products in Brazil different than in the United States?

The first difference is the Brazilian customs taxes included on the GPS receivers. The product prices are around 100% higher in Brazil than in the United States.

The second difference is market development. In other words, today Brazil is about to stabilize a land register, whereas the United States is focusing on the construction arena.

Alezi Teodolini is a master dealer in Brazil, so our business model is also different than in the United States. Due to the size of the Brazilian territory and its different cultures, we have deployed a network of 22 sub-dealers in order to maintain direct contact with the end-user. It would be impossible otherwise to support surveyors’ needs from São Paulo, our company’s headquarters.

Our engineering team supports the local sub-dealers. They have the technical and commercial knowledge to drive and grow their respective businesses in their region. We started the sub-dealer network deployment process six years ago. Nowadays we have the entire Brazilian area covered, and our goal is to develop each one of these sub-dealers and increase their autonomy. 

As a major distributor of Ashtech GNSS Solutions in South America, Alezi Teodolini also has an important role to play in the Brazilian market in terms of education, including:
  • informing users about GNSS technology capabilities and benefits,
  • convincing surveyors to use the available new technology in order to obtain productivity and higher return on investment, and
  • organizing training and workshops.
Currently, Alezi Teodolini is promoting NTRIP connectivity in the Brazilian market, which is a real-time survey mode for RTK centimeter accuracy. We invest a lot in technical training and marketing, and that makes us well known in the entire Brazilian market.

RTK networks are still not widespread in Brazil; Alezi Teodolini is the only private company that offers an RTK network here. We operate nearly 40 reference stations, half of them covering the state of São Paulo, to provide a dense coverage and high-quality corrections to surveyors.

Today we provide data corrections for infrastructure work, including surveying jobs, mapping projects, and agriculture. We provide these data free to customers who purchase survey equipment from us, and we make the service available to others for a fee.

In addition to our network, surveyors have access to a public network owned and operated by the Brazilian government, but with an average distance of 350km between its stations, accuracy is affected as the baseline increases.

Our data correction services are also superior to the government’s network. The public network sends new information only once daily, while our network sends updates every hour. Our users have faster access to the relevant corrections for post-processing right 
after they have completed their job in the field. They don’t have to wait a full day to complete their work.

We continue to educate professionals about the value of RTK networks and how they can make their lives easier and more productive for both real-time and post-processing surveys. In the near future, we expect virtually all professionals to understand the value of networks and to know how to use them.  This makes it important for us to have our 40 stations up and running.

What do you believe are the secrets of the most successful Brazilian surveying companies?

The biggest challenge for Brazilian surveying companies today is to overcome the lack of available surveyors for the huge and growing demand of surveying projects. Alezi Teodolini’s advice for a successful business is to start working with GNSS survey equipment instead of, or in complement to, their traditional optical surveying instruments or total-station tools. 

GPS/GNSS technology helps surveying companies reach greater productivity in the field; it’s the reason why we are promoting this technology. The more survey jobs they perform, the more their company can grow, and as a result they can hire additional staff and increase the number of surveyors working.

What advances over the past decade have benefitted surveyors the most?

The GPS/GNSS technology advancements have been definitely the most beneficial. GPS solutions enable faster surveys and greater productivity for survey crews. Also, the L1 GPS solutions’ prices have dramatically decreased for the past five years down to the equivalent cost of a total station.

Let me give you an example that explains the GPS productivity advantage over a total station, thus the high return on investment for a surveying company. During the Brazilian Land Reform, INCRA could measure the same areas using one ProMark 3 GPS system instead of five total stations.

Last but not least, another advantage is modern equipment’s ease of use.

How do your customers learn about the newest products and services available to them?

Our local dealers conduct seminars and demos, usually one per year in each Brazilian state (so, almost two per month). We also perform several seminars/workshops at universities, and we post some on our website. We also participate in big conferences such as AGRI-SHOW, GeoBrasil Summit, Agrocana, CONEA, etc. Of course, we also keep our customers informed by email.

We have established a strong level of training at the local sub-dealer level, because in the end, the sub-dealer is the one who will perform demos and will have to support the customer in the field. During our dealer meeting every January, we meet all our sub-dealers and teach them about the new equipment and new technologies that they will have in their portfolio for the next year. This past January, we had more than 40 people from our sub-dealer’s office here in São Paulo to learn those new tools.
Has the survey business in Brazil suffered as much of a downturn as in the United States?

The survey business in Brazil was not as affected during the crisis. Our customers kept performing surveying services; although they did not have enough money to buy equipment, most rented.  

What do you see as the areas of future growth in the Brazilian surveying business?

First of all, the Brazilian agriculture market needs to increase its productivity, so I believe that agricultural machine guidance applications will become the second big market for the DGPS, and the demand could grow rapidly in this sector.

At the same time, the demand for land measurement with a topographic accuracy will keep growing for the next three years, until completion of the land register. The construction and mapping business will take more time after that to deploy. In order to begin our building and infrastructure projects in a specific area, we obviously need to know the area first.

In addition to the “normal” survey-needs development, we should not forget that hosting worldwide events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games will definitively boost surveying demand. These events will no doubt create a lot of work for Brazilian surveyors, including roads, stadiums, and airports. This work has not yet begun in earnest, but we expect there will be big demand soon. When this time comes, our RTK network will make a big difference because we will be the only company providing this service, helping customers spend less time to produce more.

Marcos, you are known as a hard-driving businessman. Other than work, what do you do for fun and relaxation?

Sports are really important in my life. I have been participating in triathlons for 12 years, and it helps a lot to balance my life. Besides that, I like to spend time with my family and friends, and I like to 
travel with my wife when I have a little space in my agenda.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing because I am always checking my emails, thinking and talking about work. I don’t think that this is a problem because I really love what I do.

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