How digital transformation can benefit the plumbing industry  

December 10, 2019

To be by-lined to Colin Yates, chief support officer at WorkMobile, an award-winning mobile data capture solution

Technological advances, such as cloud computing, 5G and improved mobile technology, are facilitating smarter, faster and more environmentally-friendly ways of working for businesses across virtually every sector.

However, despite the numerous benefits of digital transformation, the plumbing and heating industry lags behind in this regard. Indeed, our recent research revealed that more than two-thirds (67%) of those working in the trade and utilities sector still rely heavily upon paper for a variety of day-to-day business processes, such as sending mail and filling in forms. 

There are likely to be a number of reasons why plumbers haven’t begun to make the transition to digital just yet, which will vary widely throughout the profession. However, among the most common reasons tends to be the belief that the ROI of going paperless is relatively minimal – a perception which becomes increasingly less true. 

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the most significant ways in which digital transformation and paperless working can benefit the plumbing industry. 

Reduced costs 

Cutting costs and making more efficient use of available funds are naturally front of mind for businesses across all sectors, so paperless working’s capacity to save on day-to-day expenditure is a compelling reason to consider making the switch to digital. 

While paper may not seem like a major cost, the price may be far higher than you might think. Indeed, one study found that printing and storing paper documents could cost a small business nearly £15,000 a year, significantly increasing its working capital – a cost that  grows for larger businesses. 

It’s also worth noting that paperless processes can have a positive impact on cash-flow. Among the biggest influences on cash-flow is invoicing – prompt payment for jobs means that money can be quickly re-invested into the business, whereas late payments can leave a business struggling to pay its overheads and, in extreme cases, ceasing to trade. How digital transformation can benefit the plumbing industry  

Digital invoicing – as opposed to sending them by post – can save businesses time, money and manpower, allowing invoices to be generated almost instantly upon the successful completion of a job. Invoices can then be sent straight to the customer, either on-site or from the office, encouraging prompt payment and improving cash-flow. The saving on postage and paper speaks for itself. 

A more secure way of working

Among the biggest risks of relying on paper is that it can be damaged or lost all-too-easily – particularly for those who work from a range of locations, such as tradesmen – meaning that crucial documents may be lost. 

This in turn could mean potentially-vital information being compromised – which requires time and money to replace – as many forms will contain vital customer information that could land plumbers in hot water from a data protection perspective if they fall into the wrong hands. Furthermore, this negligence could potentially lead to customers complaining that the plumber or engineer in question has contravened the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering's code of professional standards.

However, digital tools can provide a solution to this issue by making it possible to replicate forms and reports digitally, meaning that paperwork can be completed in real-time, via an app on a mobile device. This information can then be stored automatically on a central cloud-based platform, making it far less likely for sensitive information to be lost, damaged or otherwise compromised. 

Greater efficiency and productivity 

Ditching paper and working towards a digital working environment is a fantastic way to drive efficiency, boost productivity and free up time.

Paper-based systems can be cumbersome for plumbers, who must often transport appropriate documentation between jobs, making sure they have the right documents to hand before they set off. If any of this paperwork – such as the correct job sheets, customer contact details and job history - is forgotten, valuable time is lost as the plumber must travel back to base to retrieve it. 

However, if these documents are completed digitally and saved to the cloud, workers can transport all of the documentation they need on easily-portable digital devices, such as a tablet or mobile phone, meaning that plumbers and engineers can access this information anywhere, at any time. 

Overall, digitalisation continues to revolutionise the way workers across virtually every sector perform their role and shows no signs of slowing down – particularly considering the enterprise potential of emerging technologies such as 5G. Given this, as well as the clear benefits digitalisation and paperless working can offer, those across the plumbing and heating industry looking to grow and future-proof their business would be wise to consider beginning the digital transformation process now, in order to avoid being left behind. 

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