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More installers interested in AR and VR service support from manufacturers

While the pandemic was an undeniable and majorly disruptive milestone experience in the world of HVAC installers and plumbers, as it was in the entire world, it did not change much to trends in the sector, aside from stealing their attention for a while. Overall trends like the energy transition are causing a constant flow of new and complex systems that need installing by qualified installers. Meanwhile, business is picking up after the corona dip, construction volumes are still growing, and in certain areas, housing shortages will ensure further growth in the future. All this means that installers are in high demand.

At the same time, due to an ageing population, the market is losing experience through retiring installers and is often not gaining enough young installers to fill their shoes, leading to a qualitative and quantitative labour shortage. This presents a clear dilemma: a high and growing demand, and a limited supply of installers, leading to installers’ schedules being overloaded as well as rising labour costs.

 In an earlier article about the results of the Q2 2021 report of USP Marketing Consultancy’s European Mechanical Installation Monitor, we saw that services from manufacturers and wholesalers that help installers deal with their busy schedule and complex installations, essentially services that save time and hassle, are in high demand. As it turns out, there is also a rising interest in services that may provide an answer to the above dilemma in the future, service support through virtual or augmented reality (VR or AR) applications.

 Interest in AR and VR service support has grown, but not in all countries

The above image shows how interest in AR and VR support from manufacturers has grown significantly among installers in the UK, France, Poland, and Belgium. In Germany and the Netherlands, however, interest in AR and VR support has declined over the past two years. That decline is interesting given the fact that in our last measurement of the impact of labour shortage in Q4 2019, quantitative and qualitative labour shortages were especially affecting installation companies in Poland, Germany and the Netherlands.

 Disruptive technology to combat labour shortages

To train a new or less experienced installer to the level that he or she can independently do installations takes time and an experienced installer looking over their shoulder on-site, both of which are in short supply. AR and VR applications can help in several ways. In a more advanced and integrated way, AR applications can even allow one experienced installer to look over the shoulder of several trainees from an off-site location and show, explain and troubleshoot while each of the trainees performs installations on site.

 In a simpler form, manufacturers can help installers by providing AR installation support for their products. This can give installers instant access to virtual schematics placed over the physical system, via an app on a smartphone or tablet, allowing less experienced installers to do more complicated installations independently.

Smart services from manufacturers

The above shows that new technologies can indeed help solve labour shortages. It also shows that the benefits of new technologies like AR and VR support are not necessarily seen by all installers, even in countries where labour shortages are a more pressing matter. The same goes for other technologies, like smart products that allow installers to monitor and troubleshoot systems at a distance.

Manufacturers can play a major role here, or several roles actually. They can develop technologies like AR support or smart products to help installers interested in such support. Simultaneously, and perhaps more importantly, manufacturers can contribute by education the market and communication the benefits of such solutions to the more traditional plumbers and HVAC installers.

Installers’ demand for such services and technologies from manufacturers differs from country to country. For a detailed overview of the demand for services in six European countries, we refer you to the Q2 2021 report of USP Marketing Consultancy’s European Mechanical Installation Monitor