What will the industry look like in 2027? Will we still have large contracts? Or will there be a mass unbundling of services?
Will I even have a business in 2027?!
What Uber and Airbnb have done to disrupt and radically change the taxi and hotel industries is sending a clear sign that technology is changing the way customers buy and suppliers deliver.
So what does it all mean for physical works contractors, engineers and asset owners who manage or deliver contracts for major public assets like roads, water, facilities and open spaces?
Here are my top 8 predictions for how our world will change by 2027:
- The end of reactive maintenance (and customer complaints?) From the door hinge at the library through to the length of grass at the park, remote sensors will deliver continuous real-time asset condition and performance data. This will be crunched using AI to predict when an asset is about to fail so that a request for service is issued before a customer complains.
- End of the multiple asset owner. The platforms and integration of asset data across multiple asset types could mean a truly integrated delivery of services that it could be feasible that facilities, water, roading and open spaces asset owners could all be integrated into one asset owner and management function. Thus reducing the need for multiple government operational departments and contract delivery options.
- Unbundling of big contracts (Maybe the end of the big contractor). Future IT and Artificial Intelligence platforms, coupled with sensors on everything, will be able to manage asset data and coordinate work planning at a micro level. This will give asset owners real-time optimised data down to a micro level in which they will be able to predict and issue work orders for the smallest of faults. Coupled with the flexibility to create an Uber-type queuing system for jobs, means that even small tasks could get issued directly to pre-approved local suppliers for quoting. There may no longer be a need for contractors with large internal workforces who currently perform these types of jobs as part of major contracts.
- Driverless autonomous maintenance. Assets maintenance shifts towards being completely autonomous and remote, without the need for operators or supervision. Plant will locate to various sites around the network and be in operation 24/7. It is not hard to imagine solar-powered remote mowers maintaining parks or pipe root-cutting robots working day and night.
- The future maintenance worker will be more of a generalist. We are likely to move towards 3D printing of replacement parts on-board an autonomous vehicle en route to a site. Diagnosis will be automated. This means that the technician of the future will be a generalist who effectively swaps different assets or replacement parts in and out.
- You won’t need as much plant, assets, spare parts or personnel. With plant being solar powered and working autonomously, there will be no need for large pools of operatives, plant, corporate offices and yards. The real-time collection of asset condition and performance data will also mean that the traditional contract and asset management staff roles will no longer exist.
- There will always be a need for that personal touch. I believe customers will still want that human touch to deal with issues and for site liaison. Maybe I am being naive but the concept of automated machine-based empathy doesn’t work for me yet.
- Price, margin and budgets. In theory, a net reduction in plant, labour and hard infrastructure should mean a reduction in those costs. However, this may be offset with an increase in technology-based costs to support the new normal. I suppose the question for suppliers is not one of profit or revenue but more fundamental: how do I change the way I do business to prepare for the future?
At Height we help our clients prepare for the future by understanding trends in their industries and markets and helping them develop innovation strategies. Please get in touch to discuss how we can help your business.
Warner Cowin, Height CEO