To be a successful tool crib manager, you have to know what you have, where it is, where it’s going and where it’s been. Keeping track of all that inventory certainly isn’t an easy task, but by approaching things methodically and following a few simple tips, there are things you can do today to get your tool crib in order.
Here are a few simple ways to manage your tool crib inventory.
Conduct regular inventory checks
Your records and databases will tell you where everything should be, but you also need to physically check that your tools are where they are supposed to be on a regular basis. Regular full inventory checks can take a long time and many companies only institute them annually, if at all.
You can also implement cycle checks, which check and count different categories or subsets of your tool and equipment inventory in each wave.
Lock ‘em up, lock ‘em out
Physical security is extremely important, especially when dealing with valuable and/or mobile (ie; easily stealable) tools and equipment. Your tool crib should be securely locked at night or when the site is unattended and it should also preferably be locked, manned or monitored during working hours.
Opportunity is one of the main factors in many thefts and, while professional thieves targeting high-value equipment are always a risk, many companies find that a lot of the thefts they suffer over an average year are committed by their own workers or contractors.
Tag every item
Tagging every tool and piece of equipment serves a number of important purposes. It makes individual items easier to locate and identify, can help you to keep track of where each tool is at any given time, can deter theft and help with the identification and reclaiming of lost or stolen goods that are subsequently recovered.
Barcodes offer a simple solution and are often the first type of tags to be implemented as a business scales up. They are relatively cheap, easy to set up and are universally recognised and scannable anywhere in the world. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and Bluetooth (BLE) scanning offer more sophisticated solutions as the tags contain more data, items can be scanned from further away and do not need a line of sight. This means you do not have to dig every individual tool out in order to scan its barcode.
For larger worksite equipment or vehicles, you might also want to mark each with an identifier, such as names, symbols or digits. You can even stamp or engrave them.
Look at how other businesses do it. Libraries might be on path to obsolescence, but the way they categorize books can give you a good idea of the way categorization techniques have been elevated to a science. Warehouse inventory management is perhaps closer to tool crib management and faces similar issues, although there are differences between managing stock – which fluctuates as it is shipped in and out – and tools, which should more or less remain at the same levels.
An obvious distinction to be made is between larger pieces of equipment such as vehicles and machinery and smaller tools. Dividing further will allow you to effectively store, locate and track individual items as and when they are required.
There are a number of existing methods for organizing tools. It could be by tool type, by job type (assuming this differentiation can be easily made) or even in alphabetical order if you have a particularly large selection. Different categories can be stored in different areas, allowing for easy location.
Check it in, check it out
You don’t only need to know what every item is and where it should be, but also who had it last.
Perhaps ironically given the nature of their business, Paladin Private Security saw a number of items lost or stolen, including high-value mobile items such as laptops, which were valued at around £1,500 ($2,034) each. Fuel cards and even a taser weapon also went missing. Lost or stolen items may not seem like a big deal, but these can really add up over time. Just by updating your asset management system, you can save tons of money.
Instituting a system under which everyone checks every tool in and out – with no exceptions – can help make sure you know where every asset is at and help cut down on thefts and careless losses in the process.
Use asset management software
In a relatively small organization, or one that does not rely heavily on tools, it’s possible to use a pen and paper system, or rely on generic software like spreadsheets to keep track of your tools. But the risk of loss, damage, and theft is inevitable. In a larger operation– particularly in a tool-heavy environment like construction – dedicated asset management software can help make your life much easier, as well as cutting down on errors and the potential for misuse.
Electronic tool databases are much easier to keep up-to-date than dog-eared paper lists. What’s more, items can be easily added, removed or updated as required. You can keep track of where an item should be at any given time; not just for security but also for tracking down the right tools for the right jobs and people, which can help to minimize downtime that could be spent on the actual job.
Used in conjunction with electronic tagging systems, you can institute real-time tool management that updates automatically whenever a tool is checked in or out.
Managing tool crib inventory the right way can effectively help to reduce petty theft and lost items, as well as making sure the right tools are available when and where they are needed. How often are your tools lost or stolen? Comment below and let us know!
About the Author
Matthew Ramage is Trimble’s Segment Manager for Asset Management and the MEP Global Marcom Director. He leads a new marketing approach for his team, specializing in inbound and content-centric marketing.More Content by Matthew Ramage