This is part two of a 3-part series on labor management in HVAC. Read part one or part three.

In my last column, I outlined the justification behind focusing on labor management and why strategies surrounding time management and employee education matter long-term to your bottom line. This column continues a look at these topics, and includes some specific ideas for metrics and areas of a business that can inform its success — or lack thereof.


Callbacks: Efficiency Vampires

Callbacks are your enemy. It’s lost labor hours and it reflects poor workmanship. Granted, no company can avoid callbacks altogether, even companies with well-trained staff. But minimizing them should be a goal.

Poor workmanship is only one possible cause of these, however. Let’s look at some others:

  1. Lack of training: You have dedicated, skilled employees but new equipment with new challenges. Training is needed.
  2. No standard process: How one technician or installer performs a job is different from the next. As much as possible, these differences need to be minimized by having standard processes, so that important steps are not missed.
  3. Lack of customer education: Callbacks are often related to customer confusion, not technician error. What are you doing to give them the knowledge they’ll need to operate their system easily?
  4. Lack of proper tools: Does your company have a tool program? A list of standard tools to have at all times? If not, these should be considered.
  5. Incentivizing employees to avoid callbacks: Is there a monetary reward for decreasing or eliminating callbacks? Whatever the reward, it’s less expensive than allowing high callback rates to continue.


Inventory Management

This is another hot-button issue in today’s world. Manufacturing backups have created a premium on having clear and useful inventory practices.

Strategies include keeping lower levels of inventory to reduce warehouse overhead. This often has to be paired with communication to customers to manage their expectations if they’ll have to wait for a particular system.

Seasonality can affect inventory as well. Unless you live in an area with similar temperatures year-round, you’re doing yourself a disservice by having identical inventory levels throughout the year.

Inventory isn’t just about major equipment. What does inventory look like for your trucks? Is everyone’s truck inventory standardized and monitored by a supervisor? If not, I can guarantee there are gaps in your inventory.

Lastly, if your inventory system is so complicated that you can’t even explain it to a family member, it’s too complicated. Streamline and simplify for success.


Installation and Service

The two big sides of any HVAC company are installation and service. Some companies are more weighted toward one than the other, but both are important.

So how is it being managed?

At the most basic level, creating checklists for typical installation and maintenance jobs is the easiest way to ensure you’re not forgetting crucial parts of the process. Checking up on these checklists is necessary as well. Simply creating them is not enough.

One method that helps create both accountability and trust is having a customer sign off on the work done on a checklist, requiring the technician to review each step. This is peace of mind for the customer and accountability for the employee.

Second, very few jobs exist in an ideal bubble. More often, there are complicating factors that can extend jobs beyond their expected length. What are these factors? It could be rotting or insufficient ductwork. It could be weather conditions for outside jobs. It could be an attic or crawlspace run that is difficult to work in — or countless other complications.

Avoid these issues by figuring out what the complications will be before the installation and having your sales team relay that information to the installers — and by having measures in place to handle things like adverse weather conditions.

Will this eliminate problems? No. But it will cut down on them drastically.


Employees as Leaders

In part three of this series, I’ll talk about how communication and leadership are the keys to managing these and other labor management factors that affect all companies. The end result is a company environment designed to be adaptable to changes and challenges at any time of year.