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Old 02-12-2019, 08:20 AM   #41
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If it's something where there's going to be a return trip - you survey today and come back to do the work
Agree. On big jobs you can usually dog off and do something else until new supplies arrive tomorrow. I recently had a four man gangbox job that ran two weeks. Every day the foreman would call me with a shopping list, and every morning I would show up with the goods.

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If it's a job I'm trying to keep to one visit - show up, diagnose, repair / install, get paid
This is my focus on this thread. Mine is mainly a service truck business. Avoiding a trip to the store is one of the keys to profitability.

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it's a non issue. I am billing them for the time, billing them for the trip to the supply house.
This is true for T&M jobs, not for flat-rate jobs. Both are valid ways to bill and we can avoid that discussion here. Just saying, we bill flat-rate so the quicker a tech can get in and out, the more money I make.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:24 AM   #42
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This is my focus on this thread. Mine is mainly a service truck business. Avoiding a trip to the store is one of the keys to profitability.



This is true for T&M jobs, not for flat-rate jobs. Both are valid ways to bill and we can avoid that discussion here. Just saying, we bill flat-rate so the quicker a tech can get in and out, the more money I make.
What type of work are you talking about in which you send the tech to the job and have him complete it then and there?
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:31 AM   #43
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The way to get good electrician, keep them from going out on their own, and limit their sidework is to pay them lots of money and give them good benefits.

I don't like that at all because it eats into profit, but it's the only way.
I suspect I pay my electricians more than practically any other contractor in town* and it doesn't seem to effect their behavior. In fact, the last guy I had kept screwing up. I kept counseling him and told him several times that if he didn't straighten up he was going to mess up a really good job. He agreed, but in the end, couldn't overcome his innate tendencies.


*Union company, paying union rates and union benefits. Techs get paid 40 hours regardless of how many actual hours they work under 40. I limit busy work so they have lots of paid free time. I only ask that they be available to go to a job quickly when I call them. As long as their truck is clean, stocked, and organized, they can sit home if there is no work.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:35 AM   #44
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Just saying, we bill flat-rate so the quicker a tech can get in and out, the more money I make.
True you still want efficiency. You have to reduce it to algebraic. Inventory pays off in time by avoiding runs and also money by shopping price rather than convenience. Inventory costs by tying up money, space, and time.

Everyone is going to inventory some, obviously. Nobody can inventory all, you'll never eliminate the supply runs. You want to identify the point of diminishing returns.

@telsa's idea of simply watching whether you turn your inventory is necessary but not sufficient, it doesn't capture whether you're reducing the supply house run time.

Really I guess if you're going to go full nerd with this, you need to have your guys track not only their inventory but their supply run time and see if bigger inventories or smaller inventories lead to less supply run time. You might be able to do this without driving them insane by having someone in the office reviewing the GPS logs for their truck daily.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:42 AM   #45
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What type of work are you talking about in which you send the tech to the job and have him complete it then and there?
Standard residential service truck work, examples:

* Install a ceiling fan, possibly installing a new fan box and switches,
* Panel change or upgrade.
* Troubleshoot and repair non-working receptacle(s), light.
* Installing new floodlights outside, usually running an entirely new circuit.
* Run a circuit for an A/C system, hot tub, or kiln.
* Run surface conduit for new receps and lighting on a pool patio.
* Whole house electrical safety inspection and repair of safety issues.
* Replace a failed GFCI.

We also do larger multi-day jobs like home remodels and commercial/factory pipe runs to new equipment.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:52 AM   #46
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All of this boils down to money. If you cannot determine if you have a problem, or if the problem is worth worrying about then the time spent on all of this is fruitless.

If you go with the “stock person” you need to have at least a $30K a year problem in losses.
If you go with the software attempt, I would guess that you would need to have a $20K a year problem.
The actual loss, the wages and the software are all write-offs… talk to your accountant and see what is the best option.

I stock trucks differently depending on what type of work they are doing. Generally in two categories, service and construction. Construction trucks need bulk materials but small selection. Service is the opposite, tons of materials but small quantities. Generally construction trucks will work in a type of area (residential, commercial and industrial) so they stock based on that; an industrial guy is not going to carry 300 metres of romex on his truck as an example.

As far as side work; if a guys is found doing side work (except for immediate family) they are fired. We are totally upfront about that; we are not interested in competing with our own employees. Additionally if they are using a company truck, using company material then if there is a situation (guy gets hurt, house burns down, etc) it may be difficult to “prove” that it was not our company… walks like a duck… Now having said that, all a guy has to do is ask, can I use some tools to work on my house, or can I bring a ladder home to hang a light fixture and almost certainly the answer is yes. If they want material, all they have to do is ask, give me a sheet of what they take and I will bill them for it (at cost). Essentially I explain and ask that is it worth the risk of losing a $60K a year or more job for $500 in material or a $1000 cash side job?

The banks and government are the worst for spending money to try to find money. You have to give a value to every hour you spend looking for that loss. As an example, if your cash float is short $50, but it takes you an hour to find the $50 dollars, now you are either out $50 or now you are out $150. If you find the $50, but spend $100 (value associated to finding it) you are still out $50. If you can’t find the $50, look for an hour now you are out $150.

In Canada the government spent at least $1,556,402.33 (still more to come) to prove that a senator owes $16,955.00; my point being that while I agree that we need to be cautious of where our money is going, it can easily cost more then $1 to save $1 so you are still losing in the end.

Good luck with your issue, I hope you get it sorted out one way or another.

Cheers
John
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:54 AM   #47
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Originally Posted by Coppersmith View Post
Standard residential service truck work, examples:

* Install a ceiling fan, possibly installing a new fan box and switches,
* Panel change or upgrade.
* Troubleshoot and repair non-working receptacle(s), light.
* Installing new floodlights outside, usually running an entirely new circuit.
* Run a circuit for an A/C system, hot tub, or kiln.
* Run surface conduit for new receps and lighting on a pool patio.
* Whole house electrical safety inspection and repair of safety issues.
* Replace a failed GFCI.

We also do larger multi-day jobs like home remodels and commercial/factory pipe runs to new equipment.
I see. Most of this can be done very easily with basic stock that most electrician have in their vans. The panel change/service upgrade is something I don't typically do on the spot unless it's a burnt up panel that needs to be changed, and I have no problem covering the cost of going to the supply house in that situation. Stocking panels on a van never works for me because there are so many variations.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:08 AM   #48
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I see. Most of this can be done very easily with basic stock that most electrician have in their vans. The panel change/service upgrade is something I don't typically do on the spot unless it's a burnt up panel that needs to be changed, and I have no problem covering the cost of going to the supply house in that situation. Stocking panels on a van never works for me because there are so many variations.
I didn't mean to imply we did panel changes without advance notice. I was just indicating it's a one day, in and out job for which we better have all the materials on the truck or it's going to turn into a much longer day than planned.

I will provide the tech (the morning of the job) with the panel, meter can, ground rods, circuit breakers, large pipe, feeder cable, and whatever else s/he will need that day to do that job. I expect small items like tape, connectors, ground clamps, tapcons, all required tools, small pipe, wirenuts, etc to be on the truck.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:51 AM   #49
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Two or three small parts boxes that are well stocked including parts to get you out of a jam (like several sizes of KO seals etc).
2 or 3?

I have at least a dozen of these in my van.

Attachment 132352

Each one with different things in them.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Coppersmith View Post
Standard residential service truck work, examples:

* Install a ceiling fan, possibly installing a new fan box and switches,
* Panel change or upgrade.
* Troubleshoot and repair non-working receptacle(s), light.
* Installing new floodlights outside, usually running an entirely new circuit.
* Run a circuit for an A/C system, hot tub, or kiln.
* Run surface conduit for new receps and lighting on a pool patio.
* Whole house electrical safety inspection and repair of safety issues.
* Replace a failed GFCI.

.
After reading this, and re-reading your original question about inventory, I'm gonna ask what type vehicles your running, and how many of these jobs are you doing a day with each vehicle. I suppose that might narrow down how to control what little inventory you need on hand in a truck, to accomplish those tasks you noted above.

Edit: Also want to ask how big of a service area in sq miles that you service.
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Last edited by Helmut; 02-12-2019 at 09:54 AM.
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Old 02-12-2019, 10:25 AM   #50
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I'm gonna ask what type vehicles your running, and how many of these jobs are you doing a day with each vehicle. I suppose that might narrow down how to control what little inventory you need on hand in a truck, to accomplish those tasks you noted above.

Edit: Also want to ask how big of a service area in sq miles that you service.
I'm happy to answer your questions, but I think you're looking at the question in too fine a detail. To reiterate, there are three categories of inventory on the truck. The exact amount of each thing really isn't important. I normally try to keep the number of items and their quantities to a minimum. (I shoot for 95% (of the time) in-stock on my larger truck and 90% in-stock on my smaller truck with a once a week refill.) The big question is what's the best way to keep track of such things and what should and should not be counted.

My service area is a three county area which is approximately a thirty mile circle around the shop. I have three service vehicles and an estimating vehicle. The one that serves me best at the moment is a Ford E250 van with lots of shelving. It's cramped when loaded and requires crawling when inside. I plan to buy a Nissan NV3500 HD high roof or similar next which is much roomier and has a higher cargo capacity (as well as a better warranty).

As with all service truck businesses, we shoot for keeping the trucks busy all day five days a week. This usually works out to one all-day job, or two half-day jobs per day. It's hard to schedule much tighter than that and not be late for appointments (which is a policy of ours). Occasionally, we can get three one-hour jobs in, four if they are very close together. This averages out to about 20 billable hours per week. I somethings will have a tech go look at and estimate a larger job, but usually I do those myself. (They are not very good at it.)
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:24 PM   #51
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Then your not lugging around a 200A servic e upgrade kit in a van, just in case you come across a job that needs one?

Some guys carry stuff like this.


For keeping track of consumables on a truck, for 2 or 3 vehicles, I do something as simple as a clip board in the back, with a list of the consumables the techs take off the truck as they use them, is simple enough. Bar coding everything would be the best way, and you are looking for something in the middle?
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Old 02-12-2019, 01:44 PM   #52
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A "tech." What is this, HVAC?
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Old 02-12-2019, 04:28 PM   #53
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A "tech." What is this, HVAC?
A "tech " unfortunately probably makes more money then the average electrical contractor!

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Old 02-12-2019, 04:38 PM   #54
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A "tech " unfortunately probably makes more money then the average electrical contractor!
You're probably right, but this is still a way better trade than tin knocking or hvac.
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Old 02-12-2019, 06:57 PM   #55
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You're probably right, but this is still a way better trade than tin knocking or hvac.
I agree from the angle of interesting work, but not from a sales point of view. What I mean is, if the toilet doesn't flush, they will definitely call a plumber. If the heat doesn't work, they will definitely call an HVAC company. But if the lights don't work, they'll get on Craigslist and find a landscaper to lowball.
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:21 PM   #56
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I agree from the angle of interesting work, but not from a sales point of view. What I mean is, if the toilet doesn't flush, they will definitely call a plumber. If the heat doesn't work, they will definitely call an HVAC company. But if the lights don't work, they'll get on Craigslist and find a landscaper to lowball.
Sad but true. And the legit electricians run around with sharp knives all day cutting other electrician's throats.
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