Bilo Plumbing & Heating, a family-owned company, was established in 1973. Bilo specializes in radiant heating systems, luxurious kitchen and bath renovations, snowmelt solutions, geothermal heating, gas piping, and boiler and water heater installation and repairs. They serve both residential and commercial clients in Massachusetts’s North Shore, Boston, and surrounding areas.
Over the years, Bilo has expanded from a one-truck operation to a bustling, 18-truck business. Today, the company employs 31 people and continues its legacy of high-quality work while continuing to grow.
Recently, our team had the pleasure of sitting down with Jonathan Stilianos, Purchasing Manager at Bilo Plumbing & Heating, to learn all about Bilo’s business and understand how Bilo’s employees use Sortly to stay organized.
How Bilo keeps their inventory and assets organized
At any given time, Bilo Plumbing & Heating has approximately 60 to 80 ongoing jobs. Most days, work begins around 6:30 am when plumbers meet at the Bilo warehouse to get their daily assignments, figure out where they’re going, plan their strategy, and grab the necessary parts for that day’s jobs.
But the warehouse—a staggering 4,500 square feet—is full of tools. And according to Jonathan, each truck contains over 10,000 parts. Plus, expensive fixtures and other supplies and materials arrive at the warehouse constantly, waiting to be installed on a job site.
Fortunately, Bilo can keep the warehouse organized with Sortly, which allows them to accurately and precisely track the over 3,000 items and 52,000 parts in their warehouse at any given time.
Inventory management is essential at Bilo
Jonathan works alongside a full-time warehouse manager, Chris Hunt, to manage inventory stock levels and ensure everyone on the team has every single part they need.
Within the Sortly software, Bilo built an organizational system that tracks inventory whenever a part leaves the shop—whether that’s to a truck, a job, or even storage. More specifically, Jonathan and his team were able to quickly and easily build folders and subfolders in Sortly based on the locations and statuses that were important for Bilo’s business.
Now, when a part leaves the Bilo warehouse, Jonathan and his team use Sortly to track the answers to these questions: “Does the part go to service? Does it go to construction? Is it going directly in the truck for an inventory, or is it going directly to a job and being built out into that job?”
Bilo swears by QR codes for fast, precise inventorying
To make this tracking of moving inventory even faster and more accurate, Bilo utilizes Sortly’s QR code generator and scanner features.
“We have a QR code on everything,” said Jonathan.
He added that Bilo always includes key details for each product on the customized QR code labels they generate and print through Sortly, including the manufacturer’s name, description, and part number.
Sortly streamlined reordering and special deliveries processes at Bilo
Setting custom low stock alerts in Sortly have helped Bilo maintain the correct inventory levels and ensure they never run out of essential parts. According to Jonathan, Bilo sets a minimum for all parts. When stock falls too low, he receives an automated email from the software and places an order right away.
That’s essential, especially because Jonathan and Chris place orders all day long, working with four primary distributors and additional suppliers to get everything Bilo needs.
“We do orders every day, including specialty items,” said Jonathan. “We’re constantly bringing in products from other distributors. We categorize them, and we catalog them into Sortly. And then we put them in a receiving area where the plumbers and the team know where their product is, so they can pick it up and schedule its installation.”
This allows Bilo employees to simply check the receiving folder they created in Sortly to see if a part they’re expecting has arrived. Nobody has to call the shop to see if a part has come in—and there’s no stress if nobody picks up the phone. This is important because sometimes employees in the warehouse leave long before the plumbers’ workdays are done.
Before implementing Sortly, if nobody picked up the phone, a plumber might even drive back to the warehouse to see if a part had arrived. And that extra trip, to Jonathan, was a waste of time.
“That’s been a huge savings for us,” said Jonathan.
Folders help Bilo stay organized, from receiving to billing
Bilo doesn’t just use folders for receiving at the warehouse, either. The company utilizes Sortly’s customizable folders feature to stay organized and on top of every last job. Each contractor has their own folder in Sortly, and within that folder is a sub-folder for every job Bilo and that contractor are working on together.
When necessary, Bilo can “move” a product from the warehouse to a specific job. This doesn’t just keep the team organized, either. These folders create detailed records that Bilo can capture thanks to customized reporting.
“We’re able to run reports, actually see what went from the shop to the job, what’s being used for that job, the cost, the purchase cost, the selling cost, the quantity…” said Jonathan. All of this, he added, “allows us to streamline our billing.”
This is another big time-saver since previously employees had to remember what they used on a given job, and all notes were handwritten.
“There was a lot of human error,” said Jonathan of the old tracking strategy.
Jonathan also mentioned that his team uses item history to locate essential items that have gone missing. Because Bilo checks every item in and out via QR code, the team can always refer to an item history to determine when an item was checked out and by whom.
“We’ve been able to find parts and track them down,” said Jonathan. “Before, we would just reorder a part and waste money.”
For Bilo, Sortly is the perfect mix of simple and flexible
When we asked Jonathan how Bilo managed inventory before discovering Sortly, his answer was simple.
“We weren’t,” he said. “We were flying by the seat of our pants.”
He revealed that when Kevin Bilo took over the business in 2021, he brought a renewed focus on tracking items, tracking costs, and tracking purchases. Since then, Jonathan says that Bilo has “really looked at the shop and the warehouse as an opportunity to really manage the business better.”
So Jonathan and the team set out to find an inventory management software solution that could help them do just that.
“We needed a program that was flexible enough to meet our needs and also track what we needed to track without being cumbersome,” said Jonathan.
While Bilo looked at other inventory software, they couldn’t find anything else that worked for them. After all, Bilo has a ton of fast-moving inventory, and items are always coming and going. With the wrong solution, tracking inventory could take up way too much time and be too labor-intensive. What’s more, they needed a solution that would be intuitive enough for their employees to quickly use on jobs.
“We needed a program that was simple,” said Jonathan. “Something that was easy to operate.”
A friend of Jonathan’s referred him to Sortly, and Bilo found that they could easily customize Sortly to fit the business’s rapidly-evolving needs. Jonathan also mentioned that having the help of Riley Hendrickson, a Customer Success Manager at Sortly, whenever Bilo runs into a question or concern has made a huge difference.
Jonathan said that after several conversations with Riley about his wish list for Sortly’s reporting feature, much of the functionality he’d hoped for became available in a recent update.
“A lot of what we wanted to see in reports, we’re able to do now,” said Jonathan.
As Bilo Plumbing & Heating continues to grow and provide stellar service to even more customers, we at Sortly are thrilled to be a part of their journey as their inventory management solution.
Sortly is an intuitive, customizable inventory app that helps businesses of every shape and size take control of their inventory. Ready to get organized and start tracking your business’s inventory, assets, tools, and more? Start a free, two-week trial of Sortly and start saving time, money, and stress right away.