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by Taylor Short,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: December 7, 2016


A typical maintenance department must track dozens, or even hundreds, of different assets that need testing, repairing and replacing. Each of these tasks requires the use of specific tools that are critical to completing a job appropriately and on time.

But what happens when an electrical technician arrives to a job site without a multimeter or wire stripper? How can a worker frame a new house without clamps or an air compressor?

Workers shouldn’t have to waste time searching for the right tool, and lost or stolen equipment halts progress and eats into a company’s profits.

Tool tracking and management with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), enterprise asset management system (EAM) or a stand-alone inventory solution can keep your important tools and equipment organized, so technicians can find what they need quickly, saving both time and money. And if something goes missing, you’ll know immediately and can address the problem as soon as possible.

Asset and tool management in eMaint CMMS

An equipment profile in eMaint CMMS showing location and other details

This guide is designed to show how you can use software to track the tools that keep your operations moving.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Tool Management?
Benefits of Tool Management Systems
Barcodes Versus RFID
Computerized Maintenance Management Software BuyerView 2014

What Is Tool Management?

Maintenance teams, contractors, electricians, field technicians and other professionals store their tools in boxes and larger equipment in a toolroom or tool crib. A failure to organize tools and equipment slows down work and reduces productivity.

Tool management is a smart choice for asset-intensive industries, such as:

  • Manufacturers
  • Maintenance departments
  • Field service organizations
  • Emergency services
  • Law enforcement
  • Schools and universities

These organizations track assets such as AC units, vehicles, heavy equipment or lighting, i.e., items needed to make the company money. So why shouldn’t tools be tracked the same way?

This is where tool management software, also referred to as tool tracking software, can help. Often a function of inventory management, a tool management system allows organizations to create a profile for each tool, complete with images, history and current location or user.

These systems can also offer more advanced functionality, including:

  • Barcoding. Just like other assets, tools and equipment can be assigned a unique barcode or QR code. Using the camera on a mobile device, technicians can scan a tool to retrieve its system profile and edit or add information.
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  • Reservations. If a maintenance team has five multimeters, managers should know where each one is at all times. By assigning a code to each particular asset, workers can reserve tools to ensure they can complete their tasks correctly and on time. In addition, this functionality helps teams reduce losses and tracks which employee reserved the tool last to increase accountability.
  •  
  • Reporting. Have you ever asked yourself: “How old is this air compressor?” Or, “Who uses this mixer most often?” Or perhaps, “How much are we spending on storing these tools?” Without a system serving as a repository of historical data about tools and assets, these questions are likely to go unanswered. Reporting capabilities allow you to generate reports on various inventory or equipment metrics to identify areas for improvement.

Next, we’ll learn about some key benefits of managing tools.

Benefits of Tool Management Systems

Because tool management software is related to inventory management software, the benefits are similar. Here are some of the key benefits:

Increased oversight and collaboration As a result of detailed usage data, you can create reports and identify problem areas, and share this data among departments. This way, other business units can make more strategic decisions based on real-time availability of equipment.
Reduced equipment losses A system that keeps track of equipment helps reduce losses that can cost companies thousands of dollars to replace a machine or in productivity.
Improved workflows For organizations that maintain equipment, mobile devices are especially beneficial. Workflows are streamlined—technicians can view the location of tools and reserve them, all from their smartphones, and the system updates in real-time.

Barcodes Versus RFID

Asset management can be simplified with tagging, which allows quick identification of equipment by scanning a tag with a mobile device.

Two common methods prevail today: barcodes and radio frequency identification (RFID). Each option has pros and cons, so here are some details to help you determine which works best for your tool tracking needs:

Barcodes. You’re familiar with these—the vertical black lines found on every consumer product that can be quickly scanned. Barcoding is:

  • Less expensive
  • Easier to place on nearly any surface
  • Scannable with most smart devices

RFID tags. These new types of tags contain microchips that store data and can be attached like a sticker to individual tools. RFID tags:

  • Can hold a lot of data within the microchip
  • Don’t require direct line of sight to scan
  • Are typically more durable

Keep in mind that RFID tagging is often a more complicated implementation, but offers more advanced capabilities, such as scanning multiple tags at once to get information about an entire group of assets or tools.

If you manage simple tools, barcoding can offer an affordable, easy-to-use method. For more complex tools that have difficult-to-access internal components, RFID tags can make finding tool information easier.

Computerized Maintenance Management Software BuyerView 2014

At Software Advice, we speak with hundreds of software buyers each year. Through these interactions, we identify common pain points and requested features for each type of software. We used the gathered data to create a BuyerView.

We found that preventive maintenance is the top-requested feature in a maintenance system at 25 percent, likely because this is a task that is difficult to perform without automation.

However, in second place at 22 percent is asset management. Clearly, the need to keep track of assets, as well as the tools needed to repair those assets, is very important to maintenance organizations. Tool management software is a key tool (sorry, we couldn't help ourselves) in any maintenance operation.

To learn more about how asset and inventory management helps companies save money, check out our Three Tips to Optimize Your Spare Parts Inventory Control System.

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