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Field Service Businesses: How to Optimize Inventory and Equipment Maintenance

Ray Rebello | December 6, 2016

This post is the second of a three-part series on how Acumatica Field Service Management can optimize your field service businesses. Click here for part one, How to Optimize Dispatching and Route Management.

Maintenance and repair is the mission of any field service business, both before the problem happens (preventive) and afterwards (corrective). It can start when complex equipment or machinery is sold that’s hard to move (e.g., HVAC or medical equipment).  The customer can’t just send it back if it goes ”down”. When a distributor or manufacturer sells this type of equipment, they include a manufacturer’s warranty to provide repair services for a specified period. However, most complex pieces of equipment also require preventive maintenance to insure the equipment or machinery is functioning correctly. Since preventive maintenance is not include in the warrant, and may in fact be required by the warranty, this is a revenue opportunity for the field services organization. The bottom line is that for field service organizations, being able to provide both preventative and corrective is required. Plus, in a competitive environment, this needs to be efficient and cost effective.

Field Service Businesses: How to Optimize Inventory and Equipment Maintenance

I recently had the privilege of sitting down with Jorge Santos, Acumatica’s Field Services Product Manager here at Acumatica. He has years of experience working with businesses who deal with these kinds of challenges every day. Read on to hear how he helps them overcome them by using Acumatica Field Service Management.

Why Is Preventive Maintenance Important?

There are two reason why it is important: typically, it is costly to the customer to have the equipment not functioning, and, secondly, some regulated industries require preventive maintenance.

Expensive equipment can be costly when sitting idle

Broken equipment will significantly disrupt a business. If it’s a clinic or emergency medical center, and the X-ray machine is broken, they are in trouble. Sometimes like in this example, the disruption is obvious. But sometimes it’s indirect, such as a piece of assembly equipment on the production line that prevents making a subassembly for an engine. With Acumatica Field Service Management, the goal is to not have these types of problems by providing everything needed end-to-end to help keep the equipment in running condition.

Based on past performance history, a distributor or manufacturer can create a record of what breaks. You may have an idea that a belt must be changed after so many cycles, that the oil must be changed, etc. Given that information, a preventive maintenance schedule can be created. Contract and service schedules can be presented to the customers. After acceptance, they will be monitored by the system from which purchase orders will be created for the required parts and service orders dispatched.

If the equipment or machinery has many separate parts (power source, control center, conveyors), they probably have different warranties. Even when a part is replaced, it gets its own warranty. Keeping track of each is error prone. One big benefit of having the process automated with Acumatica is that the system optimizes that. It knows what is under warranty and what is not. This reduces billing errors.

Audit trail for industries that require compliance

In scenarios such as medical equipment, commercial kitchens and elevators, the distributor or manufacturer may need to regularly certify systems and equipment for health, safety, etc. This is an important part of preventive maintenance. Acumatica helps document these all-important certifications and helps field service businesses keep things up-to-date. Expired certifications and compliance creates major legal issues for customers. Businesses that can help their customers stay on top of these things will be looked at as a valuable partner.

Why is Inventory Management important for field services?

Being able to handle maintenance issues requires having the right parts—some of which are very expensive. It’s impossible to carry significant quantities of all those parts, so repair organizations must balance supply and demand.

Acumatica manages inventory using the same proven techniques used by our retail, distribution and manufacturing customers. To begin with, the on-hand inventory must be accurate. This is done by automating the receiving and picking process. With a modern system like Acumatica, the field service vehicles are treated as mini-warehouses and inventory is control at that level. You always know what is available and what is on order.

Next, when a service order is created and the required repair parts are not in stock, the system must generate a purchase order for that item. Then, when the item is received, the dispatcher must be alerted that it is in stock and the service call needs to be scheduled.

Is tracking serial numbers Important?

Tracking serial numbers is extremely important for maintenance. In some systems, after the equipment is sold the supplier, does not have visibility of the location or usage. It’s not in the supplier’s inventory, so it’s essentially as good as a done deal, unless they receive a complaint.

In Acumatica, we track the serial numbers after the goods are sold.  You can track the warranties, upgrades, and all other pertinent information for that product using the serial number. The Acumatica system keeps track of the service history for that equipment, including every part that was added to it. We track everything about it, even though it’s not in your inventory. We also track multiple serials for the same equipment. We can track serial numbers for different components, and an unlimited number of them. 

Should you choose Acumatica Field Service Management?

The Acumatica system is a comprehensive and extremely customizable system, making it easy to implement for any type of field service business. We go the extra mile, from quote , through inventory and all the way to the history of maintaining the equipment in the field with the customer. We track the process the whole way through, making your business more efficient and saving you money.

Interested to see if it is a fit for your own dispatching and route management?

Watch for the third blog in this series, “How to Optimize Customer Service.” If you missed part one, “How to Optimize Dispatching and Route Management”, you can read it here.

Ray Rebello

Director of Product Marketing at Acumatica

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