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By Robert Hall
With trucks, equipment, and materials, plumbing businesses have a large overhead. That means that if you want to stay competitive, you’ll always be looking for ways to cut your costs.
Currently, there are several technologies that can help you do just that. What’s more, these technologies will help you streamline your operation, which translates to increased efficiency, better customer service, and even faster response times.
GPS fleet tracking
Normally people think of GPS fleet tracking in relation to the trucking industry or delivery services. However, any business with a fleet — and that includes your plumbing trucks — will benefit from GPS tracking. Here are some of the benefits you’ll see immediately:
• Reduced Vehicle Insurance: Many insurance companies will give you deep discounts for installing a GPS tracking system.
• Fuel Savings: The ability to find the shortest routes quickly — while avoiding traffic delays — saves both fuel costs and time.
• Faster Response Times: Simply input an address for turn-by-turn instructions to your destination. Your customers will appreciate your quick arrival during a plumbing emergency.
• Maintenance Reminders: The latest GPS systems give you an easy way to track vehicle maintenance, and they’ll remind you when your trucks need a tune-up. Excellent maintenance prevents costly breakdowns.
GPS tracking also has a few benefits that will pay off in the long run. Many GPS tracking devices offer timecard systems, which let your employees log work hours without wasting fuel on a return trip to the shop. Because GPS tracking gives you access to a wealth of data — work hours, drive times and more — you’ll be able to thoroughly analyze your company’s transportation needs, which may let you cut costs even further.
Inventory tracking with barcodes
Barcoding is used across a variety of industries, and it’s an essential tool for plumbing contractors. With this technology, you can track everything from pipe fittings to pumps. You’ll have up-to-the-minute information on your storeroom’s inventory, as well as an inventory of the parts on each truck. With that knowledge, you can improve customer service by reducing wait times while you restock parts and equipment.
A barcoding system also means less paperwork for you. With handheld scanners, there’s no need to keep paper logs, and you can eliminate manual data entry. As a bonus, the reduction of paperwork and data entry will lead to fewer transposed digits and other costly errors.
If you want to reduce paperwork even more, a paperless office system is the way to go. Equip your workforce with tablets, notebook computers, or laptops to create printable customer invoices and electronic forms. At the office, a small investment in scanners and software will help you organize purchase orders, payments, and more.
Paperless office systems let you save in several ways. First, you’ll spend less on paper, toner or ink, and other printing and filing supplies. You’ll also devote far less storage space to file boxes and cabinets. The most important benefit (and often the most overlooked) is that you and your employees will spend less time hunting for specific papers. A simple search will bring up all the digital documents you need.
Moving to the cloud
Once you’ve installed GPS tracking systems, started barcoding your inventory and upgraded to a paperless office, the last step is to transition your business to the cloud. Cloud computing links all the pieces of your system, including mobile units in the field, barcode scanners, computers, and other office equipment. Instead of storing your data on an in-office server, you’ll use off-site storage, which will substantially decrease your maintenance and IT costs.
Moreover, cloud-based systems eliminate the need to upgrade your computers and software on a regular basis. If you choose a subscription service, all updates and technical support will be handled by software companies and your hosting service. So long as you and your employees are equipped with internet-capable devices, you’ll have easy access to your forms, data, and virtual paperwork.
If you’re like most plumbing contractors, a large percentage of your budget goes into tools, equipment upgrades, and training for your technicians. Because you’re focused on those costs, it’s easy to overlook technology upgrades. However, if you invest some of your budget into these technologies, you’ll find that the increase in productivity and cuts to fuel, maintenance, and administrative costs will quickly pay for your investment.
Robert Hall is the president of Track Your Truck headquartered in New Lenox, Ill. Track Your Truck is a leading provider of vehicle tracking systems to the plumbing industry. Visit www.trackyourtruck.com.