Best Practices, Feature, Operations, V9I4

Shed Tracking

(Photo courtesy of ShedHub)

As the demand for outdoor structures remains strong, shed tracking can be a helpful tool for builders and dealers to check their status during production, trace their location and follow other features. 

Whether you prefer a software program or nameplates to identify your sheds, these options should ease your efforts across the board. 

Here are some efficient systems that let you access and track key categories and custom details.

LEADING THE WAY

Jeffrey Huxmann, founder and CEO of ShedHub in West Union, Ohio, offers inventory tracking software for the industry through shedhub.com, a digital platform that connects shed dealers to local buyers.

Huxmann was led in this direction while working in another industry and doing some marketing for an Amish company that was among his clients. 

“They bought a shed company and asked me to create marketing materials for that,” he explains. “I know how to code, which I learned back in college, so that was a skill set I had from years ago. 

“They didn’t know where all their sheds were going, so they asked me to create something Amish-friendly. I created a system to track the sheds through phone and fax.” 

In order to mark the sheds delivered, they would require a unique identifier. 

“A VIN is really long and with a telephone keypad, it can be sort of a pain,” says Huxmann who came up with a SHIN or a Shed Hub Identification Number. The markers currently feature six digits but could increase to seven or more if needed.  

“You can track a shed just like a car to see where it was moved if it’s been repossessed,” he says. “These sheds are moving around and rental companies that own them need to know where they are.”

Portable structures can also be stolen or damaged. 

“The wrong shed can get moved, too,” says Huxmann. “With a portable shed, you can track the progression. If it gets held up for some reason, you can see that when it’s being built. You can figure out where the bottlenecks are. 

“Once you start tracking, you can get all kinds of interesting information about your company. If you don’t track, it’s a lot harder. The more you can track, the better that is for your company in the long term.”

NAME AND NUMBER

IdentiGROW in Port Republic, Virginia, manufactures metal and plastic ID tags that can incorporate a serial number for shed tracking purposes. 

As President Jon Lee explains, “We sell many kinds of tags. Every tag has its own benefits, like people. They all have strong points and weak points. Our goal is to find the tag that best suits each customer’s needs.”

The first customer request for serial numbers on the nameplates came in 2010. 

“Demand has grown in the last couple years with clients tracking increasingly detailed sales information,” he adds.

“Serial numbers can be used for internal tracking from the time of initial order, through production, sales, and delivery,” says his son, Wendell, who handles sales, design, and production. 

“You can also identify shed-specific details when a customer wants to purchase a matching shed, or if they have a damaged window or scratched paint to repair. 

“When you’re selling 28 sheds a year, you can probably remember those details, but when you’re selling thousands of sheds a year, a serial number makes that information easy to find.

“For rent-to-own companies, an ID plate with a serial number can verify ownership of that building. Some companies want the number integrated onto the logo plate and others want it to be on a separate tag hidden underneath to prove ownership in case of theft. 

“Some customers will pull off a visible tag and hire a shed hauler to move a rented shed without permission. The tag underneath is another line of defense against stolen sheds.”

Serial numbers can be consecutive numbers or more detailed predetermined numbers pulled from a spreadsheet. 

“Some people want to incorporate all the important details such as building size and sale date into a tracking number,” says Jon. 

“With technology, however, there is no reason to make your number that complex. You can use consecutive numbers and tie all important data to that serial number in your spreadsheet or accounting program.

“Properly tracked data makes future follow-up quick and easy.”

THE LOCATOR

As a manufacturer and IdentiGROW customer, Marvin Raber, who owns Raber Portable Storage Barns in Montgomery, Indiana, finds the nameplates to be especially helpful for tracking.

“We already put a logo on the shed, which is a big benefit,” he says. “When you have a serial number on the tags, it helps the delivery guys get the correct building. If they don’t know what size it is, they can look it up and rent-to-own companies can track that serial number for the building. 

“We’re really happy because our logo kind of pops, so it gives us a little advertising with that, too.” 

The efficient system has additional benefits. 

“It helps keep our books straight,” says Raber. “That number goes with all the invoicing, so we know how many sheds we build a year, and we keep them in order, so it’s easy to do the calculations.”

Because the logo plate can be removed, the serial number has a second location inside the shed that is not easy for others to locate. If a customer removes the nameplate, it voids the warranty on the shed.  

Raber had tried outdoor stickers in the past without much luck. 

“Those do not work. Laser is definitely the way to go,” he says. “With IdentiGROW, we’ve had no problem at all with the longevity of it.

“If you’re a shed builder, you should not go without a serial number or tracker for your shed. They’re well worth a little extra for a building that you can track.

“With rent-to-own, whether you sell it on payments or as a cash sale, you can keep that number with every invoice that you have. If you start using them, make sure you utilize them because that number is very important.”

His company has a spreadsheet that acts as a complete operating system to schedule deliveries and more. For instance, if a new homeowner asks them to move an existing shed, the serial number can reveal important details like the size.

In other cases, people might try to sell a shed online when they shouldn’t through sources like Facebook Marketplace. 

When a potential buyer thinks the structure looks like a Raber storage shed, he can zoom in on the image to see the serial number. 

“It helps to have that extra set of eyes,” says Raber.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Shed tracking can be helpful from the design features on down. As Caleb Braker, manager for 3D Structure App in Eureka, Illinois, explains, the company offers a 3D visualization tool, sales tool, and inventory management tool that manufacturers or dealers can put on their websites. 

The Inventory tool can sort by location or size, down to what building someone wants. 

“After a customer clicks on a shed in the inventory listing page, it takes them to a page where they can see all the specs the shed has on it and pricing,” says Braker. “From there, they can click to view it in the 3D Visualization tool or click purchase and this will put it in their cart.”

The system also supports a serial number tracking system for shed dealers and manufacturers.

“We can set it up for them and assign our numbers or they can assign their own numbers to fit their current system,” Braker says.

“It helps a lot to be able to search for what building the customer is looking for by feature, size, or style, as a salesperson. We can also send a quote via email to the customer (from our system) who then can use a link to open the design of the inventory building and view it in 3D.”

CURRENT STATUS

Colin Dexter, owner of Sound Data Solutions in Navarre, Florida, created Sheds Software to track the manufacturing process and beyond, from presale and prebuild, to further along in the process.  

Each shed has a sequential serial number, and the software combines it with other identifiers like style, size, and build date to form the building inventory number. Specific details, such as “Rush,” can be noted.

Customers often request the software because they want to be able to track their sales lot inventory and order status through the manufacturing process. They also want to know when the build changes from an estimate to an order.  

Another popular feature shows customers how much it costs to build a structure and how much profit they make with categories that include fixed material and labor costs.  

“Getting it all set up is a pretty big task, but once it’s all set up and customers start using it, they say it saves them a lot of time,” says Dexter. 

The software has been enhanced since it first became available. 

“There are constant improvements to the master copy,” he says. “Each new customer starts with the latest master copy and from there we fine-tune it and add features. Everybody has their own version that is completely customized for each individual customer.”

There can also be a service order function for buildings that were damaged during delivery, the ability to import orders from the 3D configurators, and export invoices to QuickBooks. As a business grows, customers can have a software program that grows along with them. 

“Part of our mission statement is that we make work easier,” Dexter says. 

SPECIAL ASSETS

Based in Wichita, Kansas, RTOSmart is a rent-to-own contract management company with contract and customer management software that dealers and manufacturers can utilize for their rent-to-own needs. 

“Within the system, assets are created as contracts are generated, and the assets can be managed in the assets tab in the software,” explains Project Coordinator Christina Shellman. 

“From the assets tab, you can see a brief overview of each asset in a list view, which shows you things like current customer, status, purchase date, etc. You can search assets, add assets, export reports, and more. 

“You can mark assets and pending pick up, picked up, missing, in inventory, inactive or active. You can also make notes on specific assets.”

Other details include type, brand, amount that has been paid, address, current customer payoff amount, and investor. A new feature lets the customer see depreciation, which is automatically calculated. 

“You can see book and tax depreciation within the asset details and you can easily export depreciation reports within the software,” she says. 

According to Shellman, manufacturers, dealers, accountants, and more can use the asset tracking abilities for their RTO customers. 

“Since rent-to-own is a month-to-month agreement, it’s inevitable that some assets will need to be picked up, whether that’s from customers who no longer can afford the structure and request pick up, if the customer stops paying and it needs to be picked up, etc.,” she says. 

“Users need to be able to see each asset and track what is happening with each asset until the rent-to-own customer pays off the structure or completes their term.” 

Being able to easily track assets that are out on rent-to-own is essential in this industry, she adds. Dealers and manufacturers can clearly see and manage the status of each asset and keep everything organized. 

It also helps on the accounting side of the business as far as tracking asset depreciation and more. 

When it comes to shed tracking, the details make a difference. 

“Being able to search an asset ID or customer name, have an asset pop up, and be able to see the total history and all information on that asset instantly, is extremely beneficial,” says Shellman. 

“The ability to quickly see that an asset was purchased in 2021, picked up in 2022, resold in 2023, and is now three months into an RTO contract and the current customer has paid $400.67 into the current contract, with the click of a button, is unmatched.”

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