Where is the trades industry headed in 2020?

The tech and industry trends that will re-shape tomorrow

Can you imagine completing a job without electric tools? Sheeting without a nail gun, cutting without a circular saw or excavating by hand – we shudder to think…

Modern tools have drastically changed the trades industry by substantially increasing productivity and making the job site a far safer place to work. With all the benefits that come with innovation and modern technology, we have to ask ‘why aren’t we innovating faster?’

Within the last decade, Apple brought out 21 ‘new and improved’ variations of the iPhone. The world of technology changes and evolves at an unprecedented pace – nearly nothing is the same as it was in 2010. Except for the trades industry.

It’s the third-slowest sector in regards to innovation and technological improvements in Australia. While our tools may be getting faster and safer, large chunks of our administration are still done by hand and few tasks are automated. It’s even more incredible to think that we could be moving so slowly when you realise that our industry contributes to nearly a tenth of our country’s total GDP.

While we may be behind the eight-ball, there are in fact some exciting technologies creeping their way into the trades sector as we begin the new decade. We’ve deep-dived into what this will mean for the industry as a whole and how you can make the most of these changes.

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All the fancy new tech

Nowadays, there’s an app for everything (wait, we’ve heard that somewhere before…). And if there’s not an app, there’s a drone or robot for the job.

Drones, robots & automated machinery

Imagery captured via drones is being used for time-efficient site inspections and to provide clients with snapshots of the project’s progress. Drones can also be used to reduce the risk associated with larger jobs, such as bridges and skyscrapers.

Robots at this stage are only useful for highly-repetitive tasks, such as bricklaying or painting. Within the family of robots lived autonomous vehicles and machinery. Basically imagine an excavator that doesn’t need an operator in the driver’s seat. Similar technology is already being widely used in the agriculture sector. There are grain harvesters which drive themselves, using a map of the crop and GPS technology.

A large percentage of these ‘people-replacing’ technologies have been born out of necessity; there are substantial labour shortages within Australia’s trades industry, particularly amongst the more repetitive skillsets.

Apps & programs

Other advancements can fit in the palm of your hand – apps and programs available on smartphones, tablets and laptops. Last week, we discussed how cloud-based accounting programs can reduce time and increase the accuracy of your accounting.

Between labourers, site managers, architects and engineers, suppliers and the client, collaboration can be a nightmare. Real-time communication in an organised platform can seriously increase the flow of communication and therefore productivity, plus it provides everyone with a clear overview of the project’s timeline and budget.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) & virtual reality

It can be difficult to truly understand the specifics of a project or to communicate to a client what the final design will look like when all you’ve got to work with is the blueprint. With Building Information Modelling (BIM), stakeholders can see a 3D replica of the end product. The BIM can be updated in real-time, so everyone is always working with the most up-to-date information.

Virtual reality can allow project managers, clients and designers to walk through the virtual space. Floor plans can be projected onto a floor surface at a 1:1 ratio, allowing you to physically walk through the space and understand the true scope of size before construction even begins.

Weathering the changes

If you’re a big player in the industry, you may already be using some of these technologies. If you’re a small-medium business, you may be waiting for them to become more affordable options (like with the first computer, technologies often start big, complex and expensive before becoming smaller and more affordable for the mass-market).

You may be fearing that your job, or the jobs of your employees, will be taken over by an automated system. In all honesty, that may be the case in 5, 10 or 20 years time.

Rather than worrying about what new technology will take away, focus on what new opportunities it will provide. Imagine the time you’ll save from having an automated system order your supplies, take care of your accounting or even track a project’s profitability. Or the day a robot will be able to walk through your site and provide a comprehensive project status report.

If you’re still losing sleep over being replaced, consider how upskilling yourself or your business as a whole could keep you secure in these changing times. The more successful trades businesses within Australia are those that cater to multiple needs, such as residential and commercial.

There is a demand for white-collar workers – project managers, construction lawyers, property managers, architects and engineers. It’s predicted that in this new decade the most sought-after traits in a new employee will be the abilities to use technology, problem-solve, communicate with clients, use design-thinking and manage projects and teams. With this in mind, perhaps it’s time to learn a new skill? Or venture down a more managerial career path?

The new decade is here and with it comes new opportunities. Don’t leave yourself in the past – continuously be looking for ways that technology could add value to your business.

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The Tradies Accountant team work with the latest technology and can provide tailored business consultancy on how best to navigate changes within the trades industry.

Contact them today to jumpstart your year.

Tradies Accountant