3 expert tips to increase job profitability with a mobile workforce
Keeping a close eye on job profitability is essential for all project engineering and contract services companies, but it can be particularly challenging for those with many contracts and a large number of staff out in the field every day.
If your business is based on the provision of servicing and maintenance on a contract basis, you may understand this challenge all too well: working out the theoretical profitability of a job is straightforward, but sometimes what happens out on the road or on site bears little resemblance to the contents of the spreadsheet back in the office.
Circumstances change, new parts have to be purchased unexpectedly and extra time spent on what was supposed to be a 30-minute job. Adding unscheduled callouts into the equation, alongside scheduled contract work, has the potential to make jobs even more unpredictable. Sometimes collecting all the relevant data on a job seems difficult enough, let alone working out how profitable it was.
JBC Industrial Services is a company that supplies, services and maintains industrial steam boilers across the UK using a large mobile workforce of 60 engineers. Several years ago, the company’s financial systems were struggling to keep pace with its busy service schedule.
This meant JBC was generating a huge number of invoices, but could not accurately assess job and project profitability in order to lay the groundwork for sustainable growth. Here, the Leeds-based company shares three tips for finding a system that takes the guesswork out of job profitability.
1. Collect data from your field workforce in real time
“We have 60 guys out on the road and we always struggled to pull their data in,” explains Jamie Bashall, managing director at JBC. The company wanted a system that would enable jobs, capacity and finance to be managed in real time, but it couldn’t do that without instant access to data from out in the field. Waiting for engineers to submit timesheets and other information at the end of the day – or worse, on their next visit to the office – was not an option.
A solution like SAP B1 can be used on tablets and smartphones due to the integrate web timesheets function, enabling field engineers to keep the office up to date and get the information they need to complete a job at all times.
2. Continuously assess turnover and margin
Closer integration between accounting and job management systems makes it easier to assess profitability on an ongoing basis and track the impact of certain jobs on turnover and margin. This was another key benefit that JBC reported after implementing SAP Business One. Bashall talks about getting “a more detailed view”, which is crucial for making decisions about capacity and prioritising jobs.
3. Identify spare capacity early
Again, finding spare capacity within the workforce is extremely difficult without access to robust data that shows precisely what is happening in the field. Once it achieved that level of visibility, JBC used it to identify any spare capacity as early as possible and then reschedule or reallocate jobs accordingly. The outcome was more intelligent planning and much less unproductive time.
JBC solved the problem by expanding its use of SAP Business One and implementing a custom job costing add-on to provide the exact functionality it needed. You can find out more about how they created efficiencies across its mobile workforce to increase job profitability by reading the case study here.