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Cool Tools: Tool Management 2016

By Jeff Griffin | Jan 15, 2016
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Keeping track of tools—whether just a few or hundreds—is a challenge that computers have made much easier. Software developed specifically for managing tools and equipment has replaced simple lists and spreadsheets. With Internet connectivity came the capabilities of tracking tools and equipment locations in real time, providing records of operation and notifying owners when scheduled maintenance is due.


Dynamic Systems, ToolWatch, Trimble Alltrak and others offer tool-management systems well suited to the electrical industry. Now Milwaukee Tool is providing tool management as part if its One-Key application introduced in September 2015.

Alison Falco, president, Dynamic Systems, said: “Our CheckMate Toolroom management system includes software to track items by employee, job, work order, etc.; the ability to check out by ‘kits’ of tools; and management of consumables. Software options include maintenance reporting and reminders and the ability to upload lists of tools using an Excel spreadsheet.


“Barcode labels are placed on tools. We offer several types of labels, including metalized tags and indestructible barcoded ‘dots’ for small or hard-to-label tools. Either portable or corded barcode-scanning equipment is available. Barcode printers and employee badge printers are available,” Falco said.


She elaborated on the upside of this management system.


“Checkmate Toolroom offers many benefits,” she said. “Using label serialized gear with a unique barcode label and labeled bins or shelves to keep track of bulk items and consumables lets managers know what is assigned to each employee on a daily basis. Its unparalleled kitting feature provides the ability to group classes of equipment [into] one-scan checkout. As many kits as needed can be set up.


“Toolroom allows items to be stored in multiple locations, each with a minimum/­maximum inventory level. Reorder reports can be run as often as needed to prevent running out of consumables.


“The maintenance scheduler module helps keep equipment calibrated and in working order.


“Cost of our system is based on the number of concurrent users—how many will be using the system’s database at one time. The pricing starts at around $2,000 and goes up from there. The average contractor who purchases our system invests about $5,000 to $8,000 for hardware, software, support and training. A very large contractor may spend $15,000 or more because of the number of scanners required,” she said.


Don Kafka, president, ToolWatch, said: “Tool-management systems are comprehensive, enterprise-wide applications that serve the needs of back-office, warehouse and field personnel. An effective tool-management program offers accountability—critical to reducing tool loss, improving operational efficiency, reducing asset and labor costs, and for providing accurate and timely information for making informed business decisions. These systems have essential modules to support all aspects of managing, servicing and procuring tools, equipment and materials.


[SB]“They are essentially ERP [enterprise resource planning] systems for construction resources. Their features typically include scheduled equipment service, calibration and inspections, purchasing, receiving, requisitions, pick tickets, and job cost and billing. They are also capable of integrating with accounting systems and have robust reporting systems.


 

“ToolWatch offers a comprehensive tool-management system that is comprised of the features just described, as well as automatic data collection capabilities, such as barcodes and RFID [radio frequency identification]. We also offer a mobile application for smartphones and tablets with features dedicated to field personnel. We offer one enterprise-wide management system that provides these functions for an annual subscription fee per user. The customer decides how much of the system to implement.


“As tools, equipment and materials are assigned to new locations [other warehouses, projects, vehicles, employees, etc.], transactions are logged. The transactions generally initiate workflow, such as job cost and billing or service events, and the transaction data supports reporting and analytics,” Kafka said.


As for the financial impact of using this system, he said it depends.


“The cost to an organization is predicated on the number of user subscriptions,” Kafka said. “A typical cost for the first year, including licensing, training and data-migration services, would be $8,000 to $15,000. Subsequent years only require a $1,700 annual subscription fee per user.


“The amount of training depends on how much of the system is being implemented. At the most basic level, personnel are trained to enter new items, assign items, search for items and run basic reports.


“A system actually is easy to maintain, provided someone is dedicated to the success of managing tools and equipment,” he said.


John Inman, product manager, Trimble Navigation (AllTrak), said:


“Trimble AllTrak Cloud is a SaaS-based program [software as a service] providing instant access to asset information to allow for proper job-site allocation, service scheduling and project utilization. SaaS-based programs enable users to access tool and material asset information from any web browser or remotely with our mobile applications, available in iOS and Android.


“AllTrak Cloud is scalable for companies that work out of a single office or out of multiple offices in multiple regions,” Inman said.


There is no specific package; it is scaled according to the needs of the user.


There are three main components of the AllTrak Cloud system:


Barcode labels and RFID tags are available. Inman went on to describe how the technology works.


“AllTrak Cloud is accessed through an Internet browser from any location with an Internet connection,” he said. “With the asset management software, users are able to set up a variety of assets, consumables, locations [warehouses, job sites, vehicles, etc.], employees, services and certifications.


“Once set up, users are able to transfer assets from location to location or specific employees. Aside from managing where assets are assigned, the software also provides information to show users what assets have services pending, expired certificates or expired warranties.


“The average startup cost ranges from $2,300 to $4,800, depending on the needs of the contractor. Larger contractors may start at this level and scale up from there, depending on the number of users accessing the system.


“The largest investment required is the time required to enter assets into the system. Contractors typically have thousands of assets to track. AllTrak Cloud provides import tools to make the process faster and easier.


“We believe that tool-management systems are widely underutilized across the construction industry including integrated system contractors. Any contractor that is managing multiple job sites simultaneously has a need for tool/asset management,” Inman said.

About The Author

GRIFFIN, a construction journalist from Oklahoma City, can be reached at [email protected].

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