How Technology Is Disrupting The Blue Collar Industry

A study published by Dodge Data & Analytics in 2017 found that an overwhelming 61% of construction projects were behind schedule. Half of these projects were also over-budget as a result. 

For years, blue collar industries, that include the critical construction and manufacturing segments have lagged behind others with respect to technology adoption. Many manufacturing companies still rely on physical registers to track clock-ins and clock-outs.

However, there has been a significant uptick in tech adoption in recent times across industries. A lot of this is propelled by the need to be competitive. This is going to be further accelerated in a post-Covid world that is getting used to remote collaboration and digital acceleration. 

The first sign of this is apparent in the blue collar recruitment process. In the past year, Google launched Kormo, an app targeting the entry-level blue collar hiring market. With successful launches in Bangladesh and Indonesia, the company has recently rolled this application in India as well.

With a rapid proliferation in the use of smartphones, and the predominant mobile-first access to the internet across emerging markets, we will see a slew of such mobile apps targeting the blue collar industry. 

In developed economies too, there has been a surge in the number of ways technology has started to impact the blue collar industry. Many organizations today prefer LMS tools to create online courses for their workers. Sophisticated video training technologies have helped them make a switch from what has traditionally been a see-and-do method of training.

The use of technology has expanded beyond the traditional realms into tracking and monitoring as well. In manufacturing, this essentially translates into the use of SaaS based time tracking and employee monitoring tools. This is especially useful for field workers who do not have a fixed location to clock in and out from. 

In logistics, sophisticated route optimization software now drives the decision making process of freight and transportation companies. This is not to mention the impending use of self-driving trucks that can completely overhaul this industry. 

In warehousing and construction, remote video monitoring services are now used to not only safeguard against theft and pilferage, but also to remotely overlook on-site activities. Such use-cases are only going to increase in a post-Covid world where fewer employees are expected to log in from an office space. Subsequently, white collar jobs in industries like manufacturing and logistics could move online. 

While big data and machine learning are still at their infancy in the blue collar segment, the adoption has been faster than what one may have assumed. A big issue plaguing manufacturing is the astonishing skills gap – there simply aren’t enough workers with the know-how who can take over and scale. 

A number of startups have cropped up in recent times that are working to bridge this gap with the help of AI and big data. By analyzing millions of data points from the past, these tech startups have helped devise personalized training solutions to each worker to help them upskill. The training is delivered through wearable AR/VR devices that can help these workers accelerate their learning. 

A pleasant byproduct of this is the sheer increase in productivity among organizations deploying these technologies. 

Modern day warehouses are equipped with the sensors to track and take educated decisions automatically. Such Internet of Things (IoT) do not merely keep track of inventory and assets, but also automatically process new deliverables. This minimizes the need for human intervention and consequently also brings down human-made errors. 

The next decade will see exciting changes in the blue collar industry. The post pandemic world shall serve as the laboratory to see how technology further disrupts these legacy industries.