Van Stock Management

27 June 2023

It is a consistent theme that the enquiries coming into The Procurement Partnership (TPPL) are for a building materials solution that delivers tangible increases in operational efficiency and productivity not just about getting individual items cheaper. Van stock management is a critical element in maintenance teams achieving greater productivity. 

The DPS solution for building materials at TPPL is suited to its members due to the wide variety of materials available across the main categories. With category specialists and leading national merchants, the DPS is well suited to organisations seeking a ‘one-stop shop’.  Or where it suits, a more fragmented supply-chain with a range of providers.   

There are a wide range of framework providers out there, but TPPL has the ability to be flexible to a member’s requirements.  The main difference offered is the pragmatic approach, combined with great support and value from years of category specific experience.

Phil Williams, Director of Procurement at TPPL heads the materials category at TPPL.  With over twenty years’ experience, comments: “Having the right products at the right place at the right time is key.  Having any shortfall in materials at the point of repair means the time and effort to source the required item is a distraction from productivity and service delivery.” 

Over the last 15 years there was, and remains, a definite trend to outsourcing to a reliable ‘one stop’ merchant. Many organisations perceive operational and efficiency benefits to a rationalised materials supply-chain.  As part of their role to increase the customer’s productivity (e.g. more jobs completed per day per operative) a critical consideration for the merchant is van stock.  If the right materials are available to operatives more work can be completed, with clear implications for efficiency, and a reduction in carbon. 

Van stocks is a key competitive edge for TPPL. We recognise that ‘one-stop’ merchants remain a vital option and partner for many authorities. Particularly with the time and resources they have applied to creating their own van-stock software solutions. An example of a merchant that has realised the potential to provide more than just the product, is Jewson Partnership Solutions (JPS).

JPS is a leading builders’ merchant and very familiar to the TPPL membership. Indeed, a number of TPPL members have awarded contracts to JPS through the DPS with our direct support. Broadacres Housing is one such example.  Recognising how critical good van stock management is, JPS has developed its own in-house solution called ‘Avail’.

JPS has undertaken extensive work to gain customer insight, to drive the solutions they can offer.  Managing Director, Scott Cooper has commented: “Avail was created as a customer experience system and the app is part of that. Avail is not only innovative but continues to develop in order to address the ‘pain points’ that the Public Sector are telling JPS about service delivery. Van stock management is one of those challenges and JPS has a solution”.

The insight obtained by JPS indicated a range of critical points, such as: collections, waste, reporting and KPIs, the assistance needed in delivering social value, and that many customers don’t want to be dictated to by their supply chain. This valuable data enables JPS to offer bespoke, rather than prescriptive solutions, and Avail was developed to support this.

JPS shares a case study of a housing authority that within 6 months had enabled greater productivity through Avail, in fact 280 extra jobs in that timeframe and shown a 53% reduction in time allocated to collection of materials through this robust approach to stock management.  The Managing Director further emphasises benefits of: “Enabling more repairs to be completed, getting jobs done ‘right first time’ on a single visit and the reduced carbon footprint through less travel.”

Yet via TPPL there are alternatives to the ‘one-stop’ solution.  Combined with a supplier agnostic software partner (such as Inventor-e), a mixed portfolio of suppliers can benefit some maintenance teams. Perhaps those organisations keen to retain their own stores, or others with a wide operational geography to cover, a range of suppliers might be the best option.

Inventor-e have been providing stock and asset management systems into the repair and maintenance market since 2001, with their ‘SmartVan’ van stock app being used by several Social Housing repairs teams across the UK. When using multiple suppliers, it might not be practical to have several apps from each supplier to manage van stocks. No need to change apps if you need to change supplier, complete control over ranges and configurations, full access to critical usage data; and real time visibility of your stock position across your entire fleet in one place.

It’s also not just van stock items that you can control and monitor. The Inventor-e asset management system allows you to tag, track and report a huge amount of asset data on anything from vehicles and tools, through to boilers, showers, and fire doors. You can now capture a wealth of data on these assets such as warranty periods, testing and inspection dates, installer data, supplier, COSHH data and much more, on any item. All managed via an easy-to-use app available on any phone.

Damion Rothner, Business Development Director at Inventor-e said, “Our systems have been specifically designed to meet the needs, and solve the issues faced by a remote field-based repairs team. Where dynamic scheduling of jobs has led to a much more flexible and responsive service to tenants, it has also led to forward planning problems when it comes to materials.

In some cases, with hundreds of field-based operatives carrying out up to 10 jobs per day each, the costs associated with leaving a job to collect an item can run into millions of pounds per year. While most organisations and operatives instinctively know this and try to mitigate this, the dangers and costs of a poorly managed van stock can be even higher. Over-weight vehicles, poorly stored items getting damaged, inaccurate ranges, and no visibility of your stock cash liability in vehicles are just a few of these.”

What is clear though, is that an organisation’s approach to sourcing materials needs to be pragmatic. There is no one size fits all solution in this category.

Do you have good van stocks?  What is the reason for any shortfall?  What can be improved?  Have you considered all options and how that might affect your efficiency and productivity?  How do you get better at van stocks? These are some of the questions TPPL will challenge you with to better understand the possibilities for your organisation.

In essence, better van stock management delivers increased productivity, making great strides in operational performance and increasing customer satisfaction due to turnaround of jobs and higher first-time fix rates.  Furthermore, in the current economic climate managing such effectively also results in a lower carbon footprint with less journeys necessary.

Contact us using for more information or guidance on building material procurement projects or van stock management.