Trades turn to digital tools as workloads keep rising

UK trades firms are investing more in technology to stay on top of costs and manage the increase in demand they predict going into 2022, according to a study by field service software provider BigChange and independent research consultancy Opinium.

The study shows that 85% of firms expect to be busier over the next 12 months, and nearly one-in-five (17%) anticipate that workloads will at least double.

Expectations of growth are highest among building maintenance, facilities management, cleaning and waste management firms. At least 88% of business leaders surveyed from these sectors said they expected workloads to increase going into 2022.

But growing demand doesn’t mean plain sailing in the year ahead. 73% of respondents said increasing costs for materials and fuel would reduce their profitability in 2022, and 69% said that the higher price of labour would negatively impact their finances.

Almost all (94%) of the firms surveyed expected to increase technology spending in 2022 to help manage extra demand and rising costs. A quarter (23%) say they will spend at least 50% more on digital tools than in the last 12 months.

The median – or middle of the pack – firm expects to increase technology spending by 11% in the next 12 months. Median firms plan to employ 7% more people and increase broader investment in their business by 10% over the same period.

82% of leaders told researchers that good practice in their sector now involved using digital systems to manage their businesses. More than half (54%) said that operations should be automated and optimised within a single system.

Richard Warley, BigChange CEO, comments: “Demand for trades and other services delivered by field-based employees is booming. This is clearly good news for the sector.

“However, it also brings significant challenges. With costs spiralling, firms can’t afford to take on and train a proportionate number of new employees.

“Our study suggests that almost all trades businesses are now looking to use technologies proven to make the best use of resources and time. Firms are working smarter as well as harder.”

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