Inventory Control And Tool Tracking In Manufacturing

Many industries rely on tools for maintenance or one-off jobs, but manufacturing is one of the best examples of an industry that requires tools to get things done every single day. From testing kits to hammers and generators to work lights, tools are essential for the manufacturing facilities, but so is keeping up with these tools.

 

Depending on the job or facility, hundreds of workers and thousands of tools can be involved in completing a project. With so many assets to manage and keep up with, it can be easy for essential items to go missing. Whether through theft or simple human error, the loss of tools at a manufacturing facility can lead to reduced productivity and revenue as projects get delayed and tools need to be replaced.

Tool Tracking And Inventory Control Technology

One solution to these problems is to integrate a tool management system that includes tracking capabilities. Tracking tools can be done using a variety of technologies these days, many of which can scale to meet the needs of projects and facilities of all sizes. A tool tracking system may use radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to locate the exact whereabouts of specific tools on a factory floor, but some systems use global positioning satellite (GPS) technology to keep tabs on tools around the worksite and while tools are off-site.

Credit: Robert Helm

Inventory tracking and the use of an inventory control system is a wise move for any business owner, but with the cost of professional manufacturing tools ranging into the thousands of dollars or more per item, manufacturing facility owners must be able to account for each and every tool. Machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision (CV) algorithms help in this effort by providing both reactive and predictive bounding boxes that are able to “see” objects as they move within a defined area. These technologies are similar to the camera systems employed by self-driving cars as they navigate roadways and avoid obstacles.

AI and CV can monitor pre-defined areas at a facility and track tools in real-time as they move around while machine learning develops scanning routines and creates unique bounding boxes. If a tool leaves a particular area, the movement is registered and an alert can be sent out.

Home Depot has experimented with similar technology that requires tools to be activated prior to being used. The hardware giant has put in place activation systems at its stores that will physically lock out the usage of tools that have not undergone activation. This soft tracking technology is a deterrent to theft as it allows Home Depot to know what tools have been activated and which ones have not.

Putting A Tool Tracker To Work

Manufacturing facility owners and managers can also use individual tracking devices that can be monitored via a smartphone app. A small tracker tag can be affixed to individual tools and then registered using the appropriate app from the tracker’s manufacturer. Within the app, the tracker can be located, allowing the owner to find the tool if it goes missing.

When using any kind of tracking device, it’s important to also consider the legal ramifications of doing so. You can obviously track your own items without worrying about breaking any laws, but if your company supplies tools to employees and those tools are meant to travel home with a tracking device attached, your state may have informed consent laws that must be followed.

This is to protect your business as much as it is to protect your employees. If an employee has a tool with a tracking tag inside of their private vehicle, the potential exists for privacy concerns to become an issue when the employee is using their vehicle off the clock.

Additionally, if someone with bad intentions gets their hands on a tracking tag or the tag’s tracking data, it may be possible to follow the employee to their home or elsewhere. There have been a number of legal cases that have made the news regarding tracking tags and crime, so it’s a good idea to work with an IT specialist and your company’s attorney if you plan to implement any kind of tracking technology for your company’s tools.

Article Sources:

https://www.forbes.com
https://blog.ezofficeinventory.com
https://www.camcode.com
https://www.assemblymag.com
https://www.qualitydigest.com

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