Is Automation Friend or Foe?

From Geodatapoint, written by Joseph Romano

Joseph Romano, PLS, oversees the surveying, mapping and scanning efforts for Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, based in Elmwood Park, N.J. His areas of special interest include boundary law, GPS/GIS technologies, scanning, and information modeling of existing conditions. He has authored a number of articles on these topics and is a frequent presenter at key events.


During the 2012 Ecobuild America conference held in Washington, D.C., in December, I had the opportunity to team with Seth Koterba, vice president of research and technology for Allpoint Systems, on a panel discussing laser scanning and its processes.

I touched on the history of scanning, provided some examples of the various deliverables, added some practical tips on hiring a scanning provider and closed with the need to accurately collect field data all the time. Seth focused on how Allpoint Systems’ software is advancing scanning workflows to be more efficient and cost effective and improve the entire data acquisition/registration process.

At some point during the presentation, we found ourselves having an open debate on the topic of automated cloud registration versus the more traditional survey-based methods. The audience sensed the shift in format and joined in. The session quickly became an interactive conversation with the 40 or so attendees.

There was a clear divide in the room. One segment of the audience—for the most part, the younger crowd—clearly accepted the theme of improving workflows with automation. Conversely, the more seasoned participants tended to mistrust automated workflows.

Seth did a great job supporting his position. To keep the debate even, I took the opposing point of view.

Throughout the debate, I found myself recalling the days of trying to get my boss to stop writing angles and distances in a field book and use a data collector, to let the CADD system collect the points and build a surface. Now the tables were turned, and I was the one voicing resistance to technology. But I had to hold to my position for the audience to hear both sides.

Ultimately, I believe that to improve our profession we need to challenge the status quo. We must continue to think for ourselves, but we should also believe that these new technologies and automated systems work. By accepting them and finding ways to integrate them into our workflows, we will provide better service to our clients and our follow professionals.

What do you believe? Is automation friend or foe?

Langan’s Litigation Support

When confronted with a legal problem, clients get a good lawyer. When a good lawyer needs litigation support, they want an expert consultant, which means Langan. Whether at trial, in mediation, or preparing for a case, Langan’s professionals have tremendous experience collaborating with top law firms and insurance companies around the world. Our strong technical background combined with extensive practical experience build credibility to the judge, jury, and opposing counsel.

“We are sought out because we engage the client and counsel regarding case position strengths and weaknesses from the on-set,” said Rudolph Frizzi, a Langan Managing Principal and much-in-demand geotechnical engineering expert. “We consult closely with counsel and the client on a regular basis regarding activities and changing events in the case. In response to issues raised, we provide strategic advice and expert reports as well as input to affidavits, interrogatories, and rebuttals. And most importantly our experts provide sound, defensible trial testimony and presentation to clearly explain the technical aspects of a case to a lay jury and judge.”

With respect to environmental contamination cases involving human health and the environment, Langan adopts a similar comprehensive approach for litigation consulting and expert witness services with strict attention to confidentiality and attorney-client work products. Firm experts partner with clients and counsel to strategize schedule and scope, based on the range of likely opinions, rebuttals, and supporting methodologies required for the litigation. On large cases, Langan typically serves as consulting expert, technical data analyst, and document database manager using special litigation software allowing responsive and efficient transfer of documents between counsel offices and Langan. For many cases, our firm also engages special investigative sampling services and forensic laboratory analyses to further support opinions critical to the case.

“Our Forensic/Expert Consulting practice is a core discipline within our firm, and we dedicate time and resources to ensure that our clients benefit from decades of practical experience and leading-edge technical expertise,” said Phil Tringale, a Langan Managing Principal who provides litigation consulting and expert environmental support to law firms, potentially responsible parties, and developers. As a Fellow in the American College of Forensic Examiners and a Professional Engineer with a PhD in Civil Engineering, Phil has worked with many litigation teams at Langan on cases involving toxic discharges, cost allocation, National Contingency Plan compliance, insurance and cost recovery, and property damage. “In forming our opinions, our clients rely on us to be responsive to the litigation schedule and to have the ability to present complex technical issues in a succinct and persuasive manner using high-quality reports and graphics.”

In addition to possessing dozens of respected environmental and geotechnical consultants with vast experience as expert witnesses, Langan’s Forensic/Expert Consulting services also includes experts in site/civil engineering, seismic engineering, and natural resources and ecology, as well as a fully integrated survey practice capable of testifying on boundary disputes and utilizing leading-edge technology to provide 3D models to illustrate alleged subsurface contamination and to portray damaged structures or recreate construction accidents in a courtroom.

For more information, or to request Langan’s Forensic/Expert Consulting qualifications package, please contact Mark Devaney at 201.312.4427 or at