4 Ways Field Services Can Manage Material Price Rises and Shortages

4 Ways Field Services Can Manage Material Price Rises and Shortages

It’s not just the construction industry facing the challenge of energy price hikes, supply chain issues, material shortages and inflated prices. It’s hitting the services and maintenance industries too.

Managing a field services business against a backdrop of price hikes, and materials and parts shortages, poses significant problems, especially since customer expectations have evolved to an all-time high.

So, what can field services businesses do to mitigate the risks? This blog highlights 4 key things field service organisations should be doing now to alleviate the pain.

Key Challenges Facing Field Service Businesses Today

As if the challenge of running a field services business through a pandemic wasn’t enough, further interruptions to workflow are being faced from material shortages, and price rises mean margins are being squeezed. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The pandemic unwittingly acted as a positive catalyst in many ways. Technological advancement has been huge. Safety precautions have been given an overhaul and workflows are being optimised. 

Communications and contactless channels have evolved. Customers are using online chat, online booking, and appointment management via mobile devices more than ever before. Cashless payments via mobile phone are becoming the norm. And for engineers and other field service employees, employers’ attitudes around flexibility have shifted to a better place. 

There are lots of good things to shout about.

Another fundamental shift taking place in field services stems from the way servicing operates. Preventative and break-fix maintenance is moving to condition-based maintenance solutions, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). This makes planning ahead for jobs, engineers and parts a whole lot easier.

And last, but by no means least, businesses are now coming to realise the benefits of cloud-based, field service management software to streamline workflows and achieve operational efficiencies.

Thankfully, there are ways to weather the storm.

4 Ways to Mitigate the Impact of Material Price Rises and Shortages

Stock Management

Supply chain issues hampered field services businesses throughout the pandemic, but now material shortages have escalated. Since the shortages are unlikely to right themselves for at least another six months, field service organisations must plan further ahead and keep closer tabs on stock.

Inventory management during this time is critical. Building maintenance contractors typically hold stock in their engineers’ vehicles and it may be worthwhile setting up consignment stock agreements with wholesalers or stocking it yourself on site. Some materials get ordered directly to jobs whilst other items that get used regularly are ordered and distributed to jobs from there. Understandably, keeping track of stock can be challenging at the best of times. 

Now, planning must be meticulous to ensure maintenance work can go ahead.

Joblogic’s stock control software keeps track of consignment stock and stock at any number of locations, including vehicles. Items used by engineers from their vans and taken from warehouse locations are auto-deducted and updated in real-time via a mobile phone app, meaning stock records are up-to-date and minimum hold quantities are automatically flagged up. Stock can be seen in real-time from an easy-to-view dashboard. This makes it much easier to plan jobs and pre-order the right stock well in advance.

Customer Communication

Customer Communication

Strengthening relationships with customers is essential for reputation and even more vital at a time when stock shortages mean jobs might be delayed. Keeping customers updated is an increasingly important aspect of customer experience. If customers aren’t kept in the loop, and there are delays, they are much more likely to take their business elsewhere.

With such disruption in the supply chain and the possibility of critical stock items being delayed, communication with customers about lead times is vital. Everyone is battling the shortages. Keeping customers informed about the current climate means there is no surprise thrown on them when your business can’t get hold of something. 

If customers don’t understand the reasons a job is inadvertently delayed, they are more likely to switch their loyalty to a competitor. If, on the other hand, they understand this is an industry-wide issue, they are less likely to leave.

Sharing updates and circulating supplier bulletins is a great way to keep customers informed. It helps customers to understand the challenges the whole industry is facing.

Being transparent is key. Businesses that build this into their customer communications strategy are more likely to keep waiting customers on board.

Advanced Planning and Job Costing

Digital job costing during times of price rises

In tandem with stock management, advanced job planning must be more stringent during a time of potential stock shortages. With price volatility, customers also need to know that for jobs booked a long time in advance, costs may change. Again, keeping customers updated about this is essential.

The current situation of shortages may mean field services businesses have to carry more stock at higher rates during this time. But planning maintenance work further ahead will protect against being caught out by shortages or further price rises further down the line. Our guide to inventory management software details how maintaining full visibility of parts, tools and equipment can benefit your business infinitely. 

Keeping track of job costs is absolutely critical. Job costing rules, such as determining mark-ups on materials for each job, and time costs for engineers, is essential for tracking profitability and ensuring business viability. 

Joblogic’s job costing software makes it easy to track costs against even the smallest of jobs in real time. The system can automatically feed time and costs into reports and invoices to help make the tracking and reporting process seamless.

It means you need to work more closely with supply chains and communicate requirements earlier with suppliers and distributors. Just as with customers, maintaining supplier relationships is critical. But with shortages an issue, exploring alternative suppliers should also be part of any risk management strategy. 

Improving job forecasting along with supplier collaboration is key. “Procurement has to move to the next performance level to be fit for the future! Crisis will always happen. The one who is best prepared, will win”, says procurement consultant, Nis-Peter Iwersen.

Prioritising Jobs

Efficiency of job scheduling has never been more important. It’s a time-consuming and tedious task trying to manage this via a spreadsheet and whiteboards. Job scheduling software enables the most important jobs to be easily prioritised and a timestamp kept on everything. Plus, engineers time gets optimised and everyone is kept on the same page.

Minimising miles for engineers to save on time and fuel is also now a key component when prioritising jobs. Having a birds-eye view of engineer availability means the most cost-effective engineers can be assigned to each task. 

With Joblogic’s job scheduling software, field service organisations can assist their teams in the field by identifying and dispatching jobs to the most suitable engineer. 

There has never been such a pivotal time to embrace technology in field services. Those that don’t, will get left behind. Streamline and optimise your business operations with Joblogic. Book a FREE demo call with one our field service and maintenance industry specialists today. We are here to help you weather the storm.

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