Challenges with Tracking Mobile Inventory

Challenges with Tracking Mobile Inventory
Monday, October 8th, 2012 Scott Bossart

                Does your business provide a mobile service to your customers?  Do you have to send your staff out to a job site on a routine basis?  Many businesses require service people to travel to a designated job site.  A majority of these also need to have an inventory of supplies or parts carried within the vehicle.  If this is your business, there is a need to have an effective way of managing this inventory.  Consider Heating and Cooling, Electrical contractors, as well as many other organizations where a stocked inventory is carried on the vehicle a member of the workforce drives.  While this inventory on a piece by piece basis may not be expensive, each piece over a given period of time can add up to become a substantial cost risk.  In some cases, some inventory can also be expensive as a single unit.  The bottom line is, the level of comfort you have regarding the level to which the transportable inventory is being managed and ultimately tracked to the proper customer.

                There may be a mindset that mobile inventory is cheap enough on an individual basis to not spend a lot to time tracking it.  The other mindset I often see is tracking via box or case counts of inventory used by a particular service member when it is restocked in their vehicle is adequate and then estimate the number of customers serviced.  This type of tracking is merely a guess at best.  The misconception is regarding tracking and that these materials are difficult and time consuming.  The service staff often times complains, moans, and groans if presented with the requirement of recording everything.  While I do not intend to make everyone nuts by suggesting every specific item in this inventory is tracked, certainly much of it is easily covered and understanding where it is going can bring value to the organization.  Each item carried on a vehicle is considered a potential profitable item.  While the profit is often not a make or break situation, depending on the size of the organization, collectively over a period of time, what might seem to be an insignificant item can amount to a reasonable business case for tracking.

                The first step to tracking everything is in identifying each item in a manor to which it can easily be tracked.  This is usually best done by assigning it a “Material” number.  Once the number is linked in the main database, it must be used exclusively for only a single item.  Each separate item will get its own unique material, number for tracking purposes.  This also ties back to one of my earlier blogs just over a month ago about managing inventories.  With this number, you can easily manage the inventory carried on each vehicle.  Minimum amounts can be specified so your service staff does not run out and require a second trip or on site delivery summing up to lost costs.  If managed properly, each item can easily be recorded and tracked to every customer facilitating more accurate summary reports.  Periodic inventory counting weekly or monthly can be performed for each vehicle to ensure tracking compliance.  The goal is to gain control, record, and track the mobile inventory and managing it in a better way.

                It is not about trusting your staff as much as tracking inventory, although trust could also be one of your challenges which tracking could assist with.  You might be surprised the actual impact to bottom line of the organization when you add up all the miss-tracked, or lost inventory that is carried on a vehicle.  Mobile inventory doesn’t have to be hard to track and record against a customer job assignment.  The key is in setting up the materials properly by establishing a unique code for each material, labeling, and then tracking that inventory as it is used.  In the end, the possibilities of transitioning your staff to a more organized group of professionals and capturing accurate costs against job assignments, is a far better business management process.

Stay Well

Scott B.


Leave a reply