Managing stock isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and keeping track of all the details—especially amongst a growing team—is rarely going to be easy. However, a digital solution can transform your fortunes.
The days of more traditional check-in/check-out sheets and illegible post-its are rapidly disappearing. The stock room is becoming a digital space that has changed to reflect the demands of the fast-moving, efficiency-focused world that we live in.
While it’s true that we’ve seen service businesses innovate more rapidly throughout 2020, tech-based innovations aren’t anything new.
The field service industry has embraced new technologies for years; whether it’s digital diaries, online bookings, or all-in-one job management software.
You’re likely no stranger to the digital tools that have revolutionised your business either. Of course, transitioning to use stock control software takes time and it’s worth acknowledging that for some smaller businesses it won’t be as necessary, just yet.
However, whether digital stock control is an immediate hurdle to overcome, or something to plan for down the road, it’s important to consider the best practices you can implement to ensure you can comfortably stay in control of your stock.
- When’s it right to adopt stock control software?
- Best practices for keeping track and managing stock:
- Hire a storeroom manager.
- Record the items in your system regularly
- Establish a reporting routine.
- Integrate your stock control system with other management tools.
- Stay in touch with suppliers and keep an eye on purchase orders.
- Build a system that’s accessible anywhere, anytime.
- Account for the fact that you might have multiple storage units at some point.
One of the most popular questions we get relates to stock and spare parts management, which is why we’ve put together a comprehensive list as well as a free guide (and spreadsheets!) that you can download! Read on to find out more, or click to skip ahead!
When’s it right to adopt stock control software?
Now, as mentioned, digital stock control is not for everyone, so bear with me for a moment because I may sound like I’m about to say something very obvious. However, it will help to make sure we’re all on the same page moving forward.
First and foremost, having a shelf at the back of the office with stock loosely lying about (or even in boxes) is not the same thing as holding a dedicated storage location. If your set-up is small, with only a couple of engineers taking parts/equipment from a limited selection of stock, you’re probably quite happy to use pen, paper, or a spreadsheet system to keep track.
If that’s the case, comprehensive stock control software won’t be for you quite yet. But if you have a separate room or building where you’ve centralised parts for storage, then keep on reading.
At first, it might be possible to keep records accurate by having an excellent storeroom manager, but as time goes by and your stock quantities increase, you’ll find the risk for error increases, which can carry significant financial consequences and even lead to damaging experiences with customers.
Taking the time to understand and control your stock levels, especially with such things as barcode scanning, auto-assigning parts to jobs, and more, will empower you to make better purchasing decisions, win access to more advantageous prices, and lead you to greater profits.
If that sounds good to you, you’ll want to invest in a stock control system for your field service business.
Best practices for keeping track and managing stock
Traditional or digital, these steps can help your growing service business to be more efficient. Let’s dive in to those best practices to get you started:
A. Hire a storeroom manager.
Having a dedicated person overseeing your stock makes the world of difference. If anyone can waltz into the storeroom and take out whatever they want, then you’re asking for trouble. People can be forgetful, or just plain lazy, but if they're not tracking what parts are getting used and when, how can you be sure you can finish jobs on-time and on budget when the parts you thought you had are nowhere to be found? With someone to keep an eye on things, you can ensure stocks are maintained easily, and jobs can be finished faster.
B. Record the items in your system regularly.
Ideally, you record stock as soon it arrives. The easiest way to do this is with a barcode scanner that connects to your stock management system.
Of course, without software this simply isn’t an option, but it sure beats the time it would take to manually input every reference number into a spreadsheet, or worse, in a notebook.
The at the Commusoft Stockroom App for Field Service Businesses.
Find out how to use a barcode scanning software!
C. Establish a reporting routine.
Regular reports can point out potential issues before they become real problems.
This is especially helpful with stock because—as you’ve no doubt experienced—when parts go walk-about, it hurts your bottom line and it’s never good to be in a position where you’re leaking cash but can't clearly see why.
Comparing reports helps create statistics which, in turn, lead to insightful forecasts that can save you from under or overstocking. It may not be exciting, but I’m willing to bet a healthy bank balance will make you smile.
D. Integrate your stock management system with your other management tools.
There’s nothing more satisfying than a workflow that just...well, works. When you can integrate one system with another, you can ensure that data flows seamlessly to make successive tasks a breeze and turn what were one time-intensive tasks into more straightforward activities.
A comprehensive parts management system should play well with other job management tools, such as your scheduling system or accounting software. This means that - for instance - when it comes to creating an invoice, it can be done in a few clicks, with minimal editing/adjusting, and sent off without all that manual effort.
E. Communicate with suppliers and keep an eye on purchase orders.
One of the best practices for parts management is to integrate purchase orders with your stock levels and put in place notifications that let you know when an item is low in stock.
This way, you can send off a PO to your preferred supplier and maintain stock levels. Of course, if you take it a step further, stock control automation can play a big role in supporting you achieve this, but that's another step to consider, most likely at a later date.
In the meantime, even with a more basic stock control system in place, engineers can check stock levels, ensure they have the parts they need, and quickly make requests to get them ordered to minimise delays. What's not to like?
F. Build a system that’s accessible anywhere, anytime.
As mentioned, more field service managers are using digital tools than ever before, but even with the uptake in technology, people still need to be persuaded to use it properly.
For many of you, this can be a frustrating challenge.
However, it all depends on how you demonstrate value . In the same way you might convince a customer to spend more money on a more efficient boiler or insulation, you know it’s because it can help them save money in the long-run, and have a more efficient home.
The same can be said of convincing engineers to use software and, as many of them would rather work out in the field than do all their admin back in an office, an accessible app that lets them work remotely should be a great selling point. A great way to demonstrate the flexibility is through demo sessions with a provider and training sessions, too.
No matter what happens to the physical office or wherever your employees happen to be, they can easily access their stock levels information and keep the business running. It’s not just stock that becomes easy to see, but diaries, messaging, schedules, and more, all updated in real-time to keep you team connected with the correct information.
Learn how much you can save using a paperless software!
Check out Commusoft's Paperless Savings Calculator
G. Account for the fact that you might have multiple storage units at some point.
Stock control isn’t right for everyone; not right away, at least. It’s important to stress this point though, because even if you're not ready now, it means you should still be thinking about how it can impact you in the future.
After all, growth is likely a primary business goal for your business, and growing to manage a bigger team of engineers so that you can take care of a larger pool of customers is the dream, right?
Future-proofing is a great way to ensure you keep growing rather than start stagnating, so if you’re making the leap to more comprehensive software, it could help to consider solutions that let you add packages as you grow - this means you can adjust at a pace that suits you.
Knowing that a solution is waiting, ready in the wings for the day you decide to upgrade, rather than have to go through the buying process for completely different software in 6 months’ time.
The Takeaway (with a stock control webinar, and more!)
Faster service, better prices, and satisfied customers, all thanks to friendly suppliers, well-kept stock, and more accurate invoicing are all benefits that you’ll want to secure for your business, and management software can be the key to make it happen.
Whether you’ve been ticking along traditionally, or eyeing up software for down the line, we hope these practices have provided food for thought.
In the meantime, we've got a few extra bits for you to take a look at: depending on where you're at in your own stock control journey, you might find one or all of the following resources useful!
- Download free Stock Control Spreadsheets
- Download your checklist infographic, for 7 Things to Look For in Stock Control Software
- Click below to watch Commusoft's Stock Control Webinar
The benefits of stock control software could be closer than you think!