Bürgermeister Olaf Scholz beim Info-Rundgang © Handwerkskammer Hamburg

Craft sets course for digital future

SERIES: Digital change - Part 2: Crafts people going digital in hope of saving costs, competing better and boosting images

Digitalisation was high on the agenda at this year’s “Day of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses” held by the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce and Crafts, Department of the Economy and the Verband freier Berufe in mid June. Deputy Vice President of the Chamber of Crafts, Hjalmar Stemmann, said: “We have to take steps towards the digital economy in future. We are already in the middle of it and this development is gaining pace quickly. This applies to all sectors and crafts – from 3D printing, smartphones and tablets for customer service personnel and other fields.”

Entire software solutions for crafts

Bastian Molitor, a heating-construction installer, said he had had great experiences using tablets when visiting customers. Now, he no longer has to bring piles of paper for documenting work with him. In 2007, Molitor, 41, took over Deubner GmbH plumbing and introduced software especially for craft businesses in 2008. In January 2015, he equipped all his staff with tablets. Everything from calculating offers to issuing invoices went smoothly and now the company is going digital. Molitor added: “The new mobile programme will allow us to do our work with the tablet quickly and easily at the customer’s company.

Digital support saves time

Digital support means that no time is wasted. “The installers can really speed up their orders. If an old bathroom has to be replaced, the installer sends a photo to the manufacturer and can then tell the customer which valve and what brand can be delivered, when and the price. As soon as an order has been placed and confirmed by signing the tablet, all the data is sent automatically to a computer, and invoicing and tracking is completed,“ said Molitor. Any sketches made locally can be sent at a click and illegible signatures become a thing of the past.

Saving costs and boosting image

Silke Nevermann, an expert on digital office management in SMEs and owner of Office Concepts consultancy, stressed the competitive advantage of digitalisation, costs and the boost to a company’s image. She pointed out: “Companies that are designed to be viable in future gain bonus points.” That applies to both technological and handicraft companies. “Today’s customers are often ‘spoilt digitally’. They know and expect immediate, local information about repairs, delivery dates and costs without mountains of paper and having to wait long for the next pieces of information.

Production and administration means success

“Good work needs good tools“ is the word among handcrafts. “Firms have to start seeing digital opportunities as valuable tools,” Nevermann stressed. Computer-guided equipment like CAD-mills and 3D printing has already reached handcraft. “Yet the issues have to be broadened. The overall concept is key and not merely a digital component: That means efficient digital production AND efficient customer service and administration are crucial.”

Sources and further information:
Office Concepts – Handwerk Tipps

Further education and events

The Hamburg Chamber of Crafts is backing digitalisation in business with further education offers and a network event called “3D printing and handcrafts” on July 11, 2016 at the HZG Geesthacht, (Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht), Zentrum für Material- und Küstenforschung GmbH, Max-Planck-Straße 1 where everything will revolve around “Laser deposit welding and metal injection melding.” More information can be found on:

Crafts Yard

Hamburg’s senate has approved a multi-storey “crafts yards (Handwerkerhof) in Offkamp near Nedderefeld in Lokstedt. The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg is offering around 70 small and medium-sized handcraft and production companies suitable space at fair rents and is thereby creating criteria for keeping them in the city. The crafts yard is due to open in mid 2018.

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