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Tips and Tricks: 10 HVAC Inventory Management Software Best Practices

October 22, 2019 | Read: 10 minutes

Any great HVAC manager knows that keeping a good inventory is the best, albeit the nerdiest, way to big profits. From properly managing inventory tax to optimizing the rate at which you send out purchase orders, there are a couple of HVAC inventory management software tips and tricks that you can use to boost your business!

Read on to find out more, or click to skip to what matters most to you:

1. Accept the facts: inventory management will never be what you’d call fun.
2. Assume from the get-go everything will devolve into chaos then create protocols that can hold up.
3. Get nerdy!
4. You’ll still need to do regular inventory checks and stock corrections.
5. Don’t fall behind!
6. Increase productivity.
7. Make use of automated workflows.
8. Create forecasts to help you predict future costs.
9. Set goals and stick to them.
10. Educate your team on prioritizing said goals.

Get started implementing all this advice by downloading the free guide to automating your HVAC business below:

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1. Accept the facts: inventory management will never be what you’d call fun

But you can make it more manageable! There’s no way to sugarcoat it: inventory management is one of the more tedious parts of running an HVAC company. It’s up there with accounting and getting the printer to work.

It’s admin heavy and requires a lot of attention to detail from everyone working on it, technicians included. But once you accept the fact that it’s challenging, you can get down to business and figure out a way to tackle it. For example…

2. Assume from the get-go everything will devolve into chaos then create protocols that can hold up

You should never create an inventory management process that depends on everything going according to plan. The classic scenario is where you buy a small software that scans incoming parts and produces a spreadsheet that an assigned admin (whoever drew the short stick when office tasks were divided, we imagine) has to edit every single time a part is moved around.

This, of course, is dependent on techs reporting parts that change locations and not just taking them out of the warehouse and leaving them in the back of the truck, since we’re sure that never happens.

An HVAC inventory management software that’s designed with this industry in mind, on the other hand, should allow you to create foolproof protocols. Take the last example, where technicians don’t report the parts they use. In this latest episode of Tools of the Trade, Rachel breaks down this scenario and explains the processes you can put in place to avoid it from happening altogether. Watch it below!

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Software with an overarching design would offer the option to ask every tech, when they mark a job as done and try to close the work order, if they used any parts and if they did, which ones. Otherwise, they simply can’t mark the job as done. Simple, right?

3. Get nerdy with your HVAC inventory management software!

In case we weren’t clear enough about it, you need a dedicated person to take care of inventory management and they have to be at least a little nerdy – in the best sense of the word! Shop your own team if you’re not ready for a new hire but make sure you get the right person. It’s not rocket science, but no matter how good an HVAC inventory management software is, you still need a detail-oriented professional to handle it.

This person also has to be aware of the impact stock has on an HVAC company and be ready to handle all the unpredictable ways in which confusion and errors appear. A warehouse manager needs to understand these challenges and be able to adapt, as well as make the most out of the software’s automation features. 

The guide & checklist below will give you a better idea of these challenges and what you can do to manage each:

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4. Even with HVAC inventory management software, you’ll still need to do regular inventory checks and stock corrections

Yes, you read that right: even with software. You still need the human touch and if one thing’s certain, it’s that errors often come with it. Regular inventory checks should be standard, but a good HVAC inventory management software will allow you to make stock corrections with ease.

Additionally, it should have access levels so that only certain users with security privileges can make said changes. This ensures that you can trace any edits back to their authors and protects you from employees taking parts out and writing them off in the system, then selling them for their own profit. 

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5. Don’t fall behind, make sure you have up-to-date HVAC inventory management software!

Be ready for new software. Once you’ve outgrown your old solution, don’t stick around just for old times’ sake and nostalgia. And especially, don’t just stick to it because “it’s too difficult to train people again”. Chances are, allocating time to train your team on a new system that actually works for your business will be more profitable than having them use one that isn’t up to par.  

Clunky software is a huge time and money drain on HVAC companies. A product might have been top of the line 15 years ago, but think about how long that is in tech time. 

To give you an idea, Twitter wasn’t even around 15 years ago. Neither were iPhones and Mark Zuckerberg was just getting around to creating Facebook. Time goes by faster in the tech world. So make sure to stay up-to-date. Before you commit to any solution, check if they release updates regularly or if their last one was around the time of the proverbial pyramids (or 6 months ago, that is, in tech time). 

6. Increase productivity

The purpose of software automation is to eliminate the repetitive and error-prone, aiding your team in smoothing out any troublesome processes. Inventory management is the ideal example. A money leak for many HVAC companies is keeping track of spare parts that can easily drain resources. Both overstock and understock can take up precious cash flow as well as increase the amount of inventory tax you have to pay. 

Optimizing asset management is a sure way to eliminate these minor losses that add up, making profits slip through your fingers. Reducing inventory waste, whether it’s because of theft or carelessness, is essential as it’s a matter of discipline and attention to detail, when it comes to using your HVAC inventory management software. Additionally, asset optimization can help to…

Automating your HVAC business is the most important step you can take in this direction. It eliminates boring and repetitive tasks, leaving more time to focus on actually running the business and pushing it forward. Below, you’ll find an easy guide to walk you through each part of the automating process:

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7. Make use of your HVAC inventory management software’s automated workflows

Ordering and reordering parts is a big… well, part of inventory management. It directly impacts business cash flow so it’s vital that you manage it efficiently. Too many orders and you end up with overstock and no cash to pay for everything; too few, and your techs don’t have the parts they need to get the job done. This is where automated workflows come into place. 

An HVAC automation software with a dedicated inventory management feature should make purchase orders a breeze. If it includes specialized reordering parameters, your inventory manager can set-up the software so that it automatically sends a purchase order when there’s only a certain number of items left in stock before a previously agreed upon time.

For example, the software can check everyday, at 4PM, if there are any categories with fewer than 3 items and, depending on your set-up, send out purchase orders to your preferred vendor . This way, you’re never running low on parts, but you’re also not wasting space on items you don’t need yet. 

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8. Create forecasts to help you predict future costs

Having an HVAC inventory management software also means that you can produce reports on your stock purchasing habits. These reports, in turn, are useful for spotting usage trends and building forecasts. Knowing exactly what you’re going to use and for how long allows you to plan ahead financially and even negotiate prices with vendors, who will be happy to know in advance what you’ll be buying and when. 

This can also improve customer satisfaction. Having an overview of all your inventory means you can always be confident you’ll have the right parts on hand. This will translate to jobs being completed more quickly, eliminating stress about inventory delays that might result in pushing appointments back.

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9. Set goals using your HVAC inventory management software and stick to them

Reports are not just useful for spotting trends but also for setting up key performance indicators. Like any other area of your business, inventory management can benefit from selecting KPIs such as reducing asset loss, improving stock accuracy or optimizing usage.

In order to identify these KPIs, consult your team on what they consider most important and what would be an achievable goal. This is especially relevant if you don’t work closely with your stock manager. You might find that your ideas of “achievable” are quite different from reality on the job. The right KPI is somewhere in the middle: challenging but realistic.

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10. Educate your team on prioritizing goals with HVAC inventory management software

Product tracking is a great example. Train your technicians to understand the importance of being organized and tracking every part that they use for a job.

Be empathetic in your approach and let them know that you understand they’re often under time pressure to be quick and that it’s easy to forget they took out a spare part, but these random acts of forgetfulness have a very real impact. You can even use your software to produce statistics about how much inventory errors are costing the company then go for the carrot approach and promise them that if they reduce losses, they can use the money for a team activity. 

If your HVAC inventory management software has the previously mentioned feature, where you can make “Parts Used” a required field for every work order, you’re free of this issue, but there are still many other mistakes that are uniquely due to that oh-so-common! human error and can only be prevented through professional training and attention to detail. 

Discover more about HVAC inventory management software with Commusoft’s dedicated feature. Create automated workflows and optimize your business for profit today! 

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I'm here to bring you 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 sci-fi novels and cookie recipes.

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