The Paperless Trail (Part 2): Spare Parts & Inventory Management in Mobile Field Service

Mobile Field Service

Welcome back to The Paperless Trail! Last week, we covered the types of information that field technicians need in order to operate at a best-in-class level. This week, we’ll be digging into the intricacies of inventory management and specifically how mobile field service software can help organizations improve their logistics at each point in their service process.

To understand how mobilization can improve inventory management, we must first understand some of the inventory issues currently plaguing service departments. The most common and costly issues stem from a service department’s responsibility to get the right parts to the right customer in the most efficient manner possible. This responsibility has escalated recently as customers are constantly demanding better service and inventory costs continue to rise. To remedy these concerns, organizations need to master these three parts & inventory best practices:
[list_well][well_item]Organizations need to set up an early warning system that can alert managers as to low inventories and other key business conditions.[/well_item][well_item]Organizations need to utilize mobile devices to make their technicians a more integral part of the spare parts and inventory management process.[/well_item][well_item]Organizations need to use insights collected from the field in order to improve their parts planning and forecast.[/well_item][/list_well] With these concerns addressed, service companies can lower their inventory costs while simultaneously increasing their customer satisfaction. These improvements together pave the way to mobile field service profitability, a maturing business theme in 2013.

Automating Inventory Alerts

Clearly, there are a lot of moving “parts” in parts and inventory management (pun intended). The manager(s) responsible for maintaining dependable inventories has to monitor equipment across a number of warehouses and service vans. Depending on the organization, hundreds or even thousands of parts can fluctuate in and out of the supply chain every day. Parts can go from one inventory to another, from an inventory to a customer asset, from a customer asset back to an inventory and from inventories to manufacturers or repair centers. With so many paths of transaction, you can see why managing inventory with paper processes is simply out of the question.

With mobile field service software, organizations can streamline their inventory processes by establishing alerts that inform key stakeholders when specific business conditions occur. Although these alerts work across all aspects of the service process, they are especially helpful for handling assets because of all the conditions that require managerial action in the inventory process.

For instance, managers can use alerts to know when specific parts are running too low or too high in a service van, a warehouse or any other inventory particular to their operation. They can use this information to advise technicians on what parts to pick up and which to return when they restock at the warehouses. Another similar option involves setting an alert for when allocated quantities of specific parts exceed their availability. This alert is especially helpful for not endangering first-time fix rates and customer satisfaction. These are just two examples, but with leading field service software, alerts and events systems can be customized to fit almost any business condition. This is because the system uses a rules-based engine to perform advanced data analysis. This gives organization he ability to set a wide range of inventory alerts including:
[list_well][well_item]Alerts for When Items Haven’t Shipped or Arrived[/well_item][well_item]Alerts for Items Without Standard Costing[/well_item][well_item]Alerts for Technician Use of Inventory[/well_item][well_item]Alerts for Non-stock Parts[/well_item][well_item]Alerts for Obsolete Parts[/well_item][well_item]Alerts for Shelf Life Expiration[/well_item][/list_well] Precise and coordinated inventory management is vital to the success of a service department, so the level of functionality that system alerts provide can be a driving force behind improving processes and cutting costs for the organization. And coupled with the other features that mobile field service software provides, inventory alerts make service organizations a force to be reckoned with.

Inventory Management in the Field

Like we discussed in previous articles, mobile field service is a pathway to success for many service departments. Issuing mobile devices with advanced software can make technicians more capable in the field and more beneficial to the service process as a whole. This rings especially true for businesses looking to manage their parts and inventory more efficiently.

Since each technician carries, unloads and stocks specific spare parts, giving them the ability to monitor and update their inventory from a mobile device can greatly simplify parts management. Top-class field service software allows technicians to track and search spare parts in their service van, other technicians’ vans and the company’s warehouses and facilities. With parts visibility across the board, techs know where and how to quickly acquire parts needed for their work orders when they don’t have them stocked in their van.

Additionally, with access to the company’s service portal, technicians can see which parts are needed for their work orders before they head out on a call. They can cross reference their needed parts with their vans inventory and then determine where they can stock up on a needed part if they don’t have it on hand, all from their mobile device. The benefits here? High first-time fix rates, happy customers and outstanding tech utility.

Does your organization have SLA “ship direct to customer” standards? Mobile inventory management can handle that too. A mobile-optimized technician can use his device to order parts in the field so he/she can reduce the overall time to service for “direct to customer” SLA’s.

Analytical Parts Planning

Often times, service organizations manage their inventories based on guesses of past usage and assessments of which repairs occur most frequently. However, guesses are just that, guesses. Instead, service companies should be collecting data and using parts analytics to plan their inventory purchasing, stocking and allocation.

Organizations looking to start collecting and using inventory data need to understand that field technicians play a major role in this process. With a mobile field service software application, technicians can sync up their inventory with their company’s back-end database to show which parts they used on certain customer assets during their service call. As inventory data continues to build up over time, managers can begin to derive useful insights from it such as:
[list_well][well_item]Which parts or pieces of equipment are leading to the most work orders. From here, a decision can be made to alert the part’s manufacturer of the constant defects or remove the part from the supply chain altogether.[/well_item][well_item]Which parts are being allocated in a higher quantity than they’re stocked, leading to an inventory deficiency. With this information, the manager can readjust his/her orders based on the data to make sure there are always enough units in stock.[/well_item][well_item]Which parts are considered non-stock parts. After identifying these parts, managers can eliminate them or choose to stock minimal units instead.[/well_item][well_item]Parts and inventory values by using average, last and standard costing methods.[/well_item][/list_well] All in all, collecting and analyzing inventory data can lead to a variety of insights that will help organizations optimize their service offerings. With field service software, this data can be easily collected and stored into the back-end system, reformatted and loaded into reports for various stakeholders.

A Buyer’s Guide to Mobile Field Service Software: 9 Tips for Choosing a Mobile Solution

Manual paper logs are becoming increasingly incapable of keeping up with the current data loads of modern field service. Having a comprehensive mobile solution is necessary to keep in line with the ever changing landscape. Learn important tips, guiding questions, and to-do’s in our free, educational whitepaper: “A Buyer’s Guide to Mobile Field Service Software.”

buyers guide to mobile field service software

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