In this Comment piece, Robert Candy, CEO of the Scaffolding Association, talks about digitisation in the scaffolding sector.
Scaffolding, and indeed the whole of construction, has often lagged behind other industries when it comes to searching for digital solutions and implementing new technologies. It’s well known that the scaffolding industry has a worrying reputation for being one of the least digitised sectors with very low levels of IT investment.
The reasons for this are many, and potentially complex, but one reason could be that while lots of industries begin to feel the impact of any economic slump almost instantly, scaffolding seems to suffer less and suffer last. This has been highlighted perfectly in the last year as our sector worked through the pandemic. Even during such a devastating period, with major economic uncertainty for so many, scaffolding companies haven’t been forced to make significant changes to their business practices. It hasn’t been easy, but it hasn’t had to be drastically different for companies to survive – not yet at least.
As 2021 progresses and the economy in general seems set to recover – perhaps, according to some projections, growing at an unprecedented rate – there are potential problems on the horizon for the scaffolding sector. The erratic supply of materials and equipment looks set to continue and the vulnerability of clients who are more financially exposed in an economic downturn will remain a concern.
So perhaps now – with the experience of working through tough trading conditions still fresh in our minds – would be the ideal time for scaffolding companies to plan ahead. A proactive approach to new and emerging technologies could give a business the edge over those sticking with tried and trusted (and outdated) methods.
I’ve said on more than one occasion that investment in training, skills and education is key to the growth of our sector – most business owners will agree with me. Tying this in with the adoption of new technologies seems a logical approach. Most forward-thinking employees will be excited by digital solutions and see them as important both to the business they work for and to their own career development.
Resistance to new systems can be an entrenched position in more traditional minds and this may be due to the perceived teething problems of new technologies. Some hiccups undoubtedly arise with modernisation, but our sector cannot expect to grow and thrive if we do not digitise in the way other traditional industries have.
A company’s first steps towards digitisation may be as simple as collating all business contacts onto a spreadsheet – if this is regularly updated and shared throughout the organisation then client relationships may be smoother and communications should be improved.
The Scaffolding Association has always looked forward and we encourage our member companies to do the same – this is our thinking behind the forging of relationships with technology-led partners. SafetyCulture make digitised site safety checks easier and more efficient with their iAuditor software. Builders Conference analyses the awards of construction contracts, makes company promotion simpler and cuts the time needed to apply for new work opportunities.
The Indigo Group saves companies time, effort and worry by automating payment systems.
However you decide to move your company forward, digitisation offers new and exciting possibilities. Perhaps 2021 is the year to embrace the future.
Robert Candy: Scaffolding Association, Chief Executive
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