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Thread: Truck inventory best practices?

  1. #11
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    JD74, one word Liability.
    If your going to do all that I would go 1099 and write a contract with my new "partner".

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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeyD74 View Post
    Id supply the van if I was getting paid enough from an employer.
    Before I became an electrician, I worked for a contractor to Airborne Express and then DHL, both major package delivery companies. The deal was we supplied our own vans. The contractor required the vans to be a certain minimum size, be mechanically fit, look fairly good, and for us to pay to have them painted and stickered with the company colors and logos. We were required to buy a particular insurance policy which protected the company from liability. We were responsible for all maintenance and fuel. If the van broke down we were required to rent a replacement while it was getting fixed.

    If that doesn't sound crazy. it should. At first blush, the compensation sounded good. I worked with 30 guys who thought this was a good deal. I thought I was making about $12/hr after expenses. I probably wasn't taking all the real costs into account. If I were to recalculate it today, I suspect it would come out about minimum wage. The people who took this deal were all low-skilled (including me). Some of them had been to prison which limited their options. This seemed like a good deal only because there were few places to get a better one. Electricians are skilled labor so I'm not sure this deal would be as attractive to many.

    It was a great deal for the employer but a poor one for the employees. Personally, my moral code does not allow me to screw my employees so I could never do this. I'm sure there are companies that do. I'm poorer cash-wise for it but richer in other ways.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by sameguy View Post
    JD74, one word Liability.
    If your going to do all that I would go 1099 and write a contract with my new "partner".
    Using independent contractors, or partners has some issues:

    Even without licensing, GL policies, or Workers-Comp/insurances, private owners of strip mall shops, along with renters, and residential property is a significant market that may lawfully affect repairs themselves. Such improvements may not always require licensing, nor always be compliant, but 1099's tend to expose it to the world.

    A 1099 to Joe contractor tells Insurance adjusters who find hack jobs, or the 1099, they can demand proof of licensing/workers comp./insurances, and void claims that violate insurance policy/building code/license laws.

    Your partner's business miles documented on Invoices & receipts will show % Qualifying Business Use, per IRS Form 4562 Part V, before Standard Mileage Rates for Business & Medical are claimed, which proves independent contractor status, but the need for commercial-liability insurance may follow a need for their own license, bonding, GL policy, Workers Comp, etc.. Give employees all that & they don't need you, or may take your customers with them when they leave.
    Roger Ramjet NoFixNoPay

  4. #14
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    You could just stock the truck the same, IE 10 receptacles, 10 switches, 10 1/2 EMT connectors, (you get the point) then you keep the stock in the shop. I'm not sure if they come to the shop every day, but the truck should always have that count on it. So if Monday you send them on a service call to replace a breaker, but on Tuesday they need to restock 5 receptacles, then you know something's going on. So basically they would "buy" the material from the shop filling out a form on what they needed to restock the truck.

    Make sense?
    I can build anything you want if you draw a picture of it on the back of a big enough check.

    There's no substitute for hard work....but that doesn't mean I'm going to give up trying to find one.

    John Childress
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  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by cowboyjwc View Post
    You could just stock the truck the same, IE 10 receptacles, 10 switches, 10 1/2 EMT connectors, (you get the point) then you keep the stock in the shop. I'm not sure if they come to the shop every day, but the truck should always have that count on it. So if Monday you send them on a service call to replace a breaker, but on Tuesday they need to restock 5 receptacles, then you know something's going on. So basically they would "buy" the material from the shop filling out a form on what they needed to restock the truck.

    Make sense?
    To an extent. Maybe they convinced customer that those 5 receptacles needed replaced, an "upsell", which is good for the bottom line. Sales invoice/receipt should reflect this though.
    I live for today, I'm just a day behind.

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by kwired View Post
    To an extent. Maybe they convinced customer that those 5 receptacles needed replaced, an "upsell", which is good for the bottom line. Sales invoice/receipt should reflect this though.
    Correct
    I can build anything you want if you draw a picture of it on the back of a big enough check.

    There's no substitute for hard work....but that doesn't mean I'm going to give up trying to find one.

    John Childress
    Electrical Inspector
    IAEI / CEI / C10
    Certified Electrical Inspector

  7. #17
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    I think you should probably find some middle ground between trying to account for every penny and letting a lot of money out the door.

    Some things should probably be expensed so they don't have to be counted and others need to be inventoried periodically, preferable not by the guy running the truck.

    I would tend to expense things like small gauge wire, fasteners, and wire nuts. As long as there is not a crazy number of them being used to restock, I would not worry much about them.

    I also think it is probably best to have the individual techs go to home depot or wherever you can get the best deal and buy the stuff themselves on your credit card rather than trying to keep a lot of stock in the shop.

    In the end, you trust these guys with your most valuable asset - your customers. You can probably trust them with a few grand worth of electrical parts.

    As far as tools go, hand tools should be on them. power tools on you.

    Incidentally, bar coding your stock and the tools you supply can make inventory much quicker and more accurate.
    Bob

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by sameguy View Post
    JD74, one word Liability.
    If your going to do all that I would go 1099 and write a contract with my new "partner".
    ‘I’d have my lawyer look my deal over because of liability, your right about that.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coppersmith View Post
    Before I became an electrician, I worked for a contractor to Airborne Express and then DHL, both major package delivery companies. The deal was we supplied our own vans. The contractor required the vans to be a certain minimum size, be mechanically fit, look fairly good, and for us to pay to have them painted and stickered with the company colors and logos. We were required to buy a particular insurance policy which protected the company from liability. We were responsible for all maintenance and fuel. If the van broke down we were required to rent a replacement while it was getting fixed.

    If that doesn't sound crazy. it should. At first blush, the compensation sounded good. I worked with 30 guys who thought this was a good deal. I thought I was making about $12/hr after expenses. I probably wasn't taking all the real costs into account. If I were to recalculate it today, I suspect it would come out about minimum wage. The people who took this deal were all low-skilled (including me). Some of them had been to prison which limited their options. This seemed like a good deal only because there were few places to get a better one. Electricians are skilled labor so I'm not sure this deal would be as attractive to many.

    It was a great deal for the employer but a poor one for the employees. Personally, my moral code does not allow me to screw my employees so I could never do this. I'm sure there are companies that do. I'm poorer cash-wise for it but richer in other ways.
    It all comes down to your costs and profit you want out of it. As a younger guy you’d probably miss the true costs like you said and end up making shit money.

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coppersmith View Post
    I'm trying to formalize a system for inventorying service trucks with two purposes in mind: protect against theft or loss of inventory and tools; and keep the truck properly stocked.

    I've seen some previous discussions of this and I'm really just looking for best practices based on what those here are doing, experiencing, or have researched. I'm trying to strike a balance between the cost of monitoring, the cost of losses, and the cost of not having a needed item on the truck. I'm also trying to decide what action (if any) I should take if I see take a truck's losses are significantly higher than average.

    I think tool inventory is straight forward. There are a small number of expensive tools on the truck. I expect the tech to not steal or lose them. Tools will break and I expect the tech to tell me so they can be fixed or replaced. Every once in a while (how often?) we should count the tools and verify they are all present and in working order.

    Bits, blades, and other expendables are not cheap and there are a small number on the truck. At minimum these need to be counted just to make sure they are in stock for when needed. Should they be monitored for loss or waste? I know electricians who use a fresh drill bit every day and throw away the partially used (but still serviceable) ones. Is it worth it to track that?

    Material inventory is the hardest question. In the past I have just filled a service truck with inventory (mostly low value stuff, but it adds up) and sent a technician out into the field. If we have a big planned job like a service change, I will buy all the material and have it available for the tech to pickup at the shop. I also give the tech a credit card to buy whatever they need for their jobs. I monitor the purchases on the credit card basically looking for something odd that stands out.

    I think we need to do a physical count (how often?) to make sure needed items are on the truck. I'm not sure it's cost effective to be concerned if some amount (how much?) goes missing. Perhaps we need to just worry about protecting the expensive items ($5 or more?).

    Counting the truck is expensive in terms of labor hours. Somebody with a clipboard was to spend a couple of hours counting and entering data. Techs are notoriously bad at keeping track of items removed from and added to the truck. I could give them a barcode scanner and barcode everything but I would not trust the results. I have asked techs to keep a shopping list of items they are low on and it doesn't work well.

    Perhaps the answer is to have a spare fully stocked truck available. On the designated inventory day, the tech brings his truck to the shop and swaps his truck for the spare. A lower cost employee can then spend whatever time is needed to fully inventory the truck head to toe, refill it, clean it, and get it ready for the next swap. A report can be generated detailing the inventory condition of the truck and a decision can be made if any disciplinary action needs to be performed.

    As always, I'm looking forward to reading what the giant collective brain of this group has to say.

    ETA: I had one tech who used my truck on weekends to do side jobs. I'm not sure if he was using my materials. I think he was using my tools and expendables. I had to make a surprise visit to his house to verify my suspicion. When the truck was not there on a non-work day, the truth came out. GPS tracking might have solved this.

    ETA2: I had one tech who had a crash in the service truck and didn't tell me. I had to notice the damage on my own. He denied any knowledge of the damage. Truck swapping could check for this also.
    I would like to see a list of what you guys keep on your trucks that do light commercial and residential.

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