Keeping track of tools shared among crew in the field can be difficult — figuring out “who has what and is it available” can be confounding and time consuming. Here’s an app devoted to just that task that documents both accountability and accessibility almost instantly.
Designed specifically to work on Android and Apple mobile devices, the cloud-hosted ShareMyToolbox (Enterprise version) tool tracking app, www.sharemytoolbox.com, downloadable at Google Play and iTunes store, enables management to keep tabs on every tool in inventory and field employees to manage tool transfer themselves from their own mobile phones or tablets.
The app has two primary areas, the web interface used for administrative tasks such as tool setup, reporting and user management, and the mobile apps used in the field and warehouse for workflow tasks.
To encourage accountability, field employees receive notification on their mobile devices and accept or decline the tool.
How it works: the tool administrator builds the contractor’s unified web-based tool catalog by manually entering each tool or importing tools from an Excel spreadsheet. The catalog shows lots of details, including tool title; description; manufacturer; model number; category, manufacturer website URL; name of employee who has the tool; date it is due back; and purchase or rental information. Barcodes are optional, but use the built-in camera on mobile phones and tables, not proprietary scanners. (The solution supports all barcode formats, though the Code 128 format is recommended for the mobile tool inventory system.)
Administrators and field users can search for tools by barcode scan or any number of other variables or text strings. Selected tools can be loaned, borrowed, transferred or marked “unavailable” when in need of repair or for another reason.
To encourage accountability, field employees receive notification on their mobile devices and accept or decline the tool. Techs in need of a specific tool can search for what’s needed and see who nearby has it or if it is in the warehouse. They can pull up a picture of the tool, a descriptive name, the size of tool (in inches), and the manufacturer and model number and see instantly if it is in inventory or checked out but available.
With that visibility, the tech in need emails, texts or calls whoever has the tool and asks if it is available for transfer. All transfers must be accepted and acknowledged from within the app, maintaining accountability of guardianship. In addition, at any time, an employee can see how many and which tools are in his or her possession.
Each tool can be tracked by date for safety checks, calibrations or other service. Tool alerts that occur directly thorough the mobile device (even if the app is not in use at that moment) remind both whoever has the tool and the tool administrator that it is time to service the tool. The app is subscription based, priced per user per month, and can handle an unlimited number of tools. A free 14-day trial version that includes full access to the system for five connections is available.
Field Nimble, www.fieldnimble.com, available for use on iPhone and iPad and Android devices (fee per user/per month), is a web-based back office and field service management system for small residential HVAC, plumbing and electrical contractors that provides numerous customer management and business operations features, including scheduling, dispatch, invoicing and capturing payments. The administrative aspects of the solution can be handled on desktop computers or tablets while the techs in the field running the mobile app use mobile phones and tablets.
The contractor’s dashboard shows all visits assigned to all employees in either a weekly or a monthly calendar view. Dispatchers can drag and drop appointments to fill openings with unscheduled jobs or jobs that need rescheduling. Real-time mapping enables easy determination of the closest available technician.
To build proposals, a contractor can either import a price book or enter basic tasks and costs and build it himself or herself, and can also attach photos. The software includes the option for discounts and coupons to help with negotiating pricing with a customer or as an easy way to offer preferential pricing to specific categories such as senior citizens or service personnel. A contractor or tech in the field can present the proposal or multiple options to the customer on the computing device as well as via email and can accept a signature for partial or full payment on the spot.
Techs can take on-site photos and attach them to customer histories, accessible through the mobile app, and also have the ability to attach customized notes. The notes can be hidden from the customer or included on the invoice.
Field Nimble offers two different fee options: fee per user/per month, which allows unlimited real-time credit card and ACH (electronic check) payments, and $0 per user/per month with integrated credit card processing fee of 3.99 percent per transaction. Both methods include recording of physical check and cash transactions and each method is available as a 14-day free trial.
Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. They can be reached at [email protected].