May 27, 2024

Inventory Management Strategies for Diesel Truck Repair Shops

Inventory Management Strategies for Diesel Truck Repair Shops

Keeping inventory under control is a constant challenge for even the best heavy-duty repair shops. Luckily, these inventory management strategies can help.

“Know your [stock levels] and know yourself and you can [manage] a hundred [parts] without disaster.”

-Sun Tzu

We know what you’re thinking: “Sun Tzu wrote about military strategy, not heavy-duty inventory management.” Technically, that’s true—as it turns out, China didn’t even have diesel truck repair shops during the Eastern Zhou period. 

But even though this quote is slightly paraphrased, the overall point stands—approaching inventory management without a plan is never wise. If you handle this task without knowing what you’re doing, you could get stuck with obsolete components or find yourself scrambling to reorder parts you didn’t know you needed. 

Fortunately, putting a few inventory management strategies to use can help you maximize your repair shop’s efficiency.

The Challenges of Inventory Management in Diesel Repair Shops

Like most aspects of running a heavy-duty shop, inventory control isn’t easy. Some obstacles diesel repair shops commonly face while trying to manage inventory include:

  • Overstocking. Your inventory is a financial resource, but that doesn’t mean it should act as a savings account. When parts sit around for too long, they can physically degrade or become obsolete (more on that later).
  • Understocking. Overstocking can undoubtedly cause problems for your shop, but not having enough parts in stock might be even worse. In the 2022 edition of Fullbay’s State of Heavy-Duty Repair report, 44% of survey respondents had the parts they needed on hand just a quarter of the time. As you might expect, that can delay truck repairs and annoy customers.
  • Parts obsolescence. Parts don’t retain their value forever. As new trucks (and, by extension, new components) come along, your older parts start to become obsolete. You’ll still be able to use these components for a while, but the trucks that rely on them will inevitably be phased out, leaving you with a stockroom full of useless junk. Fun!

Naturally, not every truck your shop works on will rely on cutting-edge components. You’ll need to make sure you have parts that are compatible with a variety of truck types and ages without increasing your risk of ending up with obsolete parts. Like we said—not an easy process.

Inventory Management Strategies

Not handling inventory management with care will cause serious issues for heavy-duty repair shops.  To avoid these challenges, consider using inventory management processes and techniques like:

Digital Inventory Tracking

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: manually tracking your shop’s inventory can be a huge hassle. But with high-quality inventory management software, you can seriously streamline your approach to inventory management.

We’ll talk more about how these programs can help you in a bit, but you should know that well-designed inventory management systems can transform almost every part of your inventory control strategy. These programs can give you access to everything from your current stock levels to your order history—and that information can make it much easier to run a diesel repair shop.

Demand Forecasting

When we wrote this blog, the biggest movie in the country was Dune: Part Two, and visions of the future play a huge role in that film’s plot. 

But if you’re in charge of ordering parts for a heavy-duty shop, you don’t need access to spice to see what fate has in store for your business. Instead, you need an inventory management system that offers features related to demand forecasting.

When you make use of demand forecasting, you can determine what parts your shop should have in stock down the line based on past sales information and market conditions. That means you’ll be able to avoid ordering unnecessary parts while keeping your customers happy.

Just-In-Time Inventory

Between parts obsolescence, part loss, and other issues, having a ton of parts in storage can come with some surprising downsides—so what if you kept your inventory to the bare minimum? That’s the idea behind the “just-in-time” (JIT) inventory management strategy. When your shop takes a JIT approach to its inventory needs, you’ll order and receive parts shortly before you actually need them. 

Admittedly, ongoing (but improving!) supply chain issues have made this approach to inventory management trickier to implement. Even so, the JIT strategy can help your shop save on inventory costs while improving efficiency when everything’s working as it should.

Building Relationships with Suppliers

Whether you follow the JIT strategy for inventory management or use a more traditional approach, one thing won’t change—your reliance on your parts suppliers. To build solid relationships with suppliers and vendors, aim to:

  • Find the right suppliers. Before opting to work with a specific supplier, do your research. If you make an effort to find suppliers that share your values while offering quality parts at affordable rates, you’ll be less likely to encounter difficulties later on.
  • Establish a strategy for parts returns. Unfortunately, part returns are an inevitability. Still, you can make life easier for you and your vendors by creating a schedule they can follow to pick up returned parts.
  • Let suppliers know you care. At the end of the day, your suppliers are still human. When you maintain communication with them and express your gratitude in the form of positive reviews and repeat business, they’ll appreciate it—and make their relationship with your shop a priority.

Regular Inventory Audits

Of course, your strategy for inventory management needs to go beyond thinking about how you order parts. You should also monitor your existing parts with real-time data. To achieve this, knowing how to audit your inventory is essential. This is where an inventory management tool becomes invaluable.

Inventory cycle counting should be the foundation for your shop’s approach to inventory auditing. By handling this process on a regular basis (or finding software that can reduce the frequency of it), you can ensure your inventory is as accurate as possible without overwhelming your employees.

The key to successful cycle counting is dividing your inventory into three different groups:

  1. A’s, or fast-moving parts. Since your techs use these parts constantly, you’ll want to count them once a month.
  2. B’s, or parts that don’t move quite as fast as your most in-demand components. These parts stick around for longer than your A’s, so you can count them quarterly.
  3. C’s, or the slowest-moving parts in your inventory. You’ll only need to count parts in this category once every six months.

New Technology

Believe it or not, inventory management software isn’t the only technological advancement that can make life easier for you and your techs. By combining one of these systems with other technologies, you can do an even better job of managing your inventory.

One particularly promising technological development for heavy-duty repair shops is RFID tags (and the handheld readers used to track them). When you use RFID technology for your inventory, you’ll find it easier than ever to scan and track parts. Along with that, you’ll mitigate part loss due to theft and other factors, simplify your inventory counting process, and know where to find faulty parts in the event of a recall.

Implementing a Successful Inventory Management System

Investing in inventory management software is just one of several steps you can take to get your inventory under control, but this can certainly go a long way. That said, there are quite a few products in this category—some of which will be more suited to your shop’s needs than others.

When you’re looking at inventory management systems for your diesel truck repair shop, you should:

  • Make sure they work with other systems. If your shop already uses other computer programs, your inventory management system can’t operate in isolation. Instead, it should work smoothly with your existing software.
  • Think about customization. Chances are, you don’t need every feature your inventory software has to offer. Instead of paying for unnecessary functionality, why not find a solution that offers adjustable pricing?
  • Take security seriously. Off-site data storage doesn’t have to be a security risk when you choose the right inventory management program. The best software in this category will protect your data with regular backups and top-of-the-line security capabilities.
  • Avoid downtime. If you choose a web-based program for inventory management (and you really should), there’s one issue you need to be aware of—the risk of downtime. These days, cloud-based software from well-known companies will almost always be up and running.
  • Give your employees the help they need. Adapting to a new inventory management method is never easy. Still, some programs in this niche simplify this process with features related to onboarding, training, and support.

Master the Art of Inventory Management

At Fullbay, we take pride in offering the finest inventory management software on the market for diesel truck repair shops like yours. When you choose our system for your inventory management needs, you’ll benefit from features like:

  • Real-time inventory updates. With Fullbay’s software, you’ll never have to guess what/how many parts you have in stock. All the information you need is in one convenient place.
  • Automated reordering notifications. Our software gives you the power to set minimum and maximum thresholds for your parts. When your stock levels get dangerously low, you’ll be informed that it’s time to reorder, making inventory control a breeze.
  • In-depth analytics. Fullbay’s inventory management features can also help you understand your shop’s parts usage over time. More specifically, our software can create reports on inventory reconciliation, inventory velocity, and sold parts.

Still not convinced? Just listen to what this satisfied customer has to say:

“It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use [Fullbay] for the purposes of [inventory management], and thereby they achieve great results.”

-Sun Tzu

Sounds pretty compelling to us. If you want to learn even more about what Fullbay can do for your shop, set up a demo today!

Emilie Vecera