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Stretch billable time with van stock solutions

Installers need to spend the maximum amount of their time actually working on the job, not travelling to and from their merchant.

Reducing travel time is easily achieved when work is planned; the problem is with unplanned work, such as distress or emergency purchases where time is a critical component in customer satisfaction while still making a profit on the job.

The key to maximising billable time is to reduce travel and stand-by time by carrying the correct van stock in terms of both type and quantity. So what should installers carry in their van and what supply arrangements should they have in place for other items?

If boiler spares are a major part of your business, you should include blue wipe paper, universal thermocouples, leak detector spray, smoke matches, silicone grease and flue brushes. For general work add in protective gloves, flux, fire cement, plumbers’ mate, wall plugs, screws, expanding foam and isolating valves. Merchants that have a network of dedicated spares branches also make sure these essential items are always readily available.

Replenishment schedule

Installers should also agree with their merchant a low value stock level and replenishment programme that goes into their van periodically as a top-up.

A good merchant should be able to advise on typical van stock items, which would normally include consuming tool parts (blades and drill bits, etc) along with general plumbers’ brassware, such as ball valves, gate valves and stop taps, together with box-pack repair and service kits. The van should probably also carry gas and water testing equipment and pressure gauges for pre and post-commissioning.

Always ensure that you have your own health and safety equipment plus your own personal protective equipment. All of this will be available from your merchant’s trade counter.

The sophisticated way to buy is in larger quantities - 10, 50 or 100 items at a time - which offers better prices and also reduces repetitive travelling time to pick-up low value items. The aim here is not to overstock but to have a wide range of critical, fast-moving stock available for when it is needed.

The installer must be able to trust his local merchant branch and have confidence in the distribution arrangements that sit behind the branch, such as next day delivery or a pre-planned date and time-slot delivery along with other flexible options such as online ordering.

This gives the installer enough time to ‘prep’ the job and take out the existing boiler or pipework before the merchant delivers the new boiler at the installation address the next day. This should enable the installer to keep to the one-day schedule for the installation of a new boiler.

A final thought on supply arrangements: when the installer visits a merchant, he should get expert advice on product, availability and supplier lead time. This can save valuable time in comparison to a DIY ‘shed’ or non-specialised heating and plumbing merchant that forces the installer to get their own product and offers little in the way of technical help and guidance.

The ultimate goal for all installers must be to maximise billable time. This can only be achieved with a robust van stock policy and high quality supplier arrangements.

Max Brown is logistics manager for PTS