No matter what your organization does, productivity is always a key driver of success. And for companies that utilize both specialized and everyday tools, efficiently managing tools and equipment is an essential part of maximizing productivity so that the company can excel. Let’s take a deeper look at what makes an effective tool management solution and how to use that solution to optimize productivity in your daily operations.
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How Poor Tool Management Affects Productivity
Effective tool management goes beyond simply acquiring the necessary tools; it involves proper tool tracking to ensure their availability, accessibility, and maintenance. In any case, the inefficient management of tool inventory can result in unnecessary delays and bottlenecks in workflow in any number of ways. A few ways that poor tool management can drive down productivity include:
Time Wasted in Searching for Tools
Inefficient tool management increases the risk of tool loss or misplacement. When tools are not properly tracked, they can easily go missing or end up in the wrong hands; this means that time and effort must be placed into locating these tools before workers can continue with their assigned tasks. After all, you can’t work with what you don’t have. This poses a particularly significant problem for large facilities, operations where tools are shared among teams, and operations where tools are transported between different sites. In all of these cases, tools and equipment frequently change location, and their location can not be easily determined with a quick search. In extreme cases, misplaced tools might not ever be recovered. This has an even greater impact on productivity, as operations will not be able to return to the status quo until the missing tool has been replaced.
Downtime and Delays from Unexpected Breakdowns
When tools are not well-managed, unexpected breakdowns or maintenance issues can arise due to a lack of understanding of how they’re being used. It is not uncommon, for instance, for workers to arbitrarily favor one tool over another that works just as well. This means that the favored tool will be used more and will need more frequent maintenance, which can be disruptive. Ineffective tool management also makes it difficult to establish a routine maintenance schedule in the first place. This can cause tools to fail at critical times, often without warning. When this happens, projects are inevitably delayed and productivity rates suffer. It is also important to consider what happens when tools and equipment break down entirely. As with the missing tools, productivity will experience extended delays while replacements are obtained. With an effective tool management strategy, operators might have timed the delivery of replacements to occur prior to a breakdown.
Inefficient Resource Allocation
It is necessary to make sure tools are properly distributed to and cycled among the workers who need them in order to ensure that productivity is maximized. But this can be difficult to accomplish with substandard tool management. Tools that are not properly tracked may sit idle while other employees wait for their availability rather than actively contributing to the operational process. By no fault of the individual employees, this generates bottlenecks and slows the workflow; they simply cannot proceed with a task if they do not have the tool to complete that task. And unlike cases of misplaced items, inefficient resource allocation is often a daily pattern of the same problem rather than sudden occurrences here and there. The issue is with the process of allocation itself rather than day-to-day circumstances, which means a solution must also be implemented on the process level.
Tool Management Strategies that Improve Productivity
Implementing a robust tool tracking system offers several benefits that directly address these challenges and contribute to increased productivity. By enhancing tool visibility and accountability, organizations can reduce the time wasted in searching for tools and minimize the risk of loss or theft. Instead, streamlined check-out and check-in processes enable employees to quickly locate and access the tools they need, eliminating unnecessary delays. An automated tool tracking system will provide an even greater benefit, as it eliminates the need for manual checkouts; similarly, solutions that utilize RTLS can locate missing tools even if they are not properly documented, as long as they are tagged.
Efficient tool maintenance and repair scheduling is another advantage of prioritizing tool tracking and management. When you have proper tool management strategies in place, you have easy access to how tools are used, how often they are used, and how often they undergo repairs. This can help provide guidance into when tools are due for maintenance, and maintenance can be properly staggered so too many tools aren’t in maintenance at the same time. This information can similarly be used to improve resource allocation.
The impact of effective tool management on productivity makes it clear that establishing an effective system should be a priority. So why don’t more people do it? Some might not know where to start; others might have a system in place that doesn’t seem to be having this impact. The latter is particularly common. The truth is, putting a system in place is only half the battle. The other half is making sure you are using that system strategically in order to boost productivity. Some strategies to ensure the effectiveness of your tool management software include:
Make sure your tool inventory system is reporting to a shared, central location.
Establishing a centralized tool inventory system is essential for efficient tool management. This system should include a comprehensive tool tracking feature that enables real-time visibility of tool availability, location, and status. As previously touched on, you will see the most benefit if you use automated technologies that are enabled for real-time location capabilities. This provides value across a wider range of use cases and saves time in a way that lends itself to an increase in productivity.
Another core factor worth considering is how your system should bring data together in a central location. It might be tempting to divide data reporting between teams based on what tools they commonly use, and while this has its benefits, it can also cause problems down the road. This type of reporting strategy does not account for tools the move between teams and can complicate reallocation. Even if this is an approach you want to take, there also needs to be centralized reporting of tool location, condition, behavior, and other relevant data. By centralizing this information, employees can quickly identify and locate the tools they need, minimizing downtime and improving productivity.
Provide training to and openly communicate with your employees.
Promoting employee accountability and providing comprehensive training on proper tool handling and tracking protocols are vital for effective tool management, especially when there’s technology involved. You cannot assume that everyone will know how to operate the system or that everyone will attempt to utilize the system in the same way. It’s therefore important to ensure that everyone knows what they’re doing and how the system is intended to be used. Training programs should cover proper tool storage, handling, and reporting procedures.
It’s also important to communicate the reasons for enacting a new strategy or implementing a new system. As a rule, people don’t like to be kept in the dark. By maintaining open communication with employees about what you’re hoping to accomplish and why, they are more likely to see the value of your tool management strategies and be less resistant to the change. This openness also communicates trust, which can encourage employees to take responsibility for the tools they use so that the trust placed in them is not seen as misplaced.
Use the data gathered by the system to make process improvements.
Using tool management software to effectively increase productivity does not stop at location and usage monitoring. Rather, the data collected throughout that process also has a critical role to play. Leveraging the data collected through tool tracking systems can drive informed decision-making. By analyzing tool usage patterns, maintenance records, and historical data, you can identify areas for improvement and analyze the effectiveness of new initiatives. Having this data at your fingertips encourages you to keep looking for ways to improve, which leads to strategic decision-making and improved productivity.
Having this data can also help prove to your superiors that the tool tracking system you’re utilizing is having a positive impact. These systems cost money, and that cost goes up when you scale your system and commit to tracking more tools. Usually, companies start by only tracking the tools they deem most important and make decisions about scaling after they’ve had time to try it out. The data the system collects can be used to demonstrate its effectiveness and its benefits to productivity, giving you more ground to stand on when you decide to expand.
Tool Tracking Across Industries
Regardless of your operation’s industry, if you have tools, a tool management system can help you increase productivity and more.
Manufacturing companies are often those that have the most tools to track and the most reason to track their tools – after all, production can rarely be done with bare hands alone. By implementing tool tracking systems, these companies can maintain visibility of their tools across their entire worksite, which becomes more and more vital as the site grows larger.
Construction companies also readily experience the benefits of effective tool management, for similar reasons – you need tools in order to complete your daily tasks. The nature of tracking these tools is a little different, as they might move between different sites depending on contracts, but it’s still worth pursuing for similar benefits to productivity.
Perhaps unexpectedly, even logistics and trucking companies can benefit from tool and equipment tracking. For these operations, trailers, pallets, and cargo are usually regarded as the most valuable assets, but the tools taken along in case of emergencies and those used to help unload cargo also have their role to play. Knowing you have the tools you need to deal with challenges can save you from shipping delays.
Beyond Productivity: The Impact of the Right Tool Tracking System
Selecting the right tool tracking technology is crucial for successful implementation. Organizations should consider factors such as ease of use, scalability, and compatibility with existing systems. As previously discussed, proper employee training is also essential to ensure smooth adoption and utilization of the tool tracking processes.
The benefits of the right system should also aid your organization in ways that go beyond improving productivity. If you choose the right tool tracking software and utilize it properly, you should also see the benefits of:
- Cost Reduction. A good tool management system will reduce the need for replacements, costly repairs, and search labor, which will drive down costs overall.
- Safety and Compliance. Proper tool management means that your tools are receiving the proper inspections to ensure they’re safe to use and within standards of compliance to protect your workers and reduce non-compliance fees.
- Product Quality. For manufacturing operations, making sure you’re using the right tools for a task can mean the difference between a quality product and one that gets sent back, bolstering your company’s reputation.
- Accountability. An effective tool tracking system keeps workers accountable for their handling of tools and keeps managers accountable for the decisions they make concerning resource allocation, leading to better overall performance.
- Employee Satisfaction. By putting a tool management solution in place, managers communicate that they value their employees’ time and reduce menial tasks so they can do what they were hired to do.
Boost Your Productivity with Tool Tracking
Tool tracking plays a vital role in improving productivity across industries. By addressing the challenges of tool management and implementing efficient tracking systems, organizations can streamline workflows and reduce downtime to maximize their overall productivity. Embracing tool tracking technologies and best practices is a strategic investment that yields long-term benefits, letting you position your organization for success in today's competitive business landscape.
Link Labs provides seamless onsite and offsite tracking for your tools and equipment, no matter what your industry. Book a demo today to learn how our innovative AirFinder system can take your organization to the next level.