By Adriana Noton
In an area where there is a requirement to use implements for maintenance, upgrade or service on equipment or facilities a company runs the risk of loss. Human nature is such that it is simply too easy to misplace or forget equipment in the middle of a complicated operation. Over time the cost of these misplaced items is significant enough that tool tracking software is a cost-effective means of protection.
Through the years there have been many different approaches to keeping all the materials necessary for a job accounted for during and after a task. Typically at the beginning of each shift and at the end of each shift an inventory is taken of the equipment issued to each employee to ensure there has been no loss. Unfortunately, this checking does little more than identify the problem after the fact.
Another common approach is to create inserts for toolboxes with tool shapes for each issued item. The problem is that in most cases the worker has to move from one job to the next in rapid succession to keep up with the expected productivity. When saving time, precautions and inventories are the first to go.
It is not the case that the employee considers the equipment with which he works unimportant. It is simply that carrying the entire case to each job is laborious and unnecessary. The workaround is to remove those necessary, carrying them in a pouch, pocket or by hand.
If, however, there is a means for the removal of each individual implement to be recorded in real-time and some kind of warning played when it is not returned, it would create positive feedback. The inventory could be completed when the vehicle is started or when the data indicating the job is complete has been put into a mobile computer. Either way the important part is that each individual would have backup information that would remind them that there is something missing.
It is not just the loss of the equipment that is important in such a situation. If the employee shows up at the next work site and is missing an implement they would normally use for the job he must improvise and there is the possibility of the degradation in quality of work. There is also the additional loss of time for instruments discovered missing after having left the work site for a return to retrieve it.
There are also some situations where accountability for everything is incredibly important for safety. Examples include working on or near aircraft or any kind of engine wherein physical pieces could cause catastrophic damage. The risk is great enough that a missing utensil is enough reason to ground aircraft.
Because the loss of tool constitutes not only a cost the company but the possibility of degraded work, lost time or damage positive control over all the inventory is imperative and must be maintained. No matter what methodologies employed it has to take into account human weaknesses such as forgetting or pattern interruption. The advent of tool tracking software makes the process automated and much more likely to be effective.
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