It’s no secret that state and local government agencies are being asked to do more with fewer resources. It’s not just large projects receiving scrutiny but also labor resources, technology infrastructure, and even the items on warehouse shelves.
Faced with smaller budgets and tighter reviews of every dollar spent, agencies must find ways to eliminate waste wherever possible. These four areas offer the most potential for optimizing existing resources while also minimizing operational costs.
1. Equipment Management
Quick! Do you know exactly what equipment you have and its location, condition, age, and value? If not, you’ll have a hard time estimating future budget needs without accurate and up-to-date information on those key attributes. Just as you track infrastructure items like pipes, streets, and fire hydrants, monitoring high dollar items such as computers, vehicles, and specialized tools is critical to managing maintenance, replacement, and operation costs over time.
When capital assets aren’t properly recorded, tracked, and monitored, organizations risk opening the door to audit issues. Paper-based equipment tracking processes, usually performed annually, leave a huge span of time for equipment to be lost, neglected, damaged, or replaced unnecessarily. However, automated data collection can help you save money by effectively managing equipment and other capital assets throughout their lifecycles.
Barcodes or RFID solutions that automate check-in and check-out add accountability to your process. The same system can also provide alerts on warranty renewals or maintenance tasks. Real-time data updates to a central dashboard let you easily analyze the status of your equipment, preventing unnecessary spending on assets that still have useful life remaining. Plus, it reduces the chances of replacement due to an item being forgotten in an office or in the field.
2. Labor Tracking
With finite resources available for labor, the key to stretching those dollars is maximizing the productivity of current staff. The warehouse offers numerous opportunities to shave valuable time off of routine tasks like picking, counts, or replenishment. For instance, as much as 50 percent of an order picker’s time is often spent walking around the warehouse.
But how do you know where those opportunities lie without the data necessary for reporting? Tracking labor time through paper logs and spreadsheets does not give a real-time view of jobs, tasks, projects, or work orders. The right technology can help you identify areas for improvement.
For example, a warehouse task management solution could help optimize pick routing, space utilization, and inventory replenishment. When workers are directed to complete tasks in the most efficient way, they’re always at their highest productivity. At the same time, efficiency improvements allow the same workforce to do more, reducing associated operational costs.
Labor tracking extends beyond the warehouse. In the field, organizations need to monitor productivity to ensure work orders are completed efficiently. With an automated solution, you can track key data such as start and stop times and analyze gaps between scheduled time and actual time spent on a task.
3. Inventory Control
Managing inventory is one of the mostly costly areas of any public works operation. Without careful management, expenses can creep up due to over-purchasing and lost, pilfered, or expired stock. When you’re managing storerooms across multiple locations, the problems become magnified.
From receiving to put-away to picking, maintaining accurate inventory records can be challenging. Manual processes for conducting routine audits and recording incoming stock and shelf placement are labor intensive and take your staff away from more productive tasks.
Paper processes and manual data entry can also lead to inaccurate information and a lack of real-time inventory data. Human error in data entry can cause both over- and under-ordering—impacting job completion, customer satisfaction, and your bottom line. Waiting for data to be made available could mean delayed action in identifying these costly issues.
In the meantime, items such as tools, tires, and even safety vests could “walk” out the backdoor. Where does that leave you when the next job needs to be completed? Perhaps you’ll need to rush order replacements, pay hefty shipping charges, or deal with unhappy customers.
A real-time inventory control solution can help streamline workflows to eliminate these wasteful manual processes. Inventory receipts, issues, and transfers can be processed using hand-held devices and immediately viewed from a dashboard interface. This allows reporting and analysis at any time, capturing bin locations, on-hand quantities, and cost values.
4. System Integrations
Most organizations have information systems for financial management, reporting, human resources, project tracking, or customer service. Many of these systems are used as stand-alone solutions. Over time, gaps in functionality may begin to emerge—namely, the lack of real-time data collection.
Unfortunately, introducing yet another software system without a plan to integrate it to your existing business information systems creates its own problems. The resulting data silos create a perfect storm of data errors, manual efforts, and wasteful spending.
A data collection solution with the capability to integrate with your backend systems is the key to tracking your operations from the warehouse to the field and back to the office. A single system of record can help provide a high-level overview of costs incurred through inventory, equipment, assets, and labor.
Using resources effectively and efficiently is not an option for today’s agencies. Collecting and analyzing critical data holds the key to reducing costs throughout your facility. Automating these processes and going paperless brings efficiency to operations, reduces waste, and helps identify areas for improvement.
No one knows what the future holds. But the clock won’t be turned back on the importance of data to state and local agencies. Embracing technology and connecting business systems can help ensure your facility is prepared to meet today’s challenges while also being primed for whatever comes next.
Wendy Stanley is the marketing director at Radley Corporation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.