Tips for improving irrigation van inventory

Irrigation van setup (Photo: Rain One Irrigation & Drainage)
Irrigation van setup (Photo: Rain One Irrigation & Drainage)
Irrigation van setup (Photo: Rain One Irrigation & Drainage)
Grab and go Rain One’s trucks were organized based on what tools crews were frequently pulling. (Photo: Rain One Irrigation & Drainage)

Every minute spent searching for a tool or part is lost time and money for irrigation contractors. That’s why having organized inventory on their trucks or vans is vital for success.

Two landscape irrigation managers share tips and insight into how they’ve created an efficient inventory system.

Staying organized

Not being able to complete a project during one visit due to not having the right parts hurts the irrigation contractor and potentially the customer’s confidence in the company. That’s one reason why Rain One Irrigation & Drainage developed a comprehensive inventory system, says Colleen Campbell, inventory manager at Rain One.

“When (irrigation technicians) get out of training, they already know the setup of the truck,” Campbell says.

Located in Blacklick, Ohio, the company has $7 million in annual revenue. The company’s irrigation services are evenly split between residential and commercial; drainage services are 90 percent residential and 10 percent commercial.

To create a system that worked for them, Campbell talked with veteran employees and went into the field to see what they were using. She also reviewed records of the parts and equipment that were being pulled frequently.

Ultimately, the company added load-and-go systems to the back of its pickup trucks, with the most commonly used items in the spots with the easiest access. Vans have shelving on the passenger side, which typically faces the curb.

Rain One’s technicians carry tablets in the field to enter all the parts on their work orders, which they sync with HindSite scheduling software at the end of the day, allowing Campbell to print the reports to restock. Then, those items can be pulled by employees at night. Bins labeled with each of their names are ready for them to pick up in the morning.

The company has pickup trucks with load-and-gos down to smaller Ford Transit trucks to save on maintenance and create a smaller footprint on the environment. It went from having about $8,000 worth of inventory on the trucks and restocking them weekly to a quarter of that amount, restocked daily.

“The goal is to have what they need but not to have excess,” Campbell says. “That prevents things from getting lost and allows us to keep a much better hold on our inventory.”

Plug and play

An organized, well-stocked vehicle allows field personnel to operate in an efficient and professional manner, says Luke Spielman, service department manager at Quality Irrigation in Omaha, Neb. The company provides irrigation services to about 65 percent residential and 35 percent commercial customers.

“If you were to hire a contractor, would you prefer they show up with everything they need or constantly have to run back and forth to retrieve parts, tools or equipment?” Spielman says. “That’s why our technicians run the setup we have, so that every part, tool and piece of equipment has a place, and their quantities are well documented and replenished throughout the week.”

Quality Irrigation’s service technicians drive Dodge ProMaster 2500 service vans equipped with shelving systems. Each van has the materials needed to make repairs on either a residential or commercial property, including poly and PVC fittings, spare control panels for upgrades and more.

Creating an inventory process across the fleet required getting control of the existing in-house inventory, Spielman says.

“Setting up all 16 vans the exact same way took a considerable amount of time,” he says. “But now, if one van needs to go in for maintenance, I can transfer a technician to a different van, and he will not have any trouble finding the parts he needs. We have found that as we grow and implement best practices, that it is a continuous process.”

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