Nadja Kirchhof


Level of digitization in the skilled trades: Businesses for commercial needs at the top

  • SME "Digitization Index for SMEs 2020/2021" - skilled trades remain at previous year's level
  • Productivity is the focus of digital measures
  • Majority stick to planned IT investments

With a score of 57 out of a possible 100 points, the level of digitization among German craft enterprises remains at the previous year's level. This is the result of the benchmark study "Digitalization Index for SMEs 2020/2021". It is based on a survey conducted by techconsult for the fifth time on behalf of Deutsche Telekom. The current value does not document a standstill, because the use of digital tools varies depending on the trade. The trades for commercial needs are the most digitized. These include metalworkers, precision mechanics and electrical machine builders. These companies achieve an index value of 63 points - one point more than in 2019. Craft businesses for private purposes such as hairdressers, tailors or textile cleaners remain at 53 points. 

Advantage for the top digitizers

In 2020, craft businesses paid particular attention to the productivity of their companies. The study results show that investing in digital technologies pays off: the top digitizers generate better results and came through the crisis more easily than businesses that were still at a lower digital level.

"By investing in digital production processes, the skilled trades remain competitive and fit for the future," says Thomas Spreitzer, responsible for Small and Medium Enterprise Sales, Partner Sales and Marketing at Telekom Deutschland. "We are also currently seeing businesses for private use, such as hairdressers, now taking off digitally: in view of the current challenges, almost half have expanded their business digitally." Eighty-three percent of digital leaders in the trades confirmed that they had responded quickly and flexibly to the Corona pandemic. Looking at the industry as a whole, only 37 percent drew this conclusion.

More digitization thanks to industry-specific applications

Above all, craft businesses for commercial needs rely on digital technologies. 28 percent of companies avoid downtime by using digital tools for remote monitoring. One in five craft companies already uses 3D printing processes. Robotic process automation (RPA) is boosting productivity and cutting costs at nearly one-third of businesses. Around 40 percent of tradespeople for private use offer their customers the service of booking appointments online.

Varying impact due to Corona

The impact of the Corona pandemic on the skilled trades varies. In particular, craft businesses for private needs such as hairdressers or beauty salons had to close their business during the lockdowns. In order to remain viable, 49 percent of businesses across all trades adapted their business models, products and services at short notice. 

Majority want to invest further in digitization

In order to initiate and implement projects more quickly, 23 percent of businesses want to increase their IT investments in the coming year - by an average of 21 percent. Home office offerings also play a role here. With the onset of the pandemic, 55 percent of the companies surveyed shifted individual activities to the home office. Previously, this figure was only 16 percent. Overall, more than half of the companies are sticking to their budget plans for digitization measures. One-fifth of the companies have been forced to cut their IT budgets as a result of the Corona crisis - by an average of 27 percent.

Free self-check

For the study, analysts from techconsult surveyed more than 2,000 small and medium-sized enterprises. The overall study and the individual reports on sectors are available free of charge here: Companies can also check their digital status quo themselves. The check is also free, goes online and takes just a few minutes. It also enables a convenient comparison with other companies.

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