“You have more important things to do than manage your inventory, so your goal should be to find a partner.”
—Chad McAllister, director of sales at R.E. Michel Company
Tradespeople are experts at installing and replacing equipment. But that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to tracking the types, quantities, and locations of those parts. Modern inventory management involves knowledge of the models best suited to a company’s specific needs and access to e-commerce tools, among many other factors. The right balance can maximize parts availability without impacting your company’s cash on hand.
Over 85 years in business, R.E. Michel Company has developed a deep understanding of inventory management as a wholesale distributor of HVAC equipment with more than 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space.
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In a virtual session during Pantheon 2020, ServiceTitan’s annual conference for the trades, R.E. Michel experts Chad McAllister, director of sales, and Tracy Johnson, corporate sales, explained how to strike that balance. Here are some key takeaways:
1. Understand the true goals of inventory management.
No one wants to add another system and train staff on how to use it without a real-world ROI. An inventory management system should limit losses, increase billable hours, decrease stock while increasing cash on hand, build partnerships with inventory specialists, increase technician accountability, and provide visibility. All of these affect your bottom line.
“You want to be able to see what inventory you have, where you have it, and how much,” McAllister says. “You want that visibility 24/7, 365 days a year. If you don't know what inventory you have, how can you properly service your customers?”
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2. E-commerce must be part of the equation.
Today’s consumers want more flexible ways to order and pay for goods and services online. Inventory management should be just as easy.
R.E. Michel, for example, provides app-based tools, such as Exclusive Supplier Partnership (ESP). When techs remove parts from a truck, they simply scan the barcodes on the products, and the count automatically updates and triggers replenishment when necessary.
“When you're looking at e-commerce partners, look at the ways they can help you create different ways of payment,” Johnson says. “(R.E. Michel) can help you create a consistent order in our e-commerce site. We can actually create a quick form, with the ability to standardize and send in an order without all of the physical typing.”
3. Find a partner that listens to your needs.
When evaluating partnerships, companies should make sure they get everything they need. For R.E. Michel, this meant working toward full integration with ServiceTitan once customers began to ask for it.
In addition, the R.E. Michel team helps customers clean out their trucks, scans all items, and makes helpful suggestions when setting up the ESP app.
“You have more important things to do than manage your inventory, so your goal should be to find a partner,” McAllister says. “We talked to customers that use ServiceTitan, and they loved ESP but wanted it to integrate with ServiceTitan.”