IAN Barnes, head of business at SITECH UK and Ireland, fell into the plant industry through his self-proclaimed product geekiness and detail.
Starting as a product specialist at JCB and progressing through various roles expanded his appreciation of construction machines and plant equipment through the product lifecycle. His current role is at the forefront of the digitalisation of the construction industry.
Ian recently answered Project Plant’s questions about the changing plant industry, the significant role of digitalisation and how his sporting prowess is putting us all to shame.
Q) WHAT’S YOUR BACKGROUND? HOW DID YOU BREAK INTO THE PLANT INDUSTRY?
A) After university, where I specialised in marketing management, I started my career in a digital IT trading team. I began my plant industry journey as a JCB compact products – product specialist, over time I became world parts wear categories product manager and then global sales manager.
I moved to SITECH in 2019, to step in as head of business, which is where I am today.
Q) WHAT’S THE HISTORY OF SITECH? WHAT SERVICES DOES THE BUSINESS PROVIDE TO THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY?
A) SITECH UK and Ireland specialises in Trimble machine control technology, site positioning solutions (SPS) and software.
We integrate the entire work site from full field to finish by offering professional services such as training, site set-up, data modelling and warranty and support packages. We help customers during their digitalisation journeys, throughout the product lifecycle.
Q) WHAT DO YOU HAVE BY WAY OF PREMISES/EMPLOYEES?
A) Our head office in Norton Canes is currently undergoing a half a million-pound investment. We aim to make it a destination point for construction technology with training facilities, live data feeds, product demonstration and simulators.
We also have offices in Glasgow and Dublin to reach the growing markets in Ireland and Scotland. Currently, we have 42 full-time employees, four of which are based in Scotland. We are excited to be adding a significant number of talented new starters across the business this coming year.
Q) ARE MOST COMPANIES NOW COMFORTABLE IN EMBRACING THE SORT OF TECHNOLOGY YOU OFFER?
A) It is definitely changing, 100%. Some people understandably show resistance towards change, but we believe that technology is a skill enabler, not a replacement of a talented human workforce.
The current social and economic challenges mean that companies must look at their spending versus return. Technology streamlines processes and maximises return on investment, but some customers are still apathetic towards embracing our technology.
We have found that our priority customers are those who need to be convinced with more than word of mouth and case studies. We want to create a large base of advocates, from small scale businesses all the way to large scale project managers, who can speak for the results they have achieved using our products.
Companies who are not investing in technology may not see the savings technology can provide and will be left behind. The industry requires full traceability of building information modelling (BIM) systems to ensure efficiency, so technology will be key to winning bids.
Q) HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO BE CONSTANTLY INNOVATING AND BRINGING NEW SOLUTIONS TO THE MARKET?
A) The pace of the market is leaping forward and demanding more detail than ever before, but SITECH does not believe in innovation for innovation’s sake. Innovation must benefit the customer, their worksite, and their customers too. We need to focus on using technology in innovative ways to make our built environment better, as people push the limits of technology.
Q) WHAT ARE THE LATEST TRENDS YOU’RE NOTICING?
A) The influx of new technology is unifying the construction workspace. This includes 5G enabled Internet of Things (IoT) tech, with faster connection than ever, drones flying above sites instead of stakes or handheld manual devices and instant progress reports enabling people and machines to achieve results right the first time.
There is also a trend towards upskilling the workforce. The construction industry has an ageing, highly skilled operator pool that needs younger people to take the reins. Technology is making the industry more exciting and lessmanual, encouraging younger generations to consider construction.
Q) HOW COMPETITIVE IS THE MARKET IN WHICH YOU OPERATE? HOW DO YOU STAND OUT?
A) We operate in a very competitive market, especially in the service, software and on and off machinery hardware sectors.
We stand out by supporting our customers throughout the product lifecycle using our growing operations and calibrations team. We invest in knowledge and experience to ensure a high standard of service and we provide constant support during purchasing decisions.
Q) WHAT ARE YOUR CAREER HIGHLIGHTS?
A) I have been blessed to work with many great people, organisations and teams.
During my career I have launched many new products, machines and services in the UK and overseas and travelled to more countries than most, which are highlights for me as it’s given me a true appreciation for a wider world and of different customer needs or methods.
I am most proud of the opportunity to lead SITECH through a period of significant change, in technology and in business.
Q) WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
A) You can train for knowledge, but you can’t train for attitude. This one has really stuck with me during my career.
Q) HOW DO YOU RELAX WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING?
A) Sport gives me the ability to both switch off and interact with others. I have loved it since I was a child — growing up I used to swim for the English Schools Swimming Association. I enjoy doing triathlons, swimming and cycling and I have recently qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
Q) FINALLY, WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SITECH’S FUTURE PLANS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH?
A) SITECH’s future plans are exciting. Over the next twelve months we will see our biggest transformation in the past six years, including an updated office, an organisation restructure and new talent joining the business. During the last five years, SITECH has had double digit growth and this will continue, despite the challenging year.