In an asset-intensive business like construction, good asset-tracking is critical. Hundreds of millions of pounds in equipment and materials go missing from sites in the UK each year – but fortunately, there’s a way to deal with the problem.
Why track assets?
A construction site is inherently vulnerable to thieves for a variety of reasons. There are often a large number of tradespeople coming and going, many of whom are unknown to their colleagues. The larger the project, the less reliable the ‘familiar faces’ approach tends to be.
Construction also often necessitates the use of expensive, and often highly portable, tools. If an unscrupulous worker can walk offsite undetected with thousands of pounds worth of equipment, then site-operators should prepare for this possibility.
Finally, construction sites are, by their very nature, open to intruders. A thief might jump over, or break through, a perimeter fence, and remove tools under cover of darkness.
How can it be done?
So how does asset-tracking guard against these problems?
A traditional pen-and-paper asset tracking system might require every worker who uses a given tool to make a written log of it. But there are a number of drawbacks to this approach. Firstly, it takes time that might be spent more productively. Second, the logs are vulnerable to error and inconsistency. Thirdly, the logs might be lost of destroyed.
A digital solution, like Milwaukee’s ‘One Key’ system for power tool security, deals with all of these drawbacks, while providing a number of key advantages. In practice, asset-tracking of this kind actually makes use of several different technologies, rather than just one of them.
Bluetooth scanning means that the tool can keep track of who’s been in range of it at any given time. This means that logs of who is using the tool can be kept automatically, without the need for a physical paper-trail. The person who has taken the tool out might claim responsibility for it using a barcode-scanner.
Geofencing is another practice through which a tool might be secured. It sets up an invisible cordon around the site perimeter, and flags whenever a tool strays offsite. Time is often of the essence when it comes to recovering assets, and knowing the instant a tool has been stolen can be invaluable. Tools can be tracked via GPS and recovered, potentially saving the company thousands.
Digital inventory management has the advantage of being instantaneous, and monitorable from a central location. It also allows for an incredible degree of precision that goes beyond security. A tool equipped with an asset-tracking system might let you know when it needs to be maintained before any sign of failure presents itself. This ensures that tools are given the attention that they need, and reduces the likelihood of a dangerous malfunction.
The advantages of asset-tracking, in other words, are enormous – and in the future it may prove to be the rule rather than the exception.