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The Future of Trades: How Technology is Changing the Industry

Rhino Trade Insurance 12 October 2023

Traditionally, the trade industry has been characterised by hard graft, hand tools, and time-honoured techniques passed down through generations. However, in recent years, technology has infiltrated the industry, bringing about significant changes that promise to redefine the future of trade work in the UK.

Today, we wanted to see the exciting ways in which technology is reshaping the trade industry in the UK. Whether you're an expert in your craft looking to adapt to these changes or someone considering a career in the trades, this article will provide valuable insights into how technology is transforming the landscape.

The Rise of Digital Tools and Equipment

One of the most noticeable changes in the trade industry is the transition from traditional tools to digital counterparts. From power tools with digital displays to smart measuring devices, tradespeople are embracing technology for improved precision and efficiency.

  • Digital Power Tools: 

Power tools with digital interfaces are becoming increasingly popular. These tools offer features like adjustable settings, safety controls, and even Bluetooth connectivity for data sharing. For example, a carpenter can use a digital angle grinder with adjustable speed and precision settings, reducing the margin for error and improving the quality of work.

  • Smart Measuring Devices: 

Inaccurate measurements can lead to costly mistakes in building and other trades. Fortunately, smart measuring devices, such as laser distance measures and digital levels, have revolutionised the way tradespeople take measurements. These devices provide instant and highly accurate readings, reducing the need for manual calculations and minimising errors.

3D Printing and Custom Fabrication

Traditionally, creating custom parts or components for a project could be time-consuming and expensive. However, with the inception of 3D printing technology, tradespeople in the UK are now able to design and fabricate custom parts with ease.

  • Prototyping and Design: 

3D printing allows tradespeople to quickly prototype and test their designs. Whether it's creating a custom bracket for plumbing or a unique building detail, 3D printing accelerates the design process and ensures a perfect fit.

  • Reduced Waste: 

3D printing also contributes to sustainability in the trade industry by reducing material waste. With traditional manufacturing methods, excess materials are often discarded, whereas 3D printing uses only the necessary amount of material.

Automation and Robotics

Automation and robotics have become integral parts of the trade industry, streamlining repetitive tasks and enhancing overall productivity.

  • Automated Bricklaying: 

It may come as a surprise, but bricklaying has seen significant innovation with the introduction of automated bricklaying machines. In fact, the first UK home has been built with a fully automated machine. These machines can lay bricks quickly and accurately, reducing labour costs and project timelines.

  • Drones for Inspection: 

Drones equipped with cameras and sensors are used for inspecting hard-to-reach areas, such as roofs and building exteriors. They provide detailed visual data, aiding tradespeople in assessing the condition of structures and planning maintenance or repairs more effectively.

Internet of Things and Smart Buildings

The Internet of Things (IoT) has slowly entered the trade industry, leading to the creation of smart buildings and homes.

  • Connected Systems: 

Tradespeople can now install and maintain smart systems that control heating, lighting, security, and more. These systems are interconnected and can be controlled remotely, offering homeowners convenience and energy savings.

  • Data-Driven Maintenance: 

IoT devices in buildings collect data on various systems, helping tradespeople identify potential issues before they become major problems. This proactive approach to maintenance not only saves time and money but also enhances safety and comfort for their customers.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

AR and VR technologies are changing how tradespeople are trained and how they approach their work.

  • Training and Skill Development: 

AR and VR are used to create immersive training simulations for tradespeople. This allows them to practise their skills in a virtual environment, reducing the risk of accidents and improving the learning process. Of course, learning on the job is paramount, however, this new way of learning is definitely something to keep an eye on!

  • Enhanced Visualisation: 

Tradespeople can use AR glasses or VR headsets to visualise complex projects or make it easier for customers to see how a project will come to life. This technology provides a 3D view of the project, making it easier to plan and execute tasks with precision.

Digital Project Management

Project management in the trades industry has evolved with the introduction of digital tools and software.

  • Project Planning and Scheduling: 

Software solutions like project management apps, invoicing apps and scheduling tools allow tradespeople to efficiently plan their projects, allocate resources, and track progress in real time.

  • Client Communication: 

Digital tools also improve communication with clients by providing them with project updates, timelines, and cost breakdowns. This transparency fosters trust and ensures that clients are well-informed throughout the project.

Environmental Sustainability

Sustainability is a growing concern in the UK, and the trade industry is responding by adopting eco-friendly practices and technologies.

  • Renewable Energy Installation: 

Tradespeople are increasingly involved in the installation of renewable energy systems, such as heat pumps, solar panels, and wind turbines. These technologies not only reduce energy costs for homeowners but also contribute to a greener future.

  • Green Building Materials: 

The use of sustainable and recyclable building materials is on the rise. Tradespeople are incorporating these materials into their projects to reduce the environmental impact of building and renovation.

The Challenges and Adaptations Being Made

While technology offers numerous benefits to the trade industry, it also presents challenges. Some tradespeople may resist adopting new technologies due to concerns about cost, training, and job security. However, adapting to technological advancements is essential for staying competitive in the evolving landscape of the trade industry.

  • Training and Education: 

To embrace new technologies, tradespeople may need additional training and education. Training colleges and apprenticeships should incorporate technology-related coursework to prepare the workforce for the future.

  • Affordability: 

Some digital tools and technologies can be expensive, which may deter smaller businesses or independent tradespeople from adopting them. Government incentives and industry partnerships can help make technology more accessible.

  • Job Security: 

There is a fear among some tradespeople that automation and robotics could replace human workers. It’s unlikely, especially when it comes to bespoke work. Technology should be viewed as a tool that enhances the capabilities of tradespeople rather than a threat to their livelihoods.

Stay Ahead of The Curve and Get The Right Cover

The future of trade in the UK is undeniably intertwined with technology. From digital tools and automation to the Internet of Things and sustainability, technology is shaping the industry in innovative ways. While challenges exist, the benefits of embracing technology far outweigh the cons.

Tradespeople in the UK have the opportunity to become pioneers in this tech-driven evolution no matter if you are a plumber, electrician, carpenter or whatever else. By staying informed, investing in training, and remaining open to new possibilities, they can not only thrive in the changing landscape but also contribute to the advancement of the trade industry as a whole.

For all your trade insurance needs, let Rhino Trade Insurance take care of your protection. From Public Liability Insurance to Employers' Liability Insurance, we have every type of cover you need at a fair and reasonable price. Get a quote today on our easy-to-use website or call our UK team on 0116 243 7904. 

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