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The Top 5 Features of a Technology-Enabled Tool Management Solution

Every contractor knows that tool mismanagement—whether from tool loss, hoarding or breakage—can impact the efficiency and productivity of the business.

One of the principle causes of tool mismanagement is a lack of accountability. It’s not easy to keep track of every hammer, drill and grinder that goes in and out of a warehouse on any given day, particularly when these assets number in the thousands.  Added to this complication, crews develop favorite pieces of equipment that don’t get returned at the end of a job. Also maintenance schedules get delayed or forgotten.  Lack of accountability leads to unnecessary tool purchases and potential project delays.

The problem begins with conventional tool management practices, which often include pencil, paper, spreadsheets and someone with a pretty good memory—all practices that are prone to costly errors.  When a company doesn’t manage tools carefully, field workers won’t pay attention either. Good tool management creates awareness.

Technology can certainly help. But what are the key features and functionality of a technology-enabled tool management solution?

Here are 5 important features that your tool management solution should include:

  1. Device flexibility

A tool management solution should not be constrained by a desktop or limited to a mobile device.  Make sure your system is able to access tool and material asset information from any Web browser or remotely with a mobile smartphone, whether Android and iPhone smartphones. 

  1. Cloud-Enabled

Alongside device flexibility, look for a solution that uses the latest in cloud technology, so that information is managed from a single, centralized source.

  1. Barcodes and RFID technology

The system should support both barcode and RFID technologies, through a mobile scanner, allowing for easy check-in and check-out of equipment.

  1. Multi-function Asset Tracking

The primary purpose of a tool management system is to track assets from the warehouse, vehicles and jobsites, as well as the employee responsible for that piece of equipment or gangbox.  A tool management solution should facilitate proper jobsite allocation, service scheduling and project utilization of every asset.

The application should be able to organize assets in categories and even sublocations. For instance, a warehouse could have tool cages as sublocations. Containers such as gang boxes can contain tools and warehouse employees can easily drag and drop to move individual containers between the warehouse and jobsites. 

The system should also be able to track rental assets, including rental date and expected rental return date. A good solution will include alerts that let the superintendent know when an asset rental is due, minimizing the chance of rental return fines or added unnecessary rental costs.

Also look to see if the solution is able to manage consumables such as caulking, screws and caulking tape. Will it send notifications when stock levels drop below a defined quantity? Or send an alert when a tool needs to be calibrated or an employee certification needs to be renewed?

  1. Extended Analysis

Beyond the basic tool management features, look for an application that can support business analysis, such as cost management.  For instance, some of today’s tools are able to track costs based on length of time an asset is on a job, by a onetime charge, a daily rate or a time-based charge (i.e., hourly, daily, weekly or monthly). With this feature, the superintendent can set the workdays for the project, chargeable hours in a day, the work window, chargeable days in a month and make charge adjustments for owned assets and consumables.

In today’s technology-driven world, there’s no reason to manage assets with pencil, paper and tedious spreadsheets.  Evaluate today’s technology-driven, cloud-based, browser-friendly tool management applications such as the Trimble® AllTrak™ Cloud application for real-time tool and material asset management developed for electrical, mechanical, plumbing and HVAC contractors.