As I travel this year, I have found almost all contractors are focused on their local markets and near-term business outlooks. But the more I travel, the more I also notice the outside world impacting contractors in our space.
World politics, steel tariffs, technological advancements, and increased competition are all outside our control, but they impact us in different ways in different markets. For some SMACNA members, these changes can alter strategic directions and long-term outlooks. Sometimes the impact is indirect, involving our customers’ customers, by forcing them to ask questions like, “Do I build or retrofit that building?” or “Do I sell or acquire that data center?” And sometimes the impact is more direct, raising tough questions for members like, “Do I buy that laser cutter or keep pace with my existing equipment?” or “Do I expand my services, or keep the same line of service offerings?” Or in more extreme cases, “Do I buy out my competitor, or get out of the business now?”
The world around us is shaping our outlook, whether we realize it or not. Booked work sometimes causes us to lose track of the bigger picture and trends that will impact us down the road. The ability to understand and identify the trends — and keep an eye on the ones that can change our industry — is often left to industry analysts, but SMACNA National is making it easier to stay informed of emerging trends through their recent launch of Executive News Brief.
Where else can you go to get handpicked articles by the executive staff at SMACNA? Each day, SMACNA and their vendor sort through thousands of articles to select the ones that are most relevant and important for us to read, and these highlights are delivered right to members’ inboxes.
What I have learned from talking to my suppliers, reading Executive News Brief, and visiting members is that the technology and manufacturing industries are using IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) to create the industrial revolution 4.0. This new era combines the physical, digital, and biological worlds to create more intelligent, efficient, and effective processes with powerful software and more reliable machines.
It will be exciting to see what comes to market. I, for one, can see prefabrication combining with IIoT to create shorter production times with less materials. In reality, IIoT is already here. Today, we have several industry advancements including BIM, tracking and monitoring tools, weighing materials, and pre-maintenance sensors.
Companies are even combining the physical, digital, and biological worlds to create more effective and efficient co-bots. While we don’t know what technologies or products will prevail, I do know that keeping an eye on innovation and being an early adopter/tester of technology will keep us all ahead of the competition.
Nathan L. Dills