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Old 07-14-2019, 05:53 AM   #21
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I really don’t think it would take a lot to stock a box of goodies dedicated to service work.
I have really downsized my inventory and it definitely improved my efficiency.
Inventory is one of those places where the 80-20 rule applies. You'll get 80% of the coverage from 20% of the stuff.

For me a lot of time and learning went into what's in that 20%. You have to look at the big picture. One thing I keep in mind: if you have 95% of what you need to avoid a supply run, you are still going to the store. But, if you have enough on hand to get started, that will make you more efficient.

So just for a simple example, if you do residential service. To do everything with what's on hand, you'll need

colors - white, ivory, almond, brown

regular devices - switches, three way switches, four way switches, dimmers, receptacles

decora devices - switches, three way switches, four way switches, dimmers, receptacles, GFCI receptacles

Between all the combinations, that's 44 items right there. If you keep say a dozen of each on the truck, you're at 480 pieces. At say $2 each that's what $960. And you'll have some that you lose, some that get scuffed and tossed, and you'll have to spend some time counting and replenishing that inventory in your spare time.

Maybe you figure 80% of what you do is white and you don't need to carry decora, so you just stock white. That's the 20% that covers the 80%, right?

On the other hand, if don't stock devices at all except leftovers, and you have romex and boxes on hand, you can get started and make a supply run, probably at lunch, on the way home, or on the way to work the next day. That's really the 20%. It's not really something that you can quantify or capture with a formula.
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Old 07-14-2019, 05:56 AM   #22
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We charge but when time allows (we have work to do until the material arrives) we use UBER, saves us time and makes us money.
I was going to ask if anyone was doing this. One of my customers does it to shuttle stuff between their locations. I have never used Uber but I'd consider signing up just for this.
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Old 07-14-2019, 06:15 AM   #23
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I really don’t think it would take a lot to stock a box of goodies dedicated to service work.
You have brought this topic up before. I remember because I have a lot of interest in it.

In the end, it is rather hard to build a box of goodies that will work.

You can make up a container of basic items and those might work often, but not always.

Think about it this way: We can both make a list of those basic items to stock in a big container to take with us on troubleshooting service calls, we would probably agree about most of the stuff on the list. But if I looked thru all the TSC's I did in the past few years, I bet 75% of them required at least one piece of material that wasn't on our list.

So in the end, it's either lots of truck stock or lots of supply house trips. Or cobbling together something to get the customer going. For example, for a faulty dimmer I will tell a customer that I don't have a black dimmer on the truck, but I can change all the switches in that box out to white if they don't want to pay for the extra hour+ for me to go find one. Or I can put a standard black switch in if they don't use the dimmer.
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Old 07-14-2019, 06:31 AM   #24
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I don't think it's possible to have everything you will need to do service work on one truck. I'm serious. I would need to stock a driver for every different type of led fixture out there, I would need to stock a couple of dozen different fluorescent ballasts, some MH ballasts and retrofit kits, ditto for Mercury Vapor lights, Water heater thermostats for different brands of heaters, Time clocks, Generator transfer switches and those breaker preventers that Hax loves for same. Ladders of all kinds. A couple of swimming pool motors. All kinds of relays and contractors, a crap ton of wire mold stuff in three colors to match the customers existing or requested new surface mount wiring desire. EMT, PVC, RIGID, AND FLEX AND LIQUIDTITE STEEL FLEX AND CARFLEX, and three or four types of disco's, Circuit breakers of every imaginable panel and rating, grounding , bonding, equipment and materials. Service change supplies. A couple of ceiling fans and all sorts of fan parts and caps. A few gallons of penetrating oil in spray cans, nuts and bolts of every description. White , Ivory, and Brown devices in decora and in standard, Faceplates by every description and color. Buck and Boost transformers . Reducers, nipples, offsets, wire , wire, and more wire. 15 amp Gfi's. 20 amp gifts. Three colors.
Dimmers , and dimmers and dimmers. The list goes on and on, but I keep sliding into sleep. Goodnight.
I see your point.
I ran hit and run type service work for about 10 years as a junior journeyman. The dispatcher tried to keep us scheduled in a tight area like one part of the county and on the type of work that matched the inventory we carried on our trucks.
We all tried to carry enough types and sizes of residential and light commercial breakers, a decent inventory of trim plates and devices to cover a call. We were not using much Romex and MC was not approved for us at that time. We carried 1/2" and 3/4" EMT and Greenfield and some Liquid tite.

The plan was to hit the call, complete the work and collect the money.
I would look over the job, plan the work with what I had on hand, get as far as I could with the material I had on hand, close the ticket and get paid.
If I didnt have an item on the truck, It was somewhat unusual. We had two options.
Call the shop and let the dispatcher know what was going on. Dispatch would call the customer and then decide if I would charge the customer or if it would be "shop time".
Shop time was considered a "fail"
Typical time to charge a customer for a part run was something like remove a pool pump motor, go find a replacement, return and install it that day.

Plenty of times, to keep the peace, I would stop the ticket, eat my lunch on the way to the SH and come back and restart the ticket.
The worse conflicts come when the call is at the end of the day and gets into over time.
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Old 07-14-2019, 06:42 AM   #25
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Now that is badass.

I assume you have to have an account, call in the order, wait until SH calls and says order is ready, then call UBER?
We have an account, call the supply house and see how long the wait is when they tell us the order is ready we call/send UBER. Well worth the cost as long as there is work to do while you wait for material. Of course, thee are limits on what they can haul.
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Old 07-14-2019, 07:14 AM   #26
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The other thing is who are your service customers? I have commercial and residential. I carry a mix of THHN, MC, and romex, as well as white and ivory devices, GFCI, AFCI receptacles and some plates. The generator stuff is another list of generally used items. No motors or alternators, flywheels etc. That can come from the factory.
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Old 07-14-2019, 09:31 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by HackWork View Post
You have brought this topic up before. I remember because I have a lot of interest in it.

In the end, it is rather hard to build a box of goodies that will work.

You can make up a container of basic items and those might work often, but not always.

Think about it this way: We can both make a list of those basic items to stock in a big container to take with us on troubleshooting service calls, we would probably agree about most of the stuff on the list. But if I looked thru all the TSC's I did in the past few years, I bet 75% of them required at least one piece of material that wasn't on our list.

So in the end, it's either lots of truck stock or lots of supply house trips. Or cobbling together something to get the customer going. For example, for a faulty dimmer I will tell a customer that I don't have a black dimmer on the truck, but I can change all the switches in that box out to white if they don't want to pay for the extra hour+ for me to go find one. Or I can put a standard black switch in if they don't use the dimmer.
A box of goodies will make things better but certainly not perfect. I carry around kind of a mess of things depending on the jobs I’m doing. A dedicated box of service call goodies would have to be something I don’t dip into for renos and TI’s.
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Old 07-14-2019, 10:00 AM   #28
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I've lost track of what he has for a vehicle, but if it becomes one of those things that is taken off the truck, half the time he won't have it. If I have time at the end of the day, I'll try to cram in one of these calls and I usually have what I need for the most basic jobs that I typically do. The stock I carry gets used for reno's or service.

The Uber idea is intriguing.
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Old 07-14-2019, 12:28 PM   #29
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At the company I'm with, a billable hour is a billable hour. In other words, every aspect relating to a job is going on the invoice (travel-time, material runs, paper work and the work itself). Gas, wages and occupying guys' time isn't free, so why should a client complain about paying for any of it?
My clients also pay for every single minute of labor and every penny of expenses. The difference is I try to minimize the labor cost by having all the required materials when I arrive at the job i.e. eliminate material runs.

I will charge the client $10 for a circuit breaker I have on the truck that I paid $5 for. Since I bought that circuit breaker at the same time I was restocking my truck, I have fully covered the costs in labor and travel to get it and keep it on the truck. My client will not be unhappy to pay me $10.

If, on the other hand, I tell the client "You need a circuit breaker and I'm going to go get one, and you have to pay me for the breaker plus 45 minutes round-trip in labor and my gas so about $100" that's not going to fly.

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Old 07-14-2019, 12:48 PM   #30
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I don't think it's possible to have everything you will need to do service work on one truck. I'm serious. I would need to stock a driver for every different type of led fixture out there, I would need to stock a couple of dozen different fluorescent ballasts, some MH ballasts and retrofit kits, ditto for Mercury Vapor lights, Water heater thermostats for different brands of heaters, Time clocks, Generator transfer switches and those breaker preventers that Hax loves for same. Ladders of all kinds. A couple of swimming pool motors. All kinds of relays and contractors, a crap ton of wire mold stuff in three colors to match the customers existing or requested new surface mount wiring desire. EMT, PVC, RIGID, AND FLEX AND LIQUIDTITE STEEL FLEX AND CARFLEX, and three or four types of disco's, Circuit breakers of every imaginable panel and rating, grounding , bonding, equipment and materials. Service change supplies. A couple of ceiling fans and all sorts of fan parts and caps. A few gallons of penetrating oil in spray cans, nuts and bolts of every description. White , Ivory, and Brown devices in decora and in standard, Faceplates by every description and color. Buck and Boost transformers . Reducers, nipples, offsets, wire , wire, and more wire. 15 amp Gfi's. 20 amp gifts. Three colors.
Dimmers , and dimmers and dimmers. The list goes on and on, but I keep sliding into sleep. Goodnight.
LOL, Nobody said carry enough stuff to do EVERY service call. What was said was carry enough to do the basic service calls. Anything more than a basic service call and you are going to know what to bring because you will have gotten more information before you go. Then you can bring the additional stuff needed.

Basic service calls:
"My power is out in my bedroom."
"Can you put a outlet outside?"
"Change my chandelier."
"My dimmer is getting hot."
"Can you add a receptacle in my basement?"

Non-basic service calls:
"Change my FPE panel"
"I want a generator installed"
"My pool pump is not working."
"I want a time clock on my water heater."

BTW, I do carry an assortment of ballasts; 1/2" and 3/4" EMT, 3/4" PVC, and 1/2" and 3/4" liquidtite conduit and fittings; circuit breakers for every resi brand from 15-60 amps; and faceplates and devices of every description (but no brown) as part of my normal truck inventory.

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Old 07-14-2019, 01:15 PM   #31
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My inventory is really easy. 14/2 romex and tape. That covers 99% of installations that I do. I also have a basic tool kit - A Ryobi drill, a hammer, a knife, Commercial Electric pliers and a few screwdrivers. This all fits very easily in my trunk.
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Old 07-14-2019, 01:49 PM   #32
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LOL, Nobody said carry enough stuff to do EVERY service call. What was said was carry enough to do the basic service calls. Anything more than a basic service call and you are going to know what to bring because you will have gotten more information before you go. Then you can bring the additional stuff needed.

Basic service calls:
"My power is out in my bedroom."
"Can you put a outlet outside?"
"Change my chandelier."
"My dimmer is getting hot."
"Can you add a receptacle in my basement?"

Non-basic service calls:
"Change my FPE panel"
"I want a generator installed"
"My pool pump is not working."
"I want a time clock on my water heater."

BTW, I do carry an assortment of ballasts; 1/2" and 3/4" EMT, 3/4" PVC, and 1/2" and 3/4" liquidtite conduit and fittings; circuit breakers for every resi brand from 15-60 amps; and faceplates and devices of every description (but no brown) as part of my normal truck inventory.
There is much truth to what you say. There is also the roll of the dice. My work for the last 1 yr, I swear it all comes out of the : non basic service calls paragraph. I can't seem to hit lucky 7 lately. (well not really cause this last week wen't perfectly smooth and dreamy and I got easy jobs for a change).

I have to split my van space up three ways in the cargo side. Service calls, construction jobs, and all my tools to accomplish just about any type of electrical job I get. Bad business plan? Actually , no. I still am making a very good living at it, I charge large. I charge to go to supply houses. I look my customers right in the eye and tell them I will either need to pull up in an 18 wheeler to haul all the proper material to perform every task I run into , which is going boost the price up even further than what it takes for me to reduce the stock in the van and drive to the shop or store once in every 5 calls, or you pay me to get that necessary 4-11/16" box with 1" ko's right now so I can repair this mess your other sorry excuse for an electrical handyman left you with. One thing that does help- when I do go to Home Depot for stock to perform a construction related project, while I am there I take a minute to walk slowly down the isle looking at all the items and thinking about - do I need any of this or that while I am here. So while I am preparing for a residential house wire project, I might end up with several items not related to resi work at all, but once I saw them, I remembered the van could use a few of them. Sometimes I carry in a list with me. I have a habit of stopping at the local hardware store once or twice a month and just go in for the same kind of peruse. The Ace Store on Waialae Ave carries desbard switches and so forth and all the little things that nobody uses any more except to replace existing old stuff. It's good to replace those oddballs and I wouldn't have remembered them while putting a list together. It would be lovely to have a setup like Flyboy has going on, but this is my one man band way.
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Old 07-14-2019, 03:01 PM   #33
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My inventory is really easy. 14/2 romex and tape. That covers 99% of installations that I do. I also have a basic tool kit - A Ryobi drill, a hammer, a knife, Commercial Electric pliers and a few screwdrivers. This all fits very easily in my trunk.
Hey! i have that whole list in my truck right now I've never owned a vehicle with a trunk though.
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Old 07-14-2019, 04:32 PM   #34
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The average guy running a truck for himself isn't going to have the resources to collect data to provide that level of white glove service.

I did see a comment where someone was charging 2x retail for parts. That wouldn't work for us. We have to charge enough to make money and cover the law of "break one, lose one, take one home"

That made me laugh, worked with a guy that always got items for his van in cased quantity and never had more than a few of anything in his van when you worked with him.
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Old 07-14-2019, 08:20 PM   #35
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I do small commercial jobs, mixed with occasional service and almost never have enough. Material on the van to fully complete a job. Our company covers such a wide spectrum of business you never know what a buildings going to need. I have leftover stock that mostly gets me started and when I first got a van tried to keep it stocked but it was inevitable you’d always be missing one thing. The description of the work is almost never accurate or detailed so it was a guess anyway. I do think it’s different than residential, especially with the big businesses because they almost never see the cost. Maintenance man mike doesn’t care if you take hours getting material as long as his outlet gets added in a timely manner since he doesn’t pay for it. Not that I do that, but just an observation
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Old 07-15-2019, 12:23 AM   #36
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I charge.


I keep enough stuff on the trucks to get me out of a tight spot like if I come up short an RE, bushing, clamp or to do real small quick jobs.
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Old 07-15-2019, 01:34 AM   #37
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My clients also pay for every single minute of labor and every penny of expenses. The difference is I try to minimize the labor cost by having all the required materials when I arrive at the job i.e. eliminate material runs.

I will charge the client $10 for a circuit breaker I have on the truck that I paid $5 for. Since I bought that circuit breaker at the same time I was restocking my truck, I have fully covered the costs in labor and travel to get it and keep it on the truck. My client will not be unhappy to pay me $10.
That's certainly a valid point. While we make every effort to stock our most used items, my boss is quite particular about avoiding unnecessary accumulation. Examples of this would be dimmers and 8/3 NMD. Both are items we have used in the past, however we could carry out 37 jobs before requiring them (you don't need either to change out a GFCI). Simply put - stocking those items in the van in place of other materials likely wouldn't prove beneficial for most of our work.

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If, on the other hand, I tell the client "You need a circuit breaker and I'm going to go get one, and you have to pay me for the breaker plus 45 minutes round-trip in labor and my gas so about $100" that's not going to fly.
That's a fair point. For us, travel time is factored into the regular per-hour rate unless the client is outside of our normal service area. When it comes to oddball items (240VAC DPDT time-clocks as a recent example), I've yet to hear a complaint about making a material-run. Generally speaking, issues about the bill tend to arise from from people who assume we're magicians and "can obviously fish that wall in five minutes 'cause they showed it on HGTV."
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:02 PM   #38
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You pay us to drive and shop . If I'm hungry you pay me to eat . When I go out to smoke you are paying for it . The customer pays for everything . If we need a tool to do the job you pay for it .

How you hide it is the magic YO .
That's why I will not hire a serviceman that smokes. There are enough 'clean' people around that I don't need to pay someone to smoke.
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Old 07-16-2019, 08:30 PM   #39
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I was going to ask if anyone was doing this. One of my customers does it to shuttle stuff between their locations. I have never used Uber but I'd consider signing up just for this.
It really can save manpower, so far we have not had any screw-ups from the supply house or UBER.
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Old 07-17-2019, 09:23 AM   #40
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That's why I will not hire a serviceman that smokes. There are enough 'clean' people around that I don't need to pay someone to smoke.
When I'm working a job with a crew it annoys me to see someone standing around outside smoking on paid time but I never say anything. For so many years we were programmed to see the wasted time and second-hand smoke as normal and accepted. I guess I'm not over that. But when I'm deciding who to layoff as a job winds-down, the smokers get first priority.

ETA: I had a service tech who had an assigned van and was constantly vaping some fruity blend. I fired that guy six months ago and I still can't get the fruity smell out of the van.

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