Supplies and Demand

To work across a large geographical area requires planning, transportation, and the proper supplies for whatever you may come across.  Since an electrical job requires a lot of different parts and pieces (some would say the greatest single need amongst the trades) a proper form of transportation is needed.

Generally an electrical shop will provide a company vehicle for the electrician to work from.  Of course seniority usually plays a part in which vehicle a given employee is given.  In many cases I was the last man hired and the first man laid off, which tended to leave me with the “bone yard” vehicles.  One time I was given an old “re-commissioned” telephone repair truck.  That was totally inadequate.

The telephone trucks were not equipped to handle the 10 foot lengths of conduit that electricians use.  There is not a lot of “out of the weather” storage available for stock parts.   And the seating area, inside the cab, wasn’t conducive to giving your pregnant wife an emergency ride to the hospital.  But that’s another story.  I may have already told it.

In recent years work vans have been used for electrical work trucks.  A standard van type vehicle can be configured to hold a lot of parts, including 10 foot lengths of material.  However, one downfall of a standard type of work van is that there is little headroom when you are stocking or using parts off the shelves.

I have seen a lot of imagination used to set up a van for the electrical trade.  Today, our company uses either high top Sprinter Vans, or a large van type truck (similar to a bread delivery van).  Also, we can now have some parts (fixtures and the like) delivered to the job site by a supplier.

At one company we employees were directed to return from our jobs one hour early on Friday afternoons.  We were to clean out and restock our trucks for the next week.  That was always paid as shop time, and not charged to a specific customer.  That sounded like a good idea to me.

Of course if you were working on a job that had been bid at a specific price, it wouldn’t have mattered to the customer if you charged the time to the job or to the shop.  The customer’s price would have remained the same.  In the viewpoint of the customer, taking time which they perceive to be “on their job” to do necessary housekeeping or job related errands is objectionable.

We have had customers object when a workman would take off in the middle of the day to drive to a supply house for more material.  They feel it is being unwise with their money.  There may be some basis to this concern for a Time and Materials job, but for a bid job the only difference it would make would be to the Company’s bottom line.  (It’s good to note here, that Labor and Industries requires a company to pay for an employee’s time even if it is “windshield time.”)

I agree with the customer’s sentiment.  That is a good reason to have a well stocked work vehicle, with all the supplies you need for a job.  Sometimes it is prudent to have on hand supplies that can be re-purposed to substitute for missing parts and pieces.

It requires us as electricians to be adept at anticipating the needs for a job.  In an emergency, I have had the office help pick up material and run it to the job site.  Some larger shops even have someone hired as a parts runner.  Not a bad option if the demand is there.