Alabama subcontractor uses tech to track inventory across warehouses

Gary Phillips, president of Tuscaloosa, Alabama-based electrical, heating, cooling, plumbing and security subcontractor Premier Service Co., has used warehouse management software to keep track of materials and save money. 

The firm has worked on a variety of projects for the University of Alabama, with an average project size of $1 million to $2 million. Premier has two warehouses, each covering around 20,000 square feet. Before using software that kept count of all the materials in Phillips’ warehouses, the company had trouble tracking its inventory.

“We definitely had a problem with our warehouse and trying to keep materials right and have transparency in the field,” Phillips told Construction Dive.

Those with the experience know — tracking pipes for a job is like following a needle through a haystack. When materials are needed, supervisors have a plethora of places to check — are they in the warehouse? Maybe the second warehouse? Did someone bring them to the jobsite? Are they lost?

That changed when he started using a platform from San Francisco-based software firm Kojo, formerly Agora, for inventory management. It helps Premier keep track of all materials in the company’s possession across warehouses, saving money on ordering duplicates and replacements. For Phillips, the effect was palpable, given the calamity caused by supply chain snarls since the pandemic.

“I know just by walking through the warehouse and seeing the organization that it has saved us tens of thousands of dollars in material purchases alone, especially as material prices have gone up,” Phillips said.

Planning for issues

Other contractors are also taking advantage of software and technology offerings to boost their business performance. 

North Reading, Massachusetts-based contractor Columbia, for example, used software system Avvir to help lay 60,000 feet of piping in a short timeframe. The contractor claimed that supervisors saved three days per week of time on site walkthroughs and creating reports, freeing them up for other important tasks. 

Cost-cutting measures will likely become more and more important to contractors amid a shaky economy. Although Fitch Ratings is predicting a recession in 2023, this outlook hasn’t put a large damper on the contech sector. Kojo, for example, just completed a $39 million Series C funding round, the company announced on Wednesday.

Kojo’s software connects all project personnel, from the office to the warehouse to the field and back to the vendor, on one platform, the firm claims. Stakeholders can see what’s in the warehouse and what’s missing, according to Kojo, and use its procurement tool to acquire whatever is needed.

Kojo also offers a materials procurement tool, which contractors can use to buy what they need on the jobsite. Phillips said using both services in tandem has bolstered organization and efficiency.

“Those materials are coming back to the warehouse and we’re able to put them in place,” Phillips said. “We can see what we put back in the warehouse and the guys can order off of that.”

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