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Battling Inventory Shortages in the Trades

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3 Ways To Combat Extended Lead Times & Backordered Equipment

For decades, manufacturers and developers in various industries have adopted and thrived on lean or “Just-in-Time” inventory systems. The Just-in-Time (JIT) manufacturing philosophy is defined as “the production of goods to meet customer demand exactly, in time, quality and quantity, whether the ‘customer’ is the final purchaser of the product or another process further along the production line.” The goal of this form of inventory management is to keep inventories thin and lean, allowing distributors and retailers to quickly pivot based on market demands.

This system of inventory management has been adopted by numerous industries spanning from automobiles to retail to HVAC and kitchen equipment – just to name a few. These industries have thrived for almost half a century using lean inventory systems, but have recently struggled due to the impact and constraints of the ongoing pandemic.

Taking a look specifically at the field service industry, pandemic travel, labor, and shipping restrictions have caused inventory shortages across the board.

  • 94% of companies on the Fortune 1000 list have seen supply chain disruptions
  • Last February’s winter storms in TX caused a 30-50% shortage in many commonly used materials, including PVC pipe, plumbing supplies, vinyl siding, vapor barriers, geotextiles, paints, coatings, and packaging materials
  • In kitchen equipment, dealers reported doubled lead times on several products, increasing from 4 to 6 weeks lead time to 10 to 12 weeks

So, what can we do to help cope with increased lead times and backordered equipment and materials?

As a growing number of restaurants and facilities continue to reopen and temperatures rise going into the summer, increased demand will cause additional stress on already depleted inventories. As the industry as a whole continues to struggle and adapt to shortages in both inventory and labor, there are a few steps service providers can take to help alleviate stress and continue to serve their customers.

Increase Focus on Preventative Maintenance

With inventories scarce, replacement equipment for a specific unit may not be available for quite some time. Because of the lack of availability, service providers should increase their focus on planning and performing routine scheduled maintenance on existing units for their customers.

While maintaining and extending the lifetime of a specific piece of equipment should always be a focus, during a shortage, the importance of ensuring a unit doesn’t break down prematurely due to preventable issues increases exponentially.

Additionally, the benefits of regularly scheduled preventative maintenance plans will continue to benefit your business and your customers even after inventories level out.

Help Your Techs Make Do With What’s Available

Nothing is more frustrating to a service technician than needing a specific replacement part or unit entirely and the item(s) not being available. After all, a technician’s main goal is to complete each job correctly, ensuring that their customer is happy and satisfied with the work performed. Unfortunately, indefinite inventory shortages can throw a major wrench in a technician’s hopes of completing a job in a timely manner.

With limited resources, technicians may be forced to be flexible in the specific equipment they are required to use to complete the job at hand. As a result, the technician may have to work with a piece of equipment that they are unfamiliar with simply because it was the only thing available at the time.

Because your technicians may not have experience working with the equipment that is in stock and available, it is highly recommended to arm them with additional resources and tools to help them troubleshoot any issues they may encounter while working with an unfamiliar unit – including access to equipment manuals, diagrams, training videos, or even real-time remote virtual assistance for trickier situations.

Combat Extended Lead Times With Remote Diagnostics

When it comes to serving your customers, time is a valuable resource. With lead times for receiving specific parts and materials at an all time high, the faster you can identify and order the parts needed to complete a job the better.

One of the best ways to save time and complete a job faster is to perform remote diagnostics before a technician makes a trip on site. Utilizing a remote video communication tool can help counteract extended lead times by allowing you to survey a site ahead of time, diagnose any issue(s), and order the necessary part(s) and equipment sooner.

In Conclusion…

The field service industry isn’t out of the woods yet when it comes to navigating the effects of the pandemic. With inventory shortages affecting various resources throughout the trades, service providers need to take proactive measures to ensure they are able to serve their customers as efficiently and effectively as possible.

XOi Technologies

Posted In: Management, Technology

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