Over the past few months, I have had some frustrating experiences surrounding goods and services, or rather, the lack of goods and satisfactory service. Here are a few examples:
When working on a home improvement project, I visited one of the big box home improvement chain stores with a list of items I needed—only to find out that the store was out of stock on half of the goods on my list. I had to drive to another branch, where it too lacked what I needed. Even a visit to a competing chain netted zero results. So my home improvement project remains on the sidelines.
When my vehicle needed a quick repair, I took it into my trusted mechanic. A simple part was needed for this simple repair, but naturally, my mechanic didn’t have that part on hand, so what would have been a 30-minute repair turned into a three-day ordeal of waiting while the proper parts were tracked down and acquired.
I fancy myself as a pretty darn good cook and decided to make my special 44-ingredient carne asada for friends and co-workers one evening. Now, I’d never had trouble finding all of these ingredients at a single grocery store in any of the dozens of times I had made this in the past. However, this time, because of inventory issues, I wound up having to visit six different stores to get what I needed.
In each of the cases above, I was offered a similar excuse—that the sellers/servicers in question only stocked a limited amount of the items I needed and that they didn’t anticipate how in demand these items were. Yet, in all of these cases, when I pressed about why these items weren’t stocked more frequently or in higher quantities, the answer was the same. “Someone else makes those decisions, and we don’t really know how.”
This made me start thinking about the construction industry, where not having the right materials or supplies on hand and ready to go can cause significant, costly delays. Inventory and material management in construction is critical to keeping projects fluid. The same applies to service contractors, where not having the right parts or supplies on hand to make timely repairs can lead to frustrated customers.
Many general and service contractors, however, are not taking advantage of the latest inventory and material management technologies available. While it is true that contractors are adapting much quicker to technology as a whole and embracing modern accounting and business management software, cutting edge planning and project management tools and the latest mobile computing solutions to do work in the field, inventory and materials technologies can tend to take a back seat in terms of importance.
Modernizing Supply and Demand
Unlike retail and grocery stores and mechanics, where lacking goods from time to time won’t necessarily break business, construction projects rely on having the right materials ready to go when needed. If they’re missing or incorrect, then the whole project can come screeching to a halt. With service contractors, the inconvenience caused from delays or rescheduling can result in significant lost business, and they too can cause delays on larger projects they’re a part of building if their materials are not ready to go when they are.
Thankfully, there are a lot of technology solutions on the market today—both standalone software and functionality in more complete ERP platforms—that can ensure materials and inventory are stocked, correctly marked and priced, properly accounted for, and ready for use at all times. These solutions can provide in-depth reporting and business intelligence, giving inventory and material managers the intuitive insight into what items need to be continually in stock, how to effectively purchase goods and materials to minimize costs, allow field staff and on-the-go technicians to scan-in goods and place orders when needed, and much more.
Furthermore, these solutions can save countless hours of work by streamlining and automating inventory and material management processes. This not only minimizes additional delays while goods and services are ordered/restocked, but lessens the chances of mistakes being made or duplicate orders sent through traditional manual and paper management.
So if managing materials coming from your pits, plants and vendors can be more than a little challenging or if storing and accessing inventory in your warehouses or service vans is more of a guessing game than a science, it might be time to consider a more modern approach.
Are your inventory and materials handling processes streamlined by technology?
PS, Using modern software can also prevent you from falling victim to this, let’s call it, dramatic oversight: Charge: Delivery driver ripped off grocer for $77K in Little Debbie pastries.