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Leaping into a Digital Future

A business owner from Esslingen shows how digital transformation can be made to work in manual trades

Craftsmen involved in the manual trades will have to fast-track digital transformation in the coming years – something the chambers of craft industries in the state are convinced about. How this can actually work in practice, is something the hair salon owner Peter Gress proved convincingly at the award ceremony for the Seifriz Award. This award honors successful collaboration between companies involved in the manual trades and academics or scientists, rewarding them for coming up with innovative solutions and developing solutions until they are ready for the market. Steinbeis bestows the award with the Baden-Wuerttemberg Crafts Congress and other partners.

Peter Gress has looked intensively into digital technology in recent months. “When you’re striving for excellence, it’s important to merge manual skills at the right time with cutting-edge technology,” says the owner-manager of the hairdressers Gress Friseure in Esslingen. He believes this is essential for craftsmen in order to safeguard their jobs in the future and offer exciting work with attractive opportunities. “Digital transformation is a huge door to opportunity for the manual trades. The focus has to shift more and more to add-on benefits and added value – for everyone involved.”

As part of its carefully thought-through digital strategy, the Esslingen firm shows how to implement and make the best use of renewal in the manual trades. It is even doing this with an unconventional and innovative application based on augmented reality. Clients who received the latest customer magazine were given the opportunity to try out this stateof- the-art digital development for themselves. On one page there are a variety of images of employees, which were taken with augmented reality software. The first thing Gress’s clients have to do is download an app to their smartphone. They then scan the page showing his employees, hold the smartphone over an individual image, and wait for the surprise.

The term augmented reality (AR) is used to refer to technology that takes something real and adds something to it. What Gress’s clients suddenly see is augmented, giving them computer-aided information delivered in a video or as audio. Until now, other types of technology based on virtual reality could only be used or perceived with special data glasses. With AR, all that’s needed for it to work is a smartphone. The object that is scanned with the app provides the extra information. Museums all around the world are using this technique to provide extra information on paintings, photos, and sculptures. You can even scan buildings, which suddenly reveal their secrets in a video or audio file. And what does this have to do with hairdressing? “AR offers us an opportunity to really add value for our customers. Whether it’s additional information on products, a tutorial, things worth knowing about promotions or events – we exploit the new possibilities offered by digital technology and use this to keep people up to date,” explains Gress.

In this case, the idea of getting into augmented reality did not actually come from the businessman himself, but from one of his clients. Gress: “This proves once again that amazing things can happen when people communicate with one another and exchange ideas. And now we’re taking off together – into the future.” Gress Hairdressers is a pioneer in the implementation of digital solutions in the salon sector. Its main emphasis always lies in adding value for the customer. Gress strongly believes that as an industry based on service delivery, hairdressers will have to jump on the train as quickly as possible: “The era of information paves the way for completely new things – just as much for companies as their business partners and their customers.”

Indeed, 83% of Germans search for things and look for information online. Whether it’s opening hours, contact details, instructions on going places, or arranging an appointment – as markets merge and technical changes sweep through everyday life, digital solutions are opening the door to new opportunities – for the manual trades, the economy in general, and society. Gress: “There are lots of step-ups in technology and these release major creative energy with the potential to add value. What this means for businesses is that they not only have to react to change, they also have to actively shape it.”