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Why self-employed tradesmen should fear the robots

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I came across this blog page largely because I know Chris Peace and I’ve occasionally dipped in and out of it because I find his articles really interesting.  In particular, as someone who writes about tech and robotics from time to time, I was fascinated by the pieces on robot bricklayers and how technology is imposing change on the construction industry.  It didn’t occur to me that this would be the cause of my writing this blog, which Chris has kindly agreed to publish.

Basically, this is a wee rant, or, if you prefer, a wake-up call to all those tradesmen who work for themselves and think that not communicating with potential customers is acceptable.  

I’ve been trying to get a rough-caster to repair/restore the wall outside my house (see picture) for over a year. It's not a huge task, rather one that will take a few days. The first one gave me an estimate, then said that he didn’t do much in the winter because of the weather. Fair enoughski I thought, and we agreed he’d start sometime in the new year. He didn’t. Calls and texts went unanswered, apart from on one occasion when he promised he’d send me a start date by text that weekend. He didn’t.  

I then tried googling “rough-casters near you.”   I got a couple of cowboys who promised a quote, never sent it, but who turned up one morning expecting to start working.  I told them that once I got a quote I would think about it.  Needless to say, the quote never materialised. 

Then I asked a friend who works in construction. He got me a number for a rough-caster, which I called, but again no reply.  By now I was getting rather angry.

The last straw came when a local firm, noting the condition of my wall, speculatively put their card through my letterbox.  “At last!” I thought, “here’s someone who actually wants business.”  Several phone calls later and an equal number of promises of a quote, and nothing has happened. My last call was a rather plaintive cry of "Can you just send me a quote please?" - followed by "I'll get that done today."  Today is obviously a flexible concept as that was over a week ago...

I have no idea if this is common or I’m just unlucky.  What these useless local firms don’t seem to realise is that their inaction, failed promises and lack of customer service mean their jobs will be in danger sooner than they think. The robots can’t come fast enough in my opinion.

George Blair

STOP PRESS - I am waiting on a fourth roughcaster to call back... 

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