Let’s face it, tracking inventory is tricky. It takes keen attention to detail, an ability to anticipate your shop’s needs, great timing, and some serious research skills—not to mention a lot of time on the phone or computer, away from the action of the shop.
Bottom line? Keeping track of inventory is a job that most service advisors and shop owners didn’t sign up for. While some shops have a shop foreman to help with inventory, even the best foreman still needs a solid tracking system.
But when a shop runs low on the right tools and parts, it can mean turning away customers when you could be building loyalty instead. Simply put, without up-to-date inventory records, your shop may have to pump the brakes and turn away customers or delay jobs.
If your team wants to stay ahead in the industry, you probably see inventory upkeep as a frequent task. And without a shop inventory software, you might also spend hours calculating purchases, tracking orders, checking wear and tear to tools, and rotating stock.
Everyone has their own way of conducting the inventory process, but in general, inventory methods fall into three major categories:
Pen and paper
Shop inventory software
If you’re still using pen and paper or a spreadsheet, it may be time to upgrade or at least supplement your inventory process.
Why Your Traditional Inventory Process Might Be Holding You Back
Inventory covers everything from equipment and shop tools to stock items like air filters, engine oil, oil filters, additives, wipers, and tire repair kits. And anyone who has gone through the inventory management process shelf-by-shelf knows that it can be a time consuming and draining chore. Accurate tracking records for inventory are essential to keeping chaos at bay and ensuring the right tools and stock are always available. So long as your process works for you, there’s technically no wrong way to conduct inventory. Does that mean that all systems are equally convenient? No.
Tracking Inventory with Pen & Paper
Pen and paper inventory tracking may have its own charm, and the physicality of the process can be reassuring. It’s a tried and true method that has worked for shop owners since the dawn of the automotive industry. But paper records also require significant physical storage space, are easy to lose or accidentally destroy, can only be accessed from a single location without duplication, and cost additional paper and ink to duplicate. It is also easy to transpose numbers, misspell part names, or make any number of other simple human errors on paper.
But the biggest downside of pen and paper tracking is lost time. Written record keeping is an enormous chore to add to the already time consuming tasks of checking inventory, ordering new inventory, reviewing records, finding a number, and reconciling purchases. Every minute wasted by a process that can be automated is money lost.
Tracking Inventory from a Spreadsheet
Conducting inventory with Excel or another spreadsheet is a good step up from pen and paper. Spreadsheets provide room for complex tracking—a must for larger shops, shops that move a lot of inventory, and shops that service a wide variety of vehicles.
Though certainly not the fastest method of record keeping, spreadsheets are reliably faster than writing records by hand. Duplication is also cost free, you can send the records to anyone as needed, and inventory calculations are made simple with spreadsheet formulas.
But as powerful as Excel may be, it offers limited automation, is restricted to one user at a time, saves files natively to a single computer unless deliberate backups are made, doesn’t come with a service support team that knows cars, and isn’t built for auto repair shops. Human error is also still very much a risk with spreadsheets. A simple typo can impact an entire sheet.
While spreadsheets and pen and paper tracking might work for some shops, if your system is slowing you down, it could be slowing down everyone else in the shop, too. An inventory system that lags behind can cost the shop money and mean turning away customers if parts or tools are continuously unavailable.
Leveling Up with Shop Inventory Software
Think of shop inventory software as a full-time inventory assistant. This assistant can’t count items on your shelves by hand, but once you input data for the first time, the software will automate most aspects of the inventory process for your team and radically simplify the rest.
Most shop inventory software can integrate with point of sales software to independently update your inventory records.
One of the greatest advantages of shop inventory software is that it lets you see what you have and what you need at a glance. Usually shop inventory software will offer a variety of views for the data it has collected. For instance, you can sort inventory movement by date and then switch to a view that shows only certain categories of stock.
Imagine that the same set of brake pads have been in inventory for over a year. At this point, you’re losing money on the item, and it is taking up space that a more profitable stock item might need. With traditional inventory methods, this detail might fall through the cracks. Shop inventory software makes it much easier to analyze data at any scale, even down to specific units.
With shop inventory software you can easily analyze what you need and don’t need. Your team can:
See what sells
Determine which brands customers prefer
Track your margins
See when you’re not getting your money’s worth
Make decisions as to whether you are undercharging or overcharging for different stock
Grow your margins
Place stock orders directly from the inventory screen
Why Cloud-Based Shop Inventory Software is a Game Changer for Auto Repair Shops
Cloud-based shop inventory software stores your data online through a portal accessible to your team from any computer, tablet, and even your phone! Cloud-based systems are just as secure, if not more secure, as hard drive storage and make collaboration possible as more than one team member can typically use the program at a time.
Reimagining Work From Home Culture
The last couple of years has shown everyone that remote work tools are critical to adapting to ever-changing market conditions and consumer expectations. While we can’t wait to see COVID end, protocols for work from home have been changed forever. Many of us have even found that we’re more productive when we can take work home or step out to our favorite bar to crunch some numbers.
To this end, it is of paramount importance that software rises to meet users’ need for flexibility. While not everyone in the automotive repair industry can work from home, keeping managers, service writers, and the rest of your team connected no matter where they are makes your crew even stronger. Cloud-based shop inventory software does just that.
Taking Your Work on the Road
Imagine being able to check up on your inventory with the same software from anywhere in the world. Going to a conference sometime soon and want to talk shop with your colleagues? Cloud-based shop inventory software lets you show off how your shop is performing just by logging in online.
Whether you want to brag about your latest success, take a deep-dive into your shop’s numbers, or ask for a mentor’s help, cloud-based shop inventory software is a great tool for hammering out the details without sitting behind a desk at one of your brick and mortar locations.
Take your inventory tools home or on the road and see how your shop is performing in real time. With cloud-based shop inventory software, you can achieve a better work/life balance while never being too far from your shop.
Keeping Data Safe
Another great advantage of cloud-based software is data preservation. While some amount of data loss is to be expected regardless of where you store your data, cloud-based shop inventory software means that you're not reliant on a single hard-drive or a single shop server, which may go down or cease to work at any point.
Just like paper records, digital records that are not backed up to or stored natively on the cloud can be easily corrupted, deleted, or otherwise destroyed. The average life expectancy of a hard-drive is only about 5 years according to harddrivetalk.com. Though some steps may be taken to increase a hard-drive’s lifespan, cloud storage is ultimately safer and your best bet for long-term storage.
Tekmetric: A Better Way to Inventory
You may be asking yourself which shop inventory software you should try out at this point.
We’ve got you covered.
Tekmetric’s shop inventory software seamlessly integrates with our overall digital shop management system to create a user experience unmatched in the industry. Tekmetric lets you and your team automate as much of the inventory process as you want so that you can enjoy more free time or make room for shop growth projects.
Tekmetric’s inventory tracking offers flexible categorization and filtering to make sure your service advisors, foreman, and other team members are never locked in to just one view of the shop’s data.
For instance, Tekmetric’s shop inventory software lets you organize parts as:
These views can be powerful additions when scheduling jobs and estimating service completion times.
Want to sort inventory still further? Filter parts by:
Now your shop can directly quote, order, and receive parts right from the inventory screen. You can also create parts markup matrices from Tekmetric, too. Never bounce back and forth between tabs or windows again. Tekmetric integrates with all your favorite parts ordering services:
OEC Repair Link
AAP Direct Pro Catalog
Perhaps most importantly, Tekmetric makes it easy to grow your business and zero in on what your customers are demanding. Most of us know the 80/20 rule. 80% of profits come from 20% of your product. But if you’ve ever asked yourself what products are in that 20%, Tekmetric takes out the guesswork and helps you track stock item sales from a 30,000 foot view down to the most granular detail.
Streamline Inventory Tracking
Our team knows what it takes to run a great shop, and we want to see you succeed. As your shop inventory software provider and shop management system partner, we will be with you every step of the way.
Our best-in-the-industry service team is here for you. We’ll help you onboard as seamlessly as possible, show you how to use our products, and get you on track! We’re always updating our product to offer better services, too.
Ready to rev the engine? See our shop inventory software in action.