Tool Tracking and Asset Management
Tools are an expensive investment. Replacing tools is an even more expensive investment. Any company that manages employees and assets, potentially across multiple job sites, can attest to the difficulty in keeping track of their tools. Missing tools are not only expensive to replace, but also can affect a project’s bottom line by adding to the time it takes to complete a task and contributing to increased labor costs. Many tool companies have delved into the realm of tool tracking to provide their customers with integrated solutions to protect and recover their tools and assets. Although not without their limitations, these solutions are the next step in creating a connected job site in a digital world to track, manage, and control inventory while deterring theft for increased productivity and reduced costs.
Dewalt Tool Connect
Dewalt’s Tool Connect allows you to connect, track, and customize your tools across multiple jobs sites through the use of the Tool Connect app, the Inventory Manager web-based portal, and a range of connected products. It utilizes Bluetooth technology to sync Tool Connect enabled products with the Tool Connect app, which periodically updates to the cloud, providing up-to-date location data. In addition to tracking tools, Dewalt’s app allows you to enable and disable tools and batteries, monitor diagnostics, and customize tool specific settings.
Tool Connect enables users to assign assets to job sites and people via the Inventory Manager portal. The Bluetooth enabled products pair with the user’s mobile device to provide location data, as well as allowing users to set virtual fences and remotely disable tools or batteries. By setting a virtual fence, it allows the user to be notified when a tracked item has been removed from the specified range. Additionally, a Last Seen feature will even provide users with the last address of where the tool was in range of a Tool Connect enabled device. With Bluetooth technology, the maximum range is approximately 100 feet, meaning your tool must be within 100 feet of a Tool Connect enabled device in order to be “found” or recognized. While this has its limitations in terms of tool recovery, the ability to disable tools is certainly a theft deterrent.
With four different Tool Connect products, Dewalt is focused on creating a comprehensive offering to enable customers to efficiently manage their inventory. Dewalt is releasing standalone Tool Connect tools with integrated Bluetooth technology that allows the tools to be tracked without the battery being attached. The current lineup of Tool Connect drills, drivers, work lights, and kits also offer a variety of customizable settings, such as PrecisionDrive modes and the ability to adjust LED light settings from a mobile device. Dewalt also has Tool Connect 20V MAX batteries that are available in 2.0, 4.0, and 5.0 Ah configurations. The batteries connect to the mobile app for tracking and status alerts and can be disabled remotely to deter theft.
For users who already have existing 20V MAX tools and would like tracking capabilities, Dewalt has created the Tool Connect 20V MAX Connector that permanently attaches to current tools. The Connector features a slim design and adds virtually no additional weight. The ability to retrofit existing 20V MAX tools with Tool Connect capability provides users a lower cost of entry into a comprehensive inventory management system. Finally, the Dewalt Tool Connect Tags are small, durable devices that can track anything including equipment, materials, tools, and more from any brand. They can be attached using an adhesive, screw, or zip tie and feature a LED identification light for easy Bluetooth pairing.
We asked one of our Instagram followers, Travis Collins aka @toolsbydesign what he thought about Dewalt Tool Connect:
It’s good and has useful features, a lot of features that might not be useful. It’s complicated. I think it will eventually come into play as the companies continue to push the technology. It’s much better for a larger crew or company.
He stated that the accuracy of the tracking is good, but it is limited by the Bluetooth range. The Dewalt Tool Connect enabled tools cost approximately $30 more than models without it, is this price point worth it to you? Join the conversation using #toolconnect.
Milwaukee’s One-Key digital platform combines innovative smart power tools with a web-based inventory management system. Similar to Dewalt’s Tool Connect, One-Key uses Bluetooth technology to pair tools with an app on mobile devices, which in turn provides the cloud-based platform with real-time location data. The system’s integrated tool tracking feature allows users to visualize tool utilization across multiple job sites and employees. In addition to tool tracking, Milwaukee’s One-Key streamlines productivity by allowing users to create profiles and customize tool settings, report tool performance, and lock or disable tools remotely.
With the One-Key app users can identify devices up to a 100 foot range and also have the ability to hide One-Key tools in their inventory from broadcasting a signal to other users. This is beneficial if a user doesn’t want other One-Key users to see any enabled tools. The app keeps track of the tool’s last known location and like Dewalt, can be useful in locating an object within a specific range. Although limited by the Bluetooth range of 100 feet, Milwaukee’s One-Key allows users to remotely disable tools in the instance of lost or stolen tools and will notify a user if their tool is identified by another app user.
Milwaukee has already integrated One-Key technology into many of their M18 Fuel, Force Logic, and High Performance Lines. Besides tracking tools, users can also wirelessly sync their tools to create custom profiles, program custom torque and speed settings, and monitor performance. Milwaukee’s One-Key enabled tools include a drill/driver, impact, reciprocating saw, work light, and a line of crimpers. Click here to view Milwaukee’s One-Key lineup.
In addition to their growing line of Bluetooth integrated tools, Milwaukee has also introduced the One-Key Tick Tool and Equipment Tracker. The Tick can be attached to any tool, material, or piece of equipment through the use of adhesive, screws, rivets, or straps. These versatile trackers feature a replaceable coin cell battery that provides up to one year of run time.
To get a real user’s perspective, we asked Lucas Mann D’Angelo aka @mannmadeinma what his thoughts were regarding Milwaukee’s One-Key:
In terms of tracking, I really like the accuracy that the One-Key tools and ticks give you. I use a Tick tracker in all of my Packout boxes, so between those and the One-Key tools I can track everything I take with me on a job. I’ve found that even within a large 10,000 sq. ft. building the app can pinpoint where the tools are…While I do wish that the app showed location history as opposed to “last known location”, I’m sure improvements are forthcoming. Being able to lock or report as lost is functional as well. Even forgetting where you set a tool down in a building, being able to lock it until YOU find it is convenient.
Given the limited 100 foot range of Bluetooth technology, this tool tracking method is not going to be able pinpoint any location if a tool has been taken out of range of a mobile device. However, as the network of users of these tool tracking apps continues to grow, so will the number of tools recovered. Are you using Milwaukee One-Key? Join the conversation using #onekey.
Makita Battery Lock-out
One unique solution that specifically addresses the issue of battery theft is the Makita 18V LXT Sync Lock Battery Terminal. With Makita’s ever-expanding line of 18V and 36V tools, battery theft protection is important as more job sites become cordless. This terminal has the ability to program a lock-out schedule for 18V LXT batteries, rendering them useless after pre-set times. While this solution does not track tools, it does provide a low-cost theft deterrent option for users already operating on Makita’s 18V LXT system. The terminal is compatible with all Makita batteries that feature LED charge-level indicators and includes Windows software for programming lock-out schedules.
Bosch GPS Tracking
Bosch recently announced that their new GSH27-26 Brute Turbo Breaker Hammer will be equipped with GPS tracking. In terms of asset protection, having a tool embedded with GPS tracking capabilities provides the ultimate solution to tool tracking and recovery. The Hammer reportedly will offer always-on location tracking that can be managed through a free GPS tracking app for mobile devices. The tracking service will be free during the first twelve months of ownership, after that the service will cost $9.99 per month or $99 per year.
This subscription based service raises the cost of entry for this method of tool tracking, however it is significantly cheaper than replacing the tool. Additionally, Bosch will be releasing a retrofit GPS Module to bring the same capabilities to all current Bosch SDS-Max hammers. Given the Brute Turbo Breaker Hammer’s hefty price of $2,049 it is understandable why someone would want to track such an expensive piece of equipment and it begs the question- is this the future of tool tracking?
Will we see Bosch and other companies develop and integrate GPS tracking into more tools in the future? Or do other solutions, such as Dewalt and Milwaukee’s Bluetooth tracking- with a lower cost of entry, provide adequate results for the average power tool user. Let us know your thoughts on Instagram @tool_barn.