Why Digital Stock Control for Field Services is so Necessary

Rhys Pattimore
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Note: This article, originally titled 4 Reasons You Don't Want to Carry Stock... And What to Do Instead from Linda Formichelli, has been updated since Commusoft’s Stock Control App launched!

If you’re running your field service business with “traditional” paper-based methods, does that mean you’ve been resisting helpful change and necessary innovation?

It’s true that the decision to invest in a software—particularly for smaller field service businesses who feel they don't need "all the bells and whistles" that come with it—as immediately necessary. "We can do that later," isn't an uncommon thought to have. 

However, with many digital solutions becoming more affordable—and, indeed, more necessary in the current climate—it’s important to take the time to reconsider how software can help you optimise and improve tasks you may have once overlooked.

For yourself, one such task could be stock control and inventory management. Here, we’ll take a look at why digital stock control software is more necessary than ever for your service business

  1. A technical solution for a tricky physical problem
  2. Your engineers aren't stock specialists (nor should they be).
  3. Carrying stock is expensive—at least at first, and definitely, if you do it wrong.
  4. Your vans may turn into mobile (and untraceable) warehouses.

1. A technical solution for a tricky physical problem

Whether it’s email, job scheduling, estimates, or even providing after-sales care, you know these can be improved with technology that helps to take the hassle out of repetitive, time-consuming tasks, making it easy for your teams to organise jobs, assess customer information, and maintain cash flow. But the benefits of a job management software solution don’t stop there.graphic_digital_certificates-01

As a notoriously awkward thing to manage, even at the best of times, stock can end up costing you more than you realise. This is especially true if you're still relying on paper-based processes to track orders and organise your stock. Losses coming out from mismanaged parts can be physical (if an item's misplaced or damaged), financial, and even psychological—don't underestimate the cost of stressed out, or frustrated employees.

If that’s the case, it’s high time to reassess those priorities and figure out what stock management can do to improve your business. Whether it’s helping you save time on repetitive admin by making ordering and reordering easy, or making it easy to track and assign parts used for each and every job (even when they’re on the move), a digital tool to better manage your stock can make a huge difference.

With automated stock control, you can take steps toward delighting your the customers, eliminating human error to increase accuracy, and avoid wasting time so you can make better decisions. Altogether, this help you better cope in a world where physical interactions are made even easier and safer, thanks to user-friendly, intuitive digital tools.

🔎 Learn more: Choosing "Simple" job Management software is More Complex than you Think!

2. Your engineers aren't stock specialists (nor should they be).

graphic_stock_boxes-01

True, your engineers use a lot of stock and parts to do their job, but they aren’t specialists. More often than not, they (and the customer) want to get the jobs some quickly, properly, and with as little fuss as possible.

One thing in particular that can get in the way of this is extra admin, particularly if it’s made more time-consuming and confusing because of hand-written lists only they can make sense of…

Imagine the scenario: One of your field service engineers is rooting around the stockroom for an evaporator coil. He finds it and is about to head off to install the part for a customer. Which of the following do you predict will happen next?

        • (A) Before leaving, your engineer will carefully scan the evaporator coil’s code into your costly, complicated stock tracking system to make sure it’s accounted for and can be restocked later.
        • (B) Your engineer scribbles the part information onto a corner of his job sheet, where it languishes forever.
        • (C) Your engineer takes the part and heads to the job without recording the stock he’s taken.

As much as I’d like to assume you answered (A), it’s more likely that (B) or (C) are the reality you have to deal with, which means you’re familiar with the difficulty of keeping accurate tabs on your stock.

What these answers demonstrate, however, are other roadblock that many field service businesses face when attempting to carry stock. Unless you want to be breathing down your engineers' necks at all times (and they certainly won't want you to), or spend a lot of time and money on training, your engineers are often too focused on serving customers and getting the jobs done to worry about the minutiae of stock control.

Even larger businesses have trouble training their engineers to consistently track the parts they remove from the stockroom, and they end up with an expensive mess on their hands. The best solution, which some large companies do, is to hire and train employees who are dedicated strictly to handling stock.

Do you have the time or resources for that? Even if you do, enabling your engineers and staff to do more themselves, thanks to software, is undoubtedly the superior solution.

3. Carrying stock is expensive—at least at first, and definitely, if you do it wrong.

Let's come right out and say it: Stock control is no fun, and it can cost your company more money than it saves. This is becoming increasingly necessary for businesses who rely on quick turnover and have engineers and technicians running between all sorts of jobs on the daily, making obtaining new stock and keeping track of it a challenge, even for the most organised of you.

Ready to implement stock control?

While Commusoft has released our latest Stock Control app, it can help to revisit some of the reason why you don’t want to be relying on physical stock management, not when the digital tool that so many engineers already use everyday can be enhanced to help them with additional tasks, too.

With a mobile app that lets them see not only the job history and client information relating to their job, but the stock, parts, and even make requests, all in the palm of their hand, what could be better?

CommusoftStockroomAppIcon

With a dedicated app, they can pull the items they need, when they need them, right off the shelves of your fully stocked, impeccably managed warehouse. It sure beats running to shops last minute, or delaying jobs because someone “forgot” to order the parts they need.

4. Your vans may turn into mobile (and untraceable) warehouses.

You’ll already be familiar with this habit, whether you’re on the road yourself or organising engineers from the office, everyone’s van, sooner or later, turns it to it’s own miniature stockroom.

gps tracking

Even then, these parts become easy to forget about, meaning you could then unnecessarily start spending money on duplicate parts, which hurts cash flow and results in waste that could have easily been prevented, if only you had a system in place that let you track, trace, and list parts remotely...

If you want to avoid this hassle, and more besides, then it’s time to look at stock control in more detail and see how you can prepare you business to better cope, get organised, and move forward with confidence.

The Takeaway

We've spent a lot of time panning the idea of carrying stock for small-and-medium-sized businesses, so you're probably wondering how you can possibly compete with the larger field service companies and their brimming warehouses.

If you really want to go toe-to-toe with the big guys or, more simply, ensure you’re able to maintain a sustainable business focused on efficiency and optimised productivity, you'll need something bigger, better, and smarter than the spreadsheets you’ve been used to and that’s where Commusoft’s Stock Control app could be just the ticket!

For more information, click the following link to see the infographic we've prepared, highlighting the 7 Things to Look for in Stock Control Management Software, or for a more in-depth look at software in action, watch the Commusoft Stock Control Webinar.

Watch the stock control webinar now

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If you want to learn more about Commusoft's field service software, please see our product blog.