How to Track Tools in Construction
Tracking small tools and equipment on construction projects has to be simple and fast. Modern construction projects are moving fast and being able to find the needed tools from a tool inventory is critical to keep working. Modern Apple and Android systems are now available to help contractors track tools and small equipment easier than ever.
Construction Tool Tracking 4 Key Steps
If you are interested in managing a better tool inventory then you need to take the following steps.
- Build an accurate tool inventory list – This may not be as easy as it seems. With tools constantly moving in the field building an accurate tool inventory list without stopping the business can be tricky. We recommend that you:
- Have each job site manage help take an inventory of their tools.
- Distribute an Excel sheet to each job site and have the superintendent add a barcode label to each tool. They then enter the barcode number into the spreadsheet.
- Collect the spreadsheets and import them into a central inventory system. Then any tools found without a barcode were missed in the count!
- Make the tool inventory list available to everyone – This is a key step to keeping a tool inventory updated. Everyone needs to have access to search the tool list. Not everyone needs to update or change the list but they need to be able to see it and reference what is owned before buying new tools. We recommend that you:
- Make the tool list accessible by mobile app.
- Only allow changes to the list by select individuals.
- Include in your tool purchasing process a step to update this list.
- Install a system for assigning responsibility for tools – Assigning responsibility is harder than simply having a sign out sheet. Most tools are not lost when they are simply signed in/out. Most tools are lost as they move from person to person. Thus, a good tool tracking system requires the need to be able to transfer tool responsibility when a tool is transferred from person to person. Tool responsibility is best managed by:
- Installing a mobile app on each team manager/ superintendent / foreman’s phone or tablet.
- Allowing field personnel to swipe and assign tools to each other.
- Requiring each tool assigned to be “accepted” or “declined” by each field person.
- Push responsibility into the field – Most tools are lost in the field so it is important that responsibility for maintaining the tool catalog is also pushed into the field. It is nearly impossible for one person to keep track of every tool. Thus, crew leaders such as superintendents and foreman must be held accountable to track the tools assigned to them. Bringing them into the process is critical for success.
Tool Inventory Systems
There are 3 types of tool inventory systems for small tool and small equipment tracking in construction:
- Inventory solutions – There are a number of generic inventory solutions that track materials, consumables as well as tools. These systems typically are heavily focused on accounting and purchasing/cost management.
- Cage based systems – These systems are designed around having a locked tool crib where people will check tools out in the morning and check them back in at the end of the day. These systems often use barcode scanning, RFID and/or bluetooth to make the check out process quicker.
- Field based systems – For mobile service companies and contractors who keep tools in the field more than in a tool crib or inventory warehouse there is a new breed of mobile based systems for field tool tracking. These tool tracking systems utilize Apple and Android mobile phones and tablets to track tools and may also include barcode scanning with the phones.
- Here are links to the two most popular apps:
The best tool management systems for contractors include the following key elements:
- Cloud inventory list– Contractors typically work over a large geographic area. With most of the workforce on remote job sites the sharing of a tool inventory list using cloud technology is a requirement.
- Barcode scanning with phones– The days of expensive barcode scanners are long gone. Any construction focused equipment tracking system must allow everyone with a phone to scan barcodes. With mobile crews and mobile technology everyone in the company should be able to use barcode scanning, RFID and/or bluetooth can also make the process even quicker.
- Field based systems – For mobile companies like contractors tools should be in the field more than in a tool crib or warehouse. Afterall, tools are making money when they are in the field! New mobile based systems utilize Apple and Android mobile phones and tablets to track tools.
- Take a look at these mobile apps as good examples of these new systems:
Tool Tracking & Small Equipment Management can be simple:
Tracking tools on construction job sites needs to be simple. Too often contractors try to implement a tracking system that is 100% accurate. Don’t let perfection become the enemy of progress. If your superintendents can track 90% of their tool inventory quickly and easily then that is a huge win.
Whether you reduce tool loss by adding barcode scanning or just using tracking software it is important that the following is part of your solution:
- Easily checking out tool inventory is key. It needs to be fast to check tools out during the morning rush.
- An asset tracking system needs to save time for the field workers not just the office or warehouse workers.
- Any mobile tools and equipment software must include cloud based hosting and delivery so that field personnel can easily connect from job sites.
Modern asset management doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. A simple mobile app can be the easiest tool tracking solution for most contractors.