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 principal 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 favourite 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 system?
Here are 5 important features that your construction asset management software 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 any smartphone.
Alongside device flexibility, look for a solution that uses the latest in cloud technology, so that information is managed from a single, centralised source.
3. Barcodes and RFID technology
The system should support both barcode and RFID technologies, through a mobile scanner, allowing for easy check-in and checkout of equipment.
4. Multi-function Asset Tracking
The primary purpose of a construction asset management software system is to track assets throughout the warehouse, vehicles, and jobsites, as well as which employee is responsible for each piece of equipment or gang box. A tool management system should facilitate proper job site allocation, service scheduling, and project utilisation of every asset.
In addition, the application should be able to organise assets in categories and even sublocations. For instance, a warehouse could have tool cages as sublocations. Drilling down further, containers like gang boxes containing tools can be tracked as a unit, with warehouse employees being able to easily drag and drop to move individual containers between the warehouse and job sites.
The tool management 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, minimising 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?
5. 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 the length of time an asset is on a job, by a one-time 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 construction assets with pencil, paper, and tedious spreadsheets. Evaluate today’s cutting edge cloud-based, browser-friendly construction asset management software solutions, like the Trimble® AllTrak™ Cloud application for real-time tool and construction asset management developed for electrical, mechanical, plumbing and HVAC contractors.
For more information on tool and equipment management, download our free e-book, An Expert Guide to the Benefits of Tool and Equipment Tracking.
About the Author
John Inman is Trimble's Building Construction Segment Manager for Asset Management solutions for General and Trade Contractors. He has been with Trimble for 22 years focused on solutions for the construction industry. His roles within Trimble have included software engineering, training, sales, product and segment management.More Content by John Inman