Prepare for the next industrial revolution – with the help of flexible finance

author image Ultimate 10 January 2017

What has UK business got to look forward to in 2017?  Most of the focus seems to be on situations being created by politicians.  What can we expect once the Brexit negotiations get underway and how will things change once Donald Trump is inaugurated later this month?  However, it’s the techies we need to watch out for.  In the next few years we’ll see a number of innovations that will totally change the way we work.  This has profound implications for industry as a whole, but will be especially destabilising for the transport, recruitment and manufacturing sectors.  How can you prepare?  You’ll need to be nimble.  And that means having access to flexible forms of finance.

Hands free driving

There is a tendency to treat the idea of driverless cars as science fiction and fondly look forward to driving without the responsibility of driving.  We’re rapidly approaching a point, however, where this will become science fact.  What’s more, the consequences will not be entirely welcome for all of us. 

There are indications that this technology will become mainstream much faster than people previously expected.  Three months ago Uber started offering rides in self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, a notoriously demanding urban environment.  For the time being there’s a “driver” sitting up front, but there’s an obvious intention to dispense with them soon.   In the same week the US government issued new federal guidelines that are clearly designed to speed up the development of self-driving cars. In May 2016, BMW announced that they would have a self-driving car on the market within 5 years.  Ford has also just announced plans to provide fully autonomous self-driving vehicles by 2021. The company is doubling its development staff in Silicon Valley and aims to have the largest fleet of self-driving car prototypes by the end of this year and will triple the size of this fleet again next year.

Keep on trucking - not

This innovation alone will have massive consequences.  There are 400,000 HGV drivers in the UK, at least a quarter of Britain’s 2.5 million van drivers are couriers, and that there are 297,000 licensed taxi drivers.  That adds up to 1.3 million people, or around 5% of the working population, who will potentially be out of work.

Another aspect of this is the likelihood that people won’t own a car (or two) but will just call one up when they need it from a fleet provided by a company such as Uber, Lyft or Ford.  So what?  But consider this - the average vehicle is used only 4% of the time and parked the other 96%.  This means our streets are lined with cars and huge areas of land are devoted to car parks.  If we were to keep most of our cars in almost constant use the total numbers would be massively reduced and our cities would be transformed.  Maybe retailers would return to the High Street if it was easier for customers to get there without paring worries?

iRobot, you unemployed

New technology will not only put professional drivers out of work.  Oxford researchers Carl Frey and Michael Osborne stated in 2013 that 47% of jobs in the US are susceptible to automation.  Subsequent studies put the equivalent figure at 35% of the workforce for Britain (where more people work in creative fields less susceptible to automation). 

This is not the first time that machines have taken our jobs – it happened in the industrial revolution.  The present upheaval, however, it’s likely to be different.  The change will be far more rapid.  And whereas in the previous revolution workers could move to routine jobs in other sectors where automation was not an issue, this will no longer be an option – almost all repetitive tasks, from caring for the elderly to serving in restaurants, accounting and book keeping to working in a shop or warehouse, will be done by machines that utilise E-discovery software.

Be prepared

How will all this affect the UK’s SMEs and what can you do about it? 

The nature of the recruitment industry is certainly going to change if the number of vacancies declines by 35% - agencies will have to evolve rapidly if they are to survive.  If you are in this sector and want to become more competitive now would be a good time to talk to us about our recruitment finance products, affordable automated timesheet solutions and outsourced payroll services.  

If you are in transport, logistics, agriculture, construction or manufacturing you don’t want to be stuck with obsolete vehicles, plant or machinery.  Instead of buying these items outright you should look at our asset finance options – these give you the freedom to upgrade as and when you need to.

No matter what kind of sector you operate in you have to prepare for rapid change and remain nimble.  That means it will be essential to maintain a healthy and steady cashflow.  Our various invoice finance facilities, including factoring and invoice discounting, will help you achieve this, along with our specialist construction finance solution for subcontractors in the building trades.

No matter how well prepared you are there will be instances where you need extra cash in a hurry.  Ultimate Business Cash, which provides online business loans without the need for tedious paperwork and meetings, is the answer at times like this.  Finally, we have Ultimate Trade Finance for when you need to place large orders with suppliers in the UK or overseas.

So, no matter what 2017 and beyond brings we have the financial services you need to succeed!

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