Reduce Field Asset Downtime with Asset Inventory Management
March 22, 2023 - FSM Software - 12 minutes
Effective asset inventory management depends on having the right information exactly when you need it. A speedy response can make the difference between happy, long-term customers and your hard-earned business moving on to a competitor.
Generally, asset downtime is the main measurement when it comes to upholding a maintenance standard of quality. The longer a customer’s appliance is down, the more money (commercial customers) and peace of mind (residential customers) they lose. Therefore, the quicker you’re able to resolve their issue, the better they experience.
So, how do you reduce field asset downtime to a minimum? Let’s start with the basics.
What Is Asset Inventory Management?
Assets are usually classified in two categories: tangible and intangible assets. Tangible assets include appliances, tools, vehicles, equipment, etc., while intangible refers to technician skills, intellectual property (such as patents), digital content (such as blog articles), and more.
Asset inventory management is an organized way of tracking and managing customer assets you’ve installed. These are the appliances that your company maintains to an agreed upon standard of service for a contracted period of time. They can be assets your business may have installed, but that’s not a requirement.
Some examples of commercial customer assets include:
- Air conditioning units in an office building
- Fire alarms in a shopping mall
- Deep fryers in a restaurant
Some examples of residential customer assets are:
- Garage doors
- Air conditioning units
The level of detail regarding how an appliance is recorded depends on the system and how complex it is. Manually keeping track of assets using spreadsheets will severely limit the level of detail and the number of appliances you can feasibly track – but that might work if you don’t have a lot to begin with. Good asset management software will record everything, from make and model, to location on premise to what work was done on the asset and who did it, which is key if business growth and efficiency is your goal.
What Causes Field Asset Downtime for Trades Businesses?
Field asset downtime is caused by numerous reasons, from faults with the installation or appliance, to poor usage practices, to the assets age and maintenance history (or lack thereof!). Your task as a service company is to:
- Prevent downtime through regular maintenance
- Reduce unpreventable downtime to a minimum by reacting swiftly to any call-out
Low asset downtime is a badge of excellence for any service and maintenance company. Whether you provide reactive or planned maintenance services, a quick response is necessary. Off the top of your head, can you remember all the past field appliances you’ve serviced, where they’re located, and each of their specific makes and models? Probably not, right?
This is where a customer asset management system comes into play. Purpose-built asset management platforms boost organization, speed, and accuracy. These strengths are how you outpace competitors and win more customers.
The less time an appliance is out of commission, the happier your customers will be. We’ll cover how software reduces field asset downtime, and review essentials you should look for in your technology.
Benefits of Asset Inventory Management
Improved asset tracking
Digital asset tracking tools can dramatically decrease downtime by hosting vital details in one place. Centralized appliance details mean your team can easily pivot and react when assets are down.
Which details matter most? For starters, your team should record make and model, brand, last service date, and which team member last serviced the asset. An organized system ensures that important know-how and information won’t disappear when someone retires, leaves the company, or is on vacation.
The speed at which you can share information directly impacts the speed of service you can provide to customers. When an asset is down, or if a critical asset is completely broken, customers aren’t going to be in a great mood. In these tense situations, customers reach out to your office staff, not your technicians. This interaction is critical for both the customer and your company.
Real-time visibility and better control
Asset management databases emphasize efficiency, so technicians can perform quicker fixes, cutting asset downtime. Your customers can get back to normal quicker, and your technicians can accommodate more jobs per working day.
This dramatically cuts downtime, especially in commercial settings. Commercial properties can have hundreds of appliances. In situations where customers are angry, or if the asset is critical to the building’s safety, it’s important to minimize repair time.
Technicians don’t have to wander around the property alone or enlist a property manager to help them search for a broken asset. With a centralized system for asset tracking, they can immediately react to the situation and get straight to work.
Streamlined maintenance and repair processes
Further, detailed records can help you provide the best recommendations to customers. If an asset repeatedly breaks down, receipts of past services make it easier to suggest a replacement. This saves customers both time and money on appointments, and your company on parts costs. Additionally, your technicians can walk into a job prepared to carry out the best course of action, cutting downtime even further.
Administrative costs are also a concern for many service and maintenance businesses. Keeping many items in stock or overstocking can seriously affect your cash flow, while understocking will lead to longer wait times and downtime for customers.
Reduced asset downtime benefits more than the customer, it can strengthen your customer care and efficiency. Smart asset management means your business can support more jobs while empowering your office team to tackle more high value tasks. As for technicians, the best asset software eliminates any guesswork. technicians can jump into servicing the asset straightaway.
Asset management databases emphasize efficiency, so technicians can perform quicker fixes, cutting downtime. Your customers can get back to normal quicker, and your technicians can accommodate more jobs per working day.
Implementing Inventory Management for Field Assets
An inventory for your customers’ appliances means having a centralized system that your team can access at any given time and find details about each asset, such as make, number, location, and history of service.
Implementing asset inventory management software has its challenges, but it’s worth it in the end. The alternative is trying to stay on top via manual processes like notebooks or spreadsheets. You’ll reach a point where you either have to hire an office person for every customer. Or, you might give up and live with the errors and disgruntled customers.
This being said, a well-planned implementation process leads to a smooth transition. Let’s break this down!
Assess current asset management process
The first two questions you need to answer when assessing your current appliance management process are:
- Who is currently responsible for recording and maintaining customer assets?
- Who interacts with customer assets at any given time?
Answering these questions will help you understand who needs to be trained to use the system you’re implementing. Usually, the main person responsible receives the official training and they disseminate it to others who interact with the system, but if you’re dealing with a particularly complex one, it’s ideal to train everyone.
One thing everyone should be clear on is that they’re all equally responsible for keeping things organized and sticking to the system in place.
After you’ve identified your main asset management team, you can get started with writing down the process and variations.
- When do you record a customer asset for the first time?
- What should be included in an asset inventory?
- How do you record an asset [make, model, location, color, etc.]?
- When do you update the asset history and who inputs the changes?
- When do you remove an asset permanently?
- Do you keep an archive of deleted assets?
- Who has access to your asset database?
- Do you use any mobile devices to record assets?
- How do you handle security for the assets you manage?
Don’t panic if you discover that you don’t have a set process in place for asset tracking and that employees are simply winging it. You’re not the first disorganized service company, nor the last. Being honest is more important in this situation. After all, if you never identify the issues, there’s no hope of ever fixing them.
Identify assets that require maintenance and repairs
While asset software dramatically reduces downtime, it also supports Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) workflows. Reacting in real time to last-minute jobs is important in the trades industry. But the ability to offer preventative services will cement your dependability.
Promoting asset uptime through careful maintenance is a continuous solution. Naturally, the best way to reduce appliance downtime is to stop the appliance failing in the first place! A planned maintenance approach consists of a service schedule that avoids downed assets. Taking a proactive approach to maintenance can benefit your business in a variety of ways.
Service appointments, depending on asset type, can be scheduled months in advance. Your business can generate increased cash flow with regular jobs. Since service and checkup appointments are shorter and less labor intensive compared to full-replacements and repairs, your technicians can take more jobs in a work day.
Create a maintenance schedule
Some customers are forgetful, manage multiple locations, or have no idea when to request servicing. All of these scenarios can lead to downed appliances. Whether you have a service contract in place or not, if you want to offer an excellent customer experience (and get some recurring revenue for yourself!), you can create a maintenance schedule in your asset system to notify you, then send a reminder to customers that if they want a long-term, energy efficient appliance, recommended servicing is due.
In this scenario you control the schedule through asset tracking and prevent downtime from ever occurring, ideally with a field service business automation solution. Staying ahead of potential issues is a tremendous value-add for your company. Your customers will be grateful for avoiding future headaches.
Track company asset performance metrics
The trades industry is steadily becoming more reliant on technology. Your asset management software should have a mobile app device your technicians can quickly pull information from. They should have access to information that matters most.
Further, the asset management software you choose needs to be customizable to suit the unique needs of your industry and company. Necessary and practical knowledge that’s readily available sharply reduces asset downtime.
Field Asset Inventory Management Best Practices
Now that you’ve finished implementing your field asset management software, it’s important that you follow a set of best practices. At the end of the day, a tool is only as good as the people using it. If your team isn’t on the same page about keeping things organized, even the best system will break.
Standardize asset data
Asset data fields can include a variety of different specific facts. This includes make and model number, date of installation, the last service date, warranty, serial number, location on the property, and other industry specific details. It’s impossible for technicians to know all these details simply by looking at the appliance.
One best practice is to make sure that you have a standard way of recording this information that every employee is aware of before they become system users. Details like capitalization and order matter in this case.
Invest in asset management software
A system and a software are not the same thing. A set of spreadsheets can be a system, too, but a dedicated management software is going to take your business to the next level. The right one will help you:
- Stay on top of customer assets at all times
- Increase the ease of use for every member of your team
- Bringing everything on one screen
- Streamlining the overall process
- Reduce costs by helping you do more with the same resources
- Help you avoid expensive service contract breaches
There’s two types of appliance management software you can look into: dedicated and all-in-one. A dedicated solution will come with more customization advantages, but an all-in-one management software will communicate with the rest of your system. This is particularly relevant for your CRM (customer relationship management), as assets are deeply intertwined with customer information. Whichever one you choose, make sure it can also grow with your business and that you won’t be in the same position, looking for a new tool a couple of years from now.
Training employees on asset management process
We’ve mentioned training your employees to become users of your asset inventory management system above, but it’s also a best practice to keep them up-to-date. Training isn’t just a one-off. Software gets updated, tools improve, and the market changes. Supporting employees to improve and valuing learning and development is a sign of a great service company.
You might be thinking: “what if I invest in employees and they leave the next day?”, to which we’d respond “what if you don’t and they stay with you?”.
Leverage Software and Start Reducing Your Downtime Today
Increasing uptime with PPM leads to happier and satisfied customers. Pivoting quickly and reacting in real time to reduce downtime will leave your competitors in the dust. After all, customers want quick, accurate, and helpful solutions. Your software solution should offer:
- Easy access to full asset history ✅
- Asset data at your technicians’ fingertips ✅
- Accessible asset location, which further cuts downtime ✅
- A Planned Preventative Maintenance strategy that minimizes asset downtime ✅
Have you considered reducing appliance downtime and managing your appliances with Commusoft? Our asset management solution offers all of these features. We’re an all-in-one job management platform that empowers our clients to provide unmatched service for their customers.