How Will Automation Improve Stock Management for Your Fire and Security Business?

Rhys Pattimore
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With a mobile workforce and various stockroom locations to keep tabs on, automation could be the dream solution needed to settle your stock management nightmares...

Have you experienced losses when it comes to your stock? 

Does it take too much time for engineers to pick up the items they need?

Do products disappear into thin air, or seem to multiply for no clear reason? 

It’s safe to say that managing your stock can be a challenge: but whether issues are having an impact on your expenses, customer satisfaction, or the overall efficiency of your business, it’s important to make sure you’re doing everything you can to prevent these downturns from occurring. 

  1. Automation will enhance your mobile workforce
  2. Automated Stock Management will:
    1. Help increase engineer’s productivity
    2. Reduce human error for Stockroom Managers
    3. Provide real-time insight for Operations Management

You’ll likely have some stock solutions in place already, and that’s great! Whether it’s a person (or people) dedicated to overseeing your stock, beautifully organised stockrooms to house your parts, or spreadsheets that help you keep track of each nut and bolt.

Yes: these are all useful solutions, but you need to ask yourself if they’re really giving you the best results for your business. Let's dive in.

1. Automation will enhance your mobile workforce

Your engineers travel all over the place; from domestic calls to industrial sized installations, the places they visit are no doubt as varied as the customers they encounter. Of course, this also means a wide variety of equipment and to succeed, your engineers need to be fully equipped with the right gear, each and every day.

Your process may be to have them turn up early in the morning, sign-in and collect their necessary bits and pieces from the stockroom, filing paperwork as they go. While necessary, it can be tedious, particularly as this process isn’t just for one engineer alone. This increases the odds that paperwork could get complicated, confused, and mistakes made.

After all, we’ve all looked for something that’s meant to be there, only to find out someone already took it without saying so...

You also have to keep in mind that plans change regularly, too. This means different parts could be needed whilst an engineer is out on a job, items need to be returned to the stockroom, returned to suppliers, (or worse) get forgotten in the back of a van, turning it into a mobile stockroom that no one else can track! 

The potential for errors amongst all of this is rife and it’s no longer a matter of if things will get missed, it’s when, which affects profitability, efficiency, and productivity. 

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to get so complicated.

A digital stockroom will let you track your equipment 24/7 and from the moment the information is inputted into your database, you can begin to automatically track and manage it with ease. 

You’ll already be using job management software to manage your team of engineers. This means their profiles, job locations, and job history is readily available for them to see. By combining this with an automated, digital stockroom, you can assign equipment to a specific individual (or they themselves) and more easily track where it is and how it’s being used.

For example, let’s say an engineer is due out to service a set of fire extinguishers at an office. The engineer knows there are 30 extinguishers on-site and 5 are due to be replaced. The rest will need checking over; whether it’s safety pins, tamper seals, or replacement nozzles.

From the biggest items, to the smallest parts, with a digitised database, your engineer can log and check what parts they may need against how many are in stock, all without having to go to the stockroom itself. This can be especially helpful if it turns out the items are scattered across multiple sites: they can check in advance where they are, and arrange to pick them up. On the other hand, if there’s not enough parts, an order can be placed to get more.

With engineers travelling all over the place, they may also find it easier to return stock to a different location as well. With your software, you can define stock locations across your business to list vans, offices, or additional storage rooms and warehouses, as needed.

This level of automation is transformative, affecting not just stock control either, but becoming useful to provide oversight across the business from field to office. It also enhances additional tasks like invoicing i.e. being able to automatically pull details from your system and provide clients with an instantaneous list of the parts used on a job.

This means they can be charged accurately, all in real-time (assuming your software lets you do this too), but is a great example of an automated, integrated solution.

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2. Automated Stock Management will...

a) Help increase engineers productivity

One of the great things with automation is just how much guesswork it takes out of the equation. This makes life incredibly easy for the engineer, who can treat the stockroom like a mobile shopping app. They can:

  • Select the parts they need  (made clear by the details of the jobs they have booked), 
  • Put in a request to notify the stockroom manager to prepare the parts, 
  • Receive automatic notifications and updates when parts are ready. 

The same applies if an engineer needs to return an item: just a few presses on an app will update the entire, interconnected database, so everyone knows where that part is, what’s been done with it, and how many there are now left in stock. 

When returning an item, ideally you would want it back in the stockroom (reducing the odds of it being lost or stolen), but updates like this make everyone aware of it’s known location, even if it’s in transit. 

Learn more: creating an efficient business will help bring new talent to your front door; here's out top tips to optimise hiring the best out there!

b) Reduce human error for Stockroom Managers

Another great feature of an automated database is how it helps you keep control of the levels of stock you have, 24/7. With every single part logged, a stockroom manager will know everything and can easily check what’s coming in, out, due to be returned, and more.

For stockroom managers, these details are massively important as they place cost-effective, timely, and accurate orders with suppliers. An automated solution can be implemented to streamline this process as well, but at the very least, notify them that additional parts need reordering, all thanks to live updates from the engineers who can log when an item has been checked out and used on a job.

Again, rather than having to run through inventory manually, your automated solution can check and notify for you, reducing the hassle of manual inventories and helping to prevent or reduce issues such as:

  • Running out of stock
  • Overstocking
  • Loss or theft of stock
  • Written human error

c) Provide real-time insight for Operations Management

For the operations manager, complete oversight it everything. You’ll already be managing a large team of engineers, and many of them may have a van to store their gear. 

Understanding where your engineers is just one piece of the puzzle that makes up managing your day, knowing where the parts they need are, is another. The more you can do to make your life easier and understand where everything is in real-time, the better placed you will be to execute your role efficiently. 

We mentioned before you’re likely using job management software to do this, so it makes sense to have a solution for your stock that works in tandem with it. This helps you solve problems faster, and prevent issues from developing further.

For instance, let’s say there is a 4 hour job scheduled tomorrow, but the parts that the engineers ordered last week still haven’t arrived at the warehouse. You need to be notified so that there's enough time to contact the customer, reschedule the job, and re-optimise the engineer’s calendar. If updates aren’t provided fast enough, and stock not monitored accurately, this becomes much harder as communication breaks down, and the customer is more likely to have a negative experience. 

If orders are tracked and notifications sent automatically, the room for error diminishes significantly (i.e. people not forgetting parts, going to the wrong warehouse, or simply waiting around), meaning organising the days and weeks gets smoother and work goes ahead as scheduled.

The Takeaway

Automating your stock management is a stepping stone to preventing a whole host of issues that could plague your business; particularly if you’re making an effort to remain competitive, all whilst amplifying the work of you engineers and overall productivity.

It will require an investment of your time to implement but once the initial stock check is taken and inserted into your database, it only gets easier to use from there. 

Of course, it’s important to remember that the system you use will only be as good as the data you’re putting into it. This means making sure that you and everyone tied to stock are updating the system correctly so that you can all utilise the benefits the system brings.

A digital, automated solution—particularly one that is capable of running its own assessments and checks—will enhance the work of everyone connected to it, whether they be in the field, in the stockroom itself, or overseeing from the office.

You already know that any solution worth having is worth investing in; particularly if you desire quality and accuracy, so be sure to bear this in mind when thinking about your solutions, alongside the insight we’ve provided today.

To help get you started on the road to improving your stock management, we’ve prepared some useful spreadsheets that you can download and integrate into your day-to-day. Designed to enhance stockroom workflow and streamline your process; they could be just the ticket whilst you look to implement an automated solution for your stockroom.

stock control spreadsheets, take the first steps toward stock control, free download, image of cardboard boxes on a trolley next to a computer screen with charts on display

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