Repairs can be a profitable aspect of your trades business, but appliance repair parts aren’t easy to manage. The good news is that these 5 strategies can help you gain control of your stock and assets, while leaving you more time to impress customers and earn a profit.
Managing the parts needed to repair an appliance is an essential part of running a repair business. Even if you specialize in a trade, like HVAC or electrical, you’ll still have to deal with repairs from time to time.
Appliances are also referred to more formally as assets and they are pieces of equipment installed at a customer’s address.
Why are assets so important when managing appliance repair parts?
An appliance, such as the industrial meat locker you’ve installed on a restaurant premises, is an asset your business is responsible for. This responsibility can be in the form of regular, preventive services and maintenance, or as an emergency repair, also known as reactive work.
Depending on your industry, an asset could be found in a customer’s home, office, or other place of business and range from, say, a simple standard boiler if you’re a plumber, to a stained-glass window (a non-standard example) if you’re in the window-cleaning business; and anything in-between. If you’re running a business that deals with repairs in general, you might have a variety of different assets, from lawn sprinklers to freezers.
Asset management, then, is all about recording and keeping an eye on the important details of every item that you’re expected to care for on behalf of your customer.
Asset management that goes further, however, can let you record extra details that dig into an asset’s history, such as whether a repair was completed on the product, and even what parts were used in that particular repair.
1. Record customer assets accurately.
The first step is to record the appliances you’re responsible for. In order to do this, you’ll have to come up with an asset management system.
Asset details may include such info like a product’s serial number, the make, model, and fuel type they use (if applicable), and even where it might be placed in that customer’s building/premises.
You can use paper, spreadsheets, or software (and one of these is definitely superior to the other two), but there’s no way around it: in order to get started managing your repair parts, you first need to properly record what exactly you’re repairing.
Whichever solution you choose, make sure there’s a configurable asset structure available, meaning that you’re not bound by what details you can and cannot record.
This is especially relevant when looking for digital tools, as not many software are designed to work with a variety of assets and only come with some very strict categories (e.g. name, location, serial number) and, as you probably know, life just isn’t that simple. Having customization options to fit any asset situation is the long term solution you need.
2. Have technicians update assets info via mobile devices.
The biggest challenge in managing repair parts is keeping relevant data up to date. When it comes to accessing such information, you want to ensure that every employee can only access the latest version. This way, they can all be sure that they’re sharing the correct, most accurate data to help them get their work done: at least in theory.
The problem, as usual, arises in practice and in reality, maintaining accurate data in real-time is a challenge. Some companies only give access to asset records and inventory data to a specific admin person or team and they’re the ones responsible for collecting data from technicians and updating said records.
While this can eliminate some errors, at the same time it reduces one or more of your employees to becoming a glorified scribe – a perfect recipe for employee disengagement and high turnover.
At the same time, this method relies on a single office person contacting every field technician, or requires every technician to report back with asset updates… and really, how likely is that? It can definitely work just fine for small companies who’re looking to stay small, but once you hire more than 2-3 technicians, the amount of data you’re dealing with will also increase and you’ll end up hiring an admin to manage each technician, which is going to drain any profit you make.
An ideal solution is to use records that can be updated by multiple individuals, whether in the office or on the field, and which display information in real-time. Google Sheets can be a temporary solution, but it can easily spiral out of control when too many people request access to edit and there’s no way to impose a framework (e.g. don’t shorten appliance names; keep notes tidy; etc.). Not to mention they’re a bit of a pain to use on mobile devices.
There are, however, tools designed specifically for repair parts management that come with asset features, as well as mobile functionalities. Check out the article below for more tails on those!
Step 3 is where we finally sit down and talk about repair parts management. As you can probably tell, preparation is essential to your success. Once all the appliances you’re responsible for servicing are recorded, you can start building a management strategy based on the following:
What repair parts you want to keep permanently in stock (also known as a “never-out-of-stock” strategy)
What repair parts can you reliably get from local vendors at a convenient price & delivery/pick-up time
What prices to charge for these parts (or include in the final job price) to ensure you’re still making a profit
The reason you need all that information beforehand is because without it, the answers to these questions are just best guesses. Sure, if you’re just starting your business, some guesswork will be necessary, but as you gain more experience and notice what repair parts you use more often than others, you can start tailoring your management strategy.
The result? Advanced and accurate data to help minimize costs and maximize profit, all without skimping on quality of service.
4. Create and maintain reports for every appliance.
How many times have you serviced an office building last year? How many tags did you use each time?
Asset information and records are vital to answer these questions because if you don’t know your service history and how many individual parts you’ve used in the past for each type of appliance, you’ll end up suffering from one or more of the following problems:
Overstocking parts you don’t use. This will take up expensive storage space that could be put to better use
Understocking of parts you need often. This will lead to delays in finishing jobs and getting paid
Non-preferential pricing from vendors because you’re not able to tell them in advance what you need to order in bulk versus what you don’t
Historical reports also help you build better proposals when trying to get more commercial work. On one hand, they give you accurate numbers to take back to property managers, and on the other, they show how thorough and attentive to detail you are. Who wouldn’t want to work with a repair company like that?
5. Use data to negotiate benefits from suppliers.
We touched a bit about this in the bullet points above but just to stress how profitable good repair parts management practices can be, think about the difference between buying a chocolate bar at a corner shop and buying one at Walmart. One takes advantage of the fact that you’re in a hurry and need a sugar rush right now, while the other rewards thinking ahead with lower prices and bigger savings.
A preventive attitude to repair parts can yield the same rewards, plus a good relationship with your preferred vendor which can lead to better and better preferential pricing over time. But there’s no point to buying in bulk parts that you won’t end up using, so keeping those historical records we mentioned is essential if you want to make the right decisions when it comes down to signing the purchase order.
The value good repair parts management brings to your business and to your customers is hard to understate. Sure, recording this information might not be the most exciting part of the job, but there’s no denying it will yield sweeter fruit: happy customers, efficient business, and low operational costs.
Well, with software, you can do just that! To discover more about what to look for in parts management software, you can click here to explore more of what Commusoft can do for you. And if you’re looking to take your business to the next level, click the banner below!
Hi! I'm Cristina Maria
And I want to bring next-level strategies to the field service industry. When I'm not working on the best tips to grow your business, I'm on the lookout for a sci-fi novel to beat The Foundation.