Tool Inventory Tracking: Laying a Proper Foundation
It’s an exciting time in the construction industry. Emerging technology and new solutions have increased our speed, efficiency, and profitability. In particular, the arrival of new and improved tool tracking applications has awakened great excitement.
Ads are popping up online and in stores for inventory management solutions involving beacons, trackers, and apps. And, the manufacturers of the new technologies are some of the most reputable toolmakers in the business, like Milwaukee™, DeWalt™, and Bosch™. They’re garnering plenty of attention (and rightfully so) because of their brands’ trusted reputation for making reliable tools.
It’s tempting to jump in head first? But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We ought to know more than anyone the risk of building without taking time to lay a proper foundation.
The reality is, contractors who’ve jumped in with the new beacon based trackers (yes, even trackers from the big industry players) are discovering the technology isn’t quite living up to the promises. Not yet, anyway. Make no mistake: beacon based tracking is important and will continue to evolve into a necessary component of tool tracking — but evolve is the key word here. Reviews on beacon technologies are pouring in and, besides the usual frustrations that go along with setup and configuration of any new technology, users have shared a few consistent problems:
- Bluetooth requires a phone app to run all day (often draining a mobile phone battery in a matter of hours).
- Location updates can be very delayed (or off by thousands of feet).
- External beacons can be easily removed or tampered with (so they’re not an effective theft deterrent).
- Beacon batteries need to be routinely changed. (If a beacon battery dies, the beacon stops transmitting.)
While the technology of both the beacons and our phones will continue to evolve and improve, a more significant issue remains. Many contractors are realizing these solutions aren’t solving the real problem their business faces when it comes to tracking tools: accountability.
Rather than relying exclusively on a hardware solution to track tools (or maybe worse: doing nothing and just waiting for beacon technology to improve), many contractors are starting to use an app that’s based on a simple idea: accountability. This idea builds a culture of responsibility so that field workers take ownership of tracking tools. By encouraging the field to be more responsible for tools, the company can reduce tool loss and wasted time without putting an expensive beacon on every piece of equipment.
Apps that track tools based on responsibility don’t rely on a hardware beacon. Instead, they rely on a peer-to-peer workflow. The app helps a company enforce a transfer and acceptance of responsibility between workers as tools move from person to person in the field. Foundationally, this is a worker-centric model rather than a hardware-centric model.
Consider a tool tracking app like ShareMyToolbox: instead of relying on a hardware beacon, it catalogs an inventory of tools and then assigns each tool to an employee who accepts responsibility in the app. (His/her responsibility for the tool is removed once it is returned to the warehouse or transferred to another employee who accepts the responsibility.) When a member of your team knows that there’s a digital record of who has a particular tool, the employee won’t leave it under a pile of debris on some remote job location. Instead, that person will be more compelled to return it to the inventory you’re managing. Not only will you keep track of your tools, you’ll build a better, more cohesive team on a foundation of trust and reliability.
The accountability model promises to be inherently more reliable than a hardware model, especially given the current state of hardware beacon technology. And, as that beacon technology continues to evolve, just imagine what’s possible when these two technologies come together someday. If (or when!) that happens, contractors will be able to lay the foundation of a responsibility based system (that can track everything in their inventory), and then overlay a hardware beacon tracking app for key items. This strategic combination just may finally give us the ultimate solution for tool loss in construction. Now, that sounds exciting.
To learn more about tool tracking technology that builds a foundation of accountability, visit www.sharemytoolbox.com/tool-tracking. or call 866.768.8665.
Read our GPS Tool Tracking Guide for more information on beacon technologies and how each type of beacon works.
Just getting started? Read our article on “Walking before you run with Tool Tracking”.