Digitization is one of many resources in the company! And here, development is progressing enormously fast. This applies to technologies that give digitization its functionality: cloud-based software, associated well-made business apps, automatic data collection and analysis, and any form of digital networking. They are certainly already key factors for your entrepreneurial success. However, this also applies to numerous more far-reaching aspects, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, and so on. You should also constantly place these in relation to the requirements of the economic environment of your business and constantly re-evaluate them!
New business areas lie in future technologies!
Technologies essential for an innovative future still have to find their way into many craft businesses. These include tools for service delivery, automation or internal or external networking of the company, for example Building Information Management (BIM). The intensive use of product, customer or environmental data with the help of the Internet of Things (IoT) or artificial intelligence (AI) can also help to increase efficiency or open up further business areas.
But what do such innovative tools for the skilled trades look like? What new, economically and ecologically sustainable expansions of business in the skilled trades will they enable you to make? The answers lie in solutions from the areas of digitization, robotics, virtual reality (VR), and predictive maintenance models based on data analysis, etc. that can be adapted to the specific needs of each business.
Integrate connected devices, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things!
What concrete benefits, for example, can artificial intelligence (AI) applications create in your business? For many, the current focus is on administrative tasks, such as relieving the burden of documentation requirements, automated warehousing and procurement, accounting and scheduling. But AI also enables entirely new products, services and business models. It can optimize and partially automate existing craft processes.
The Internet of Things connects intelligent, learning household appliances, heating systems, roller shutter control, monitoring systems. Adjustments to complex controls for the customer can be made from the office, on the road via smartphone and Internet or software-controlled and automated.
At this point, ask yourself the following questions, among others:
- Where in my company is the use of AI particularly desirable (also from a strategic point of view)?
- Which AI-based solutions are currently available on the market for my industry and my specific requirements?
- How, how well, and under what conditions do they work in the specific use cases of my business?
- Which use case is particularly well suited as "my" first pilot project?
- What hardware and software do I need to have ready for which AI application in the pilot project and in continuous operation?
- How will my workforce react to the new technology?
- How much training effort in terms of time and money is required for start-up and continuous operation?
Make information and knowledge generation a strategy topic!
Digitization generates analyzable data – every day! This business data must be structured and related to each other. If, for example, you store information from purchasing, sales, construction site accounting, payroll accounting and cash register in different systems that cannot "talk" to each other due to a lack of data interfaces, then no targeted and quickly retrievable knowledge about the economic situation of your company can be created.
Modern (cloud-based) ERP systems, into which all your business data flows centrally, enable you to perform business analyses at the push of a button thanks to preconfigured, clearly named queries. This provides you with answers to many – even complex – questions such as: What are our strengths? Or: Do we have the necessary financial and personnel capacities for incoming inquiries?
Use financial and practical digitization support!
As an entrepreneur, take advantage of public funding opportunities for the digital modernization of your business! Funding programs are usually limited in time or only valid until the funds are allocated. Under certain conditions, the combination of several funding offers is possible. In most cases, the funds must be applied for before the start of the project!
The public sector usually uses banks as project sponsors to handle the financial support programs. Applications are submitted either via the company's bank or via an independent business consultant accredited by the funding agency. The consultant then works with the entrepreneur to draw up the application. The chambers of trade also offer funding advice, for example on practical implementation. It is important to have a strategy that shows how digitization will lead the company to success. These services may also be eligible for financial support!
A good first port of call for funding that does not have to be repaid is the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology's funding database at www.foerderdatenbank.de. The employees of the development bank also provide advice. For example, they can answer questions that may arise in the course of applying for funding. The chambers of commerce and skilled trades are also good places to go for free advice. Caution: subsidy consultants and corresponding agencies can also help with the search for and application of subsidies – but usually for a fee, usually in the form of a share of the subsidy pot. These funds are then missing for the implementation of the actual project.
If you want to successfully shape "your" digital transformation, you need a simple, clearly structured and concise plan. This includes the stations, the travel time, alternative or connection options, etc. And it offers you the opportunity to get in where you want to start your journey. This plan should be concretely aligned with the exact requirements of your business.
For each of your planned digitization steps, it is important to clearly identify and name the requirements in terms of customer, work and employee processes as well as the potential impact on the business. Then you can initiate and implement changes in a targeted manner.
The forum “A practical guide to digitisation for craftspeople“ is the crucible of implementation-oriented digitalisation at FENSTERBAU FRONTALE and HOLZ-HANDWERK 2022 in Nuremberg. There, from 12.07.– 15.07.2022, you will find the right path to your own digitalisation for yourself and your company over four days. Information, inspiration and concrete knowledge on this and many other topics will be available live in the form of power interviews and personal exchanges with digitisation experts and fellow craftsmen.