The pest management and landscaping industries have embraced technology trends such as GPS and equipment monitoring, email and text communications and back-office software, but there’s one piece where the industry may be behind. “On-site cameras, already widely used for construction, can be very helpful in monitoring landscaping installations — especially large ones,” said Jack Shaw, a consultant, author and speaker, who will deliver the keynote for the Lawn & Landscape Technology Conference. “Remote cameras can also monitor lawns and plants to help determine when maintenance is needed.”
Here are some other developments Shaw sees affecting technology.
Q. What are some trends you see on the horizon when it comes to technology, especially in service-based operations such as landscaping and pest management?
A. Real-time communications among field services, home office and customers/ clients will be a trend. Much of this is facilitated by use of automated emails and texts driven by Internet of Things technology.
Devices installed on or embedded in equipment can continuously monitor whether the equipment needs maintenance or repair. Also, how much the equipment is being used for optimal usage levels will be a trend.
As we move into the gig economy, companies can hire additional staff as needed during heavy seasonal work by verifying certifications and availability through online databases of professionals.
And in many industries, junior technicians are already being trained via AI and augmented reality to maintain and repair equipment.
Q. What is a common mistake you see companies make when using or investing in technology?
A. Firms should be looking for the game changers. Digital transformation isn’t about finding ways to make a 10 percent improvement. If that’s all you’re looking for, that’s all you’ll get — if that. They should be looking for ways to make a 1,000 percent improvement.
Finding a game changer in any industry is a challenge that demands insight, creativity and a willingness to be bold, to keep trying new things and to fail fast. A classic example of a game changer was what happened in the music industry about 20 years ago.
Lots of people were looking at the internet and e-commerce and realizing that these were potentially powerful tools for inventory control and supply chain management. There were initiatives addressed to using these tools to drastically reduce the shipping and inventory carrying costs of moving the physical media of CDs and vinyl records from the music production plants to wholesale distributors to retail stores and into consumers hands.
But, as we now know, Steve Jobs and other technology leaders had a different vision — one that said, “Why do we even need the physical media at all?” And the rest is history. That was a game changer.
Q. If there is one thing you would want people in industry to know about technology, what would it be?
A. That there is no such thing as knowing too much about technology. Firms [of all kinds] should be spending 5-10 percent of their time doing strategic planning. Most of that should be considering how alternative emerging technologies could affect the industry and their business model.
This is absolutely an executive function. It certainly should be headed up by someone reporting directly to the CEO. And for those businesses large enough to have an IT staff, this is not an IT function! IT should be involved, but it should be driven by operational leadership..