Tool and vehicle tracking software can help a contractor gain control over valuable assets, large and small, by keeping track of where assets are and who is accountable for them. Here are three tool tracking solutions for the office and the field that can maximize tool and equipment availability and minimize hoarding, misallocation or theft. Solutions hosted in the cloud reduce reliance on a contractor's IT resources and allow users access from anywhere, anytime.
ToolHound, www.toolhound.com, is a browser-based application for tool and equipment management, available as ToolHound Onsite and as ToolHound Online. ToolHound Onsite uses the Internet or a private intranet to allow asset visibility in all locations. It utilizes handheld and wireless scanners to collect data from bar codes or radio frequency ID tags affixed to the equipment. The system tracks the check-out and return of an unlimited number of tools, equipment items, and other serialized, consumable and non-consumable assets at multiple locations. It can also monitor and schedule maintenance and calibration of tools and equipment and track the cost and complete service history for all tools and equipment (including machinery and vehicles).
Using the integrated purchasing system, the software can share inventory data companywide and create purchase orders when inventory drops below a set point and update records upon receipt of new inventory. ToolHound will also track rentals either to a customer's account or internally to a particular job.
ToolHound Online offers the same features as ToolHound Onsite, but with the solution accessed through the cloud. It is available to any approved employee with access to the Internet and includes automatic data backups and maintenance and support services.
ToolHound Mobile works in conjunction with ToolHound Online and Onsite. Loaded onto a ToolHound mobile computer and utilizing the integrated bar code or RFID reader, it gives contractors access to asset data and control in the field.
Working in sync with ToolHound Online and Onsite, ToolHound SecureCrib enables technicians in the field to check out and return their own tools while still keeping the employee accountable for them.
ToolWatch, www.toolwatch.com, is another cloud-based solution that offers real-time information, in the office and beyond, about track-able assets.
In addition to tracking the location and possession of tools and equipment in a centralized database accessible to authorized users any time from any computer, ToolWatch tracks the maintenance, calibration and service history of tools and equipment and can automate related job costing and billing functions. For example, it can automatically charge customers, departments or projects for tools used, lost or damaged. Flexible job-costing and billing options facilitate various ways of amortizing the cost of the tool over its lifespan.
Users can take advantage of customizable templates to put together lists of items in kits that can be used as pick tickets for tools needed for a project, employee or stock point.
Utilizing GPS technology, management can keep visual track of assets on a map, minimizing crew and equipment downtime and project delays.
ToolWatch Mobile combines ToolWatch capabilities and mobile scanning devices for real-time capture of data for maximized utilization of tools and equipment. For example, electronic pick tickets that appear on the screen of the wireless mobile scanner make it easy for warehouse staff to fulfill requests. ToolWatch Mobile also streamlines the process of documenting and processing service and maintenance work orders on the job, checking off individual tasks and specific consumable items that are listed. The handheld device saves all the work order information for historical and OSHA reporting and automatically transfers it to the ToolWatch billing area for job cost and billing.
Valarm, http://www.valarm.net, or Versatile Asset Locator And Remote Monitor, is a mobile app that provides vehicle and equipment tracking from an Android phone or tablet. The solution, accessed by cellular service or Wi-Fi, remotely monitors and tracks vehicles via GPS and the Android device's various built-in and external sensors (GPS, accelerometer, light sensor, camera, microphone, external USB) and connectivity (3G/4G, WiFi, Bluetooth). The software, which remotely senses change, gives real time and historical insight into a fleet's activity, which is displayed on interactive maps.
A Valarm-equipped Android device can immediately distribute configurable alerts via SMS/text, e-mail, and/or a posting to a contractor's account at valarm.net when any sensor is triggered by user-configured settings. For example, the alerts can notify of attempted theft of a vehicle or large construction tool or equipment at a jobsite; when a vehicle driven by an employee is traveling too far, too fast, or too close to a forbidden area (triggered by violating a GPS geofence); or when a vehicle's accelerator is floored or the engine raced.
The Android device can be plugged into a vehicle's accessory power jack or can be directly wired to ignition power. Valarm can also run for several hours on battery power, logging data to the device's internal database and then uploading that data to the Valarm servers whenever a network connection is available.
Among other fleet-tracking capabilities: users can instantly draw paths or coverage/territory areas of company vehicles for any recorded time period and view reports of statistics such as stopped and idle time, distances, max and average speed, and total time spans.
Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. They can be reached at [email protected].