Colin-on-Cars – Tracking tools and equipment

Some ideas, when mooted, seem so simple and obvious it is hard to believe they were not thought of much sooner.

Loss of tools due to employee negligence, theft or for whatever reason is a cost-to-company that could potentially be eliminated following a pilot project for Ford Pro by engineers in Aachen, Germany could enable companies to monitor the location of their tools and machines at all times, using Bluetooth connectivity and GPS tracking.

In fact, experts estimate the cost to businesses as R7 884 a year – per van. 

The system uses special devices placed inside toolboxes and on equipment to connect to company vehicles and a central server.

These tracking devices enable each vehicle to remind drivers when a tool is not in the vehicle and may have been left behind on-site. The tracking also enables companies to know where every tool or machine is at any given time and can coordinate with employees to transport specific tools to other sites when they are urgently needed.

In addition to the cost of replacing the missing tools, businesses would also benefit from employees not losing time by having to check or search for tools manually or pick up forgotten tools. Administrators save time by not having to check required inventory, while the system enables more efficient forward planning, with the right tools loaded into vans for the coming workdays.

 How it works

Each tool, machine and piece of equipment is fitted with a tracking device that is waterproof and can handle extreme temperatures. The devices connect to a central server that can be accessed by all company employees, both at the office and on-site: using a computer, the vehicle’s in-car screen or the dedicated app on a tablet or smartphone.

Tools can be searched for and located based on ‘vehicle’, ‘storage’, ‘tool type’ and ‘tool name’. A live map also shows the location of all the company’s equipment, while tools can be listed as ‘working’, ‘broken’ or in ‘maintenance’.

When a vehicle is loaded, each tool is displayed on the in-vehicle screen and is allocated to being in that specific vehicle. At the work site, as the vehicle is unloaded, the screen shows both columns, ‘loaded’ and ‘unloaded’ – meaning at the end of the day, anything still in the “unloaded” column has potentially been left behind.

A live list of tools on board enables faster loading and checking of the vehicle’s inventory. Having the status of all the company’s equipment accessible at a central location enables more efficient transportation of equipment between sites and easier job planning with assigning tools to specific jobs. If a tool is left in a vehicle overnight, the driver receives a theft alert when any tools are taken out of the vehicle.

Three companies based in the Cologne area helped to test the feasibility and applicability for vehicle fleets of varying sizes and workers in different industries, including construction and renovations, plumbing and bathrooms, and gardening and landscaping. Ford Pro plans to conduct more research in different markets ahead of making the service available to customers in the near future.

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