Have you ever been out on a job site and needed that one extra cable connection? You look in every parts bin, but no luck! Or perhaps you needed a sharp pair of cable cutters. You finally get your hands on them but they are dull because one of your coworkers used them to prune or cut bailing wire. Both of these scenarios cost you time and money. Performing routine maintenance on equipment and keeping inventory in check is just as important as maintaining a previously installed job.
I am sure there have been times that you have thought, “I don’t know if I am ever going to need this, but I hate to get rid of it!” There are many ways to keep your shop and truck inventory rotated and up to date. For those lesser-used tools and materials, it might be necessary to store them in a special area. If you have not needed something in the last two to five years, it may be time to sell it. If something is broken or past its useful life, it might be time to part with it.
Keeping the correct mix of products and maintenance materials is key to a successful lighting business. Be sure to ask your rep about bulk purchases. Everyday items such as transformers, replacement lamps, cable connections and wire can often be purchased in bulk. Sometimes contractors achieve significant savings by purchasing in this manner.
If your company is smaller, you may want to split a bulk purchase with another contractor. Over the years, I have known contractors who have friendly competitor relationships and work with each other when it comes to bulk buying.
In addition, many distributors have outside sales reps assigned to your account. Some have adapted the concept of helping you take care of your inventory. Certain reps will schedule a time to visit your shop and help you with your normal inventory items. Many can also document your hot-moving items so you can plan your inventory and get the best pricing possible.
Hand and power tools
Purchasing higher-quality hand tools is often debated amongst the trade. Some contractors agree that these tools are often lost on job sites. One day in the future, I am sure archaeologists will be digging up all those lost wire strippers and side cutters. The loss of these tools adds up over the years.
Improper use can also lead to tool loss. Using wire strippers for anything other than copper cable can dull the blade significantly. Be sure that these cutters are only used for copper and not steel or bailing wire.
Some contractors will only purchase higherquality tools. These tools will generally have a much better design and an ergonomic, comfortable fit in the hand. Nonslip grips and sharper blades can increase productivity and cause less frustration. Higherquality tools often have a limited lifetime warranty.
Many contractors who purchase these tools have provided an incentive program for their employees. Each technician is issued a rig of hand tools. After one year, a bonus is given to those who have not lost or damaged the issued rig.
Power tools make all installations and service calls much easier. It is important to inspect these tools regularly. In larger companies the lead foremen are generally given the responsibility of keeping track of all tools. Any issues or replacement needs are reported to the operations manager. The operations manager will purchase new tools and schedule service for all equipment.
Many independent manufacturer reps and distributor sales managers are skilled in offering training for a variety of tools. Be sure to ask about these training classes. This will help you stay on top of the latest equipment and try before you buy.
What nuggets of wisdom have you learned about tools and inventory that help set you up for success? I’d love to hear what has worked well for you. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your advice.
Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at email@example.com.