Friday, June 15, 2012

SOP Friday: Technician Supplies -- The "Scary Box"

No matter how small your business is, you will need to provide your techs with certain supplies. The nature of what you need to provide changes over time. But you should have an official list and make sure your techs have what they need. A $4 cable becomes a $60 cable if you have to pay your technician to drive back to the office and pick it up!

We provide technicians with a plastic Rubbermaid-type box to carry in their trunk. It keeps the materials safe and orderly. In addition, this makes it easy for the tech to take these materials out of the trunk as needed. We call this the "Scary box" because it gets disorderly pretty fast. When techs are stressed out or in a hurry, they tend to dig through the box and never get around to straightening it out.

We have techs bring the box to their quarterly review. It is never in order. Really. But the quarterly review is a time to get it back in order and make sure all supplies are up to spec.

What Every Technician Should Carry

So what's in the "Scary Box?"
Basically, there are three types of things the tech needs to carry: Tools, Office Supplies, and Parts. The list I give here is actually more than we normally carry these days. We've found that we carry fewer and fewer parts as time goes by. The reason for this is simple: Almost nothing breaks any more. When was the last time you replaced a bad network card?

(Quantity = 1 each)
o Ground Strap
o Label Machine – With good batteries
o Network crossover cable or block
o Spare label tape
o 5 port network switch
o Philips screw (small)
o Philips screw (standard)
o Flat screw driver (small)
o Flat screw driver (standard)

Note: A tech may need other specific tools for a job. These should be provided, but don't need to live in the scary box for each technician.

Office Supplies
(Quantities vary, but you should have at least 3-5 of each item.)
o Manila pouch folders
o Tabs for Network Documentation Binders
o The Company Product labels (If you put a company sticker with the date on every piece of hardware you install.)
o Labels for Offsite Backups
o “I was at your computer” memos
o Equipment Disposal Verification Forms
o CD Sleeves

o DAT72 and 160 Cleaning Cartridges
o DAT72 and 160 Tapes
o Network Controller Card
o 50’ Network cable Qty 1
o 25’ Network cable Qty 1
o 10’ Network cable Qty 3
o 7’ Network cable Qty 3
o 5’ Network cable Qty 5
o 3’ Network cable Qty 5
o SATA control cable
o Velcro ties
o USB Cable - Standard A to B
o USB Cable - Type A to Mini
o USB Cable - Type A to Micro

Unlike some businesses (e.g., cabling companies), we need to be very careful to keep the inventory piece of this very small. As technology changes, you are very likely to have some leftover cables or other items that you never use. I think we have five or six old style parallel printer cables at our office.

Even though each of these is not very expensive, as a whole they represent a significant chunk of change. In fact, as we phase out tape backups, we have eliminated tapes from the scary box. At $100-$200 per box, this is not a minor investment. You need to balance the need for these items with the cost.

A Few Notes About Taking Care of Supplies

The technician is expected to maintain a supply of the items listed (from The Company stock) at all times.  If something is used up or sold out of the tech’s supply, they need to get it restocked as soon as possible.  The intention is to never be on site without something you should always have on hand.

Once the list of items is assembled and inventoried, the technician is to sign for the list of supplies. (You should have a form for signing out keys, security cards, and other company property.) A copy of their list will be maintained in their employee file. Once created, only major item additions and deletions will be tracked. The technician is ultimately responsible for the care and inventory of the items.

Any delivery to a client, loss, damage, theft or other disposition of an item is expected to be reported to The Company in the appropriate manner as soon as possible.  That is to say, if an item is delivered or left for a client to own and use it must be entered on the product tab of some SR in a timely manner so that it can get correctly billed.  If an item is dropped, otherwise damaged, etc. it must be brought to the service manager's attention immediately.  The preferred method of informing the service manager is via email.

It is reasonably expected that the technician will safeguard any The Company property appropriately.  It is expected that it will never be left in an unlocked vehicle or left in any vehicle overnight in a location that could be considered a high crime district.

Your Comments Welcome.

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About this Series

SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at

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Next week's topic: Troubleshooting Guidelines 


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  1. Heya there Karl,

    I pack similarly - except for the DAT drive stuff :-)

    But I also include an external 2.5" HD and also a SATA / IDE to USB dock...

    A USB keyboard and mouse aswell...

    Also these days I carry a 24 port rack mount switch but thats 10/100 retired from a client.


  2. We have a few spare USB drives for moving data, but we don't pack them in the scary box.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  3. Also forgot to add...
    Cable punch down tool / Krone tool...
    Cat5 tester... (For those in the UK is brilliant as it has ID's on the terminators for testing).

    And a Swiss Army knife

  4. Also forgot to add...
    Cable punch down tool / Krone tool...
    Cat5 tester... (For those in the UK is brilliant as it has ID's on the terminators for testing).

    And a Swiss Army knife


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