As the new workforce comes of age, many worry that artificial intelligence (AI) and automation may eliminate jobs for human workers. However, those working in the skilled trades need not worry. While there may be an increase in the use of automation and AI, this technology will likely increase the number of jobs needed, not eliminate them. This is because humans have the upper hand when it comes to manual labor jobs:
- Robots currently do not have enough dexterity or motor controls;
- Robots cannot account for the unpredictability of skilled trade jobs;
- Technology, machines, and other automation tools will need maintenance repairs from humans.
People, however, will see the skilled trades integrate with technology to do their job better. In the long-run, using more technology can help create more jobs in these trades, as people are needed to help interpret data and create automation tasks.
How Can Technology Help Skilled Trades?
Certain software can help those in the skilled trades increase organization, efficiency, and productivity by offering various solutions that can help business owners determine the best way to run their business. These technologies include:
- Big data;
- Augmented and virtual reality;
- Internet of things;
- Artificial intelligence.
Although many companies have already implemented these technologies, it’s important to understand how each type of technology can help skilled trade businesses.
Field service companies can house a lot of data. Every time a work order comes in, or a technician completes a job, data is created and stored. This data can be beneficial to your company by letting you see:
- How long it takes a technician to do a job;
- How many calls you are taking a month;
- A single technician’s response time to a job.
Bringing in software to help business development can help you remain competitive by allowing you to gauge your business’s performance. Typically, big data is too dense to comb through manually. By implementing software to analyze data automatically, you can leverage big data to inform business decisions. Additionally, you can refine and streamline analysis tools to collect the exact data you need.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Augmented and virtual reality can help train new employees as well as help diagnose maintenance problems. For instance, instead of taking new employees on the job to train, businesses can use virtual reality (VR) to put trainees in real-life scenarios without the associated risks. VR can also help solve the skilled trade labor shortage, as companies can now train faster and more efficiently.
On the other hand, augmented reality (AR) allows technicians to diagnose maintenance problems without having to disassemble the entire product. For example, if a furnace is not running properly, AR can help technicians understand which part they are looking at without having to take it out or apart. AR can enhance a worker’s access to information and reduce the number of errors made during repairs.
Internet of Things
The internet of things (IoT) is a connected network of devices that can send messages to each other to improve communication to the user. This can be extremely helpful in skilled labor jobs, as many calls are related to repair and maintenance. Nowadays, many businesses run on reactive maintenance and repairs. Once a customer realizes their product is no longer working, they call for a technician to look at it. With IoT, skilled trade businesses can use parts connected to a wireless network that sends technicians signals if they are not working properly. Businesses can shift from reactive repair to proactive repair, which, in turn, can help retain customers while reducing the number of service calls.
Artificial intelligence can help technicians do a better job in the field. For instance, route management software helps optimize routes that can help increase dispatch efficiency and keep track of field technicians. This technology can be used to scan work orders and recommend the best technician for the job, allowing business owners to do more with limited staff and complete projects efficiently. AI can also be used in conjunction with the IoT by indexing scanned error codes and investigating outcomes for technicians. It can also suggest the best content to help technicians make repairs and recommend parts and tools necessary for the project.
Examples of Automation in Skilled Trades
People may be unaware, but skilled trade jobs are already using automation to help streamline their environment. Some examples of automation use include:
- Robotics: Many businesses are using collaborative robots to help relieve the human operator. These robots can help lift heavy machinery or execute tasks that are too hard for human workers.
- Task management software: Software can help trade workers automate recurring tasks, like scheduling, email, and answering basic customer questions. Employees and managers have more free time to focus on other aspects of the business.
- Inventory management: Inventory management software can help businesses offer better products and services by providing visibility as to what is available in their inventory at all times. It can also help them become more efficient by notifying them when a product is about to run out.
These automation examples show that skilled trade workers can offer more benefits to their customers and streamline their field of work with different technologies.
Benefits of Technology in Skilled Trades
Technology in the skilled trades can help improve communication, increase organization, and create flexible work schedules. Automation can help tradespeople communicate with their managers and customers quickly and more efficiently. This tech can also send reminders to ensure that jobs are completed thoroughly. All these benefits can lead to greater business growth — something that all small business owners are looking for.
Organizations can benefit from streamlined communication when they implement certain software. Communication with customers is crucial for a business. Research from the PWC shows that the customer experience is a top priority:
- Speed, convenience, and helpful employees matter most to customers;
- 82% of customers want better interactions;
- 63% of consumers say they would share more information with a company that offers a great experience.
To give a better experience, companies must invest in technology that allows them to communicate with customers better. For example, cleaning service software can help cleaning businesses send an appointment confirmation text to customers, easily manage scheduling and dispatching, and reschedule jobs. Additionally, crews can add services while keeping in touch with back-end operations.
More Efficient Work
Automation can help create more efficient work for businesses. Scheduling software can help match workers to a task, ensuring that the most skilled worker is on the job. Additionally, task management software can help technicians get jobs completed on time and delegate tasks if workers are becoming overwhelmed. Automation can also help:
- Free up time and attention;
- Predict and execute common activities;
- Reduce the risk of important tasks falling through the cracks;
- Reduce worker stress.
There are many tasks that automation can help take over on the back-end of services as well. Backing up data, for instance, is a commonly forgotten task. Also, sending reminders for events and meetings can be automated, as can social media posts for business exposure.
Increases Business Growth
Automation can also help grow your business. By helping relieve the stress of recurring tasks, you can focus on other aspects of your business that need support. Other benefits of automation for business growth include:
- Lower operating costs;
- Improved worker safety;
- Reduced factory lead times;
- Improved process control;
- Faster return on investment;
- Better competitive advantage;
- Increased production output.
Automation can also help you analyze data and reports to understand which aspects of your business need more attention.
The marriage of skilled trade jobs and automation is not one to fear. Rather, tradespeople should embrace technology as a way to improve their services — not to mention, trade skills will always need a human touch to perform optimally.