Contractors can improve their tool-management practices by using various tactics, either individually or in combination.
Tool managerA single knowledgeable person must be in charge of the tool function, to ensure control and to assist foremen in identifying alternative methods of accomplishing the work tasks.
Management must recognize the importance of this job and fully support this position. Furthermore, one or several support personnel should be cross-trained in tool-management functions in order to ensure continuity in case the main manager is absent.
The tool manager must be involved early enough in work planning so that job-specific tools can be acquired in due time. Tool and material requirements must be linked to work packages (installation or assembly packages) so that their delivery is a precondition for releasing their work. This drives tool selection and quantification upstream into early job planning and the process of breaking down the job into tasks that are assignable to foremen and crews.
The tool manager may also be responsible for maintaining and repairing tools or have other duties as well. The role and functions can also be extended for the tool manager to act both as a consultant regarding tool selection and as a conduit for field personnel acquiring construction equipment such as cranes, forklifts or scissor lifts, and temporary work such as scaffolding (which usually are outside the scope of ‘tools')
Accountability in shop and on siteThose responsible for tool use must be made accountable for requisitioning, receiving, issuing and returning tools in order for the tool-management system to work well. For example, one contractor manages a sheet metal job shop and brings personnel into the shop when work on-site is slow. To avoid having them borrow tools from regular shop personnel, the ‘visitors' are assigned a tool cabinet on wheels, with a standard list of tools including a power drill, a grinder, a compressed-air hose and a cutting wheel.
They get their cabinet key at the start and return it at the end of their workday. These cabinets cost on the order of $1,300 to purchase and equip.
Monthly tool reports classified by job or review of tool costs for each job will increase the foreman's accountability and thus help to minimize the number of tools that are misplaced or getting lost. (The illustration shows) how a job gets charged using a weekly rate for the use of company-owned equipment, and how it is issued small tools at no cost unless they are "consumed."
Where such a billing system is in place, management must consider that limiting tool time on site to just that period when it is needed minimizes the transaction-management cost - the cost for repeatedly issuing and returning tools. The tool manager together with foremen must make this trade-off all the time.
Process transparencyEveryone involved in planning work and handling tools must know what the company's processes are for tool management. Most importantly, foremen must know how long it takes to get something.
Because requests for last-minute deliveries can be costly, foremen must plan their work at the appropriate time in advance. To avoid tools that are issued too long in advance of their use, those controlling the process must work on a day-to-day basis to keep the order-to-recipient lead time reliable. They must guarantee that it will be met each and every time, for any request from any foreman.