Keeping track of utility trucks and tools is a job for telematics.
Tool tracking is a challenge when you have utility crews operating out of a bucket truck in the field. Electricians, linemen and other craft workers are focused on getting the job done, not on making sure their tools make it back into the truck at the end of the day.
On a $10 million utility project, the loss of a $200 asset may not seem like a big deal. But for large companies, tool losses on every project can add up to a multi-million-dollar issue. What’s more, missing tools can halt work, causing declines in productivity.
To solve this industry-wide challenge, United Rentals has introduced a fleet of utility trucks with a built-in tool tracking system that provides visibility into assets ranging from crimpers, presses and cutters to rotary hammer drills and transmission blocks.
Asset tags pair with telematics devices
The Truck of the Future comes preloaded with tools that have asset tags permanently affixed to the tool’s exterior or inside the housing. (If you’re using your own tools, United Rentals can tag them as well, and even pair them with a telematics device added to your own bucket truck.) These unique identifier tags broadcast the tool’s name, serial number and location.
A telematics device on the truck — the same device that tracks the truck’s location — reads this information, then displays it on a map in United Rentals’ cloud-based equipment management solution Total Control, accessible via desktop or mobile app.
The map clearly shows where tools are located if they’re within about 200 feet of the truck. If a cordless bandsaw has left the radius of the telematics device, it will show up as missing. You can even see how recently a tool has moved, which indicates whether or not it’s being used.
To see all the tools located on a jobsite, simple draw a geofence around the perimeter of the jobsite.
Managing tool loss by exception
One of the problems with field utility jobs is that it can take months before a crew realizes tools have been lost. With a cloud-based tool tracking system, a manager can set up alerts and receive notifications by text or email when a tool can no longer be read by the telematics device.
“For example, a customer could choose to receive an alert twice a week that shows all assets that haven’t been seen in 24 hours or 48 hours or whatever parameter they choose, excluding the weekend,” said Jason Farmer, director of operations excellence in the Tool Solutions group at United Rentals. “So now they're only 48 hours into the problem and they can start solving it.”
Tool tracking induces behavior change
Tool loss happens for a variety of reasons. Absentmindedly, or otherwise, some workers may throw a tool in the back of their truck at the end of shift. The tool then travels to their home and never makes it back to the jobsite. If a tool breaks, the craftsperson may throw it in the trash instead of checking to see if it’s still under warranty or if it can be repaired. Tools also get left behind when they disappear from sight under debris or foliage.
Having a tool tracking system in place can lead to immediate behavior change. When workers know tools are being tracked, they’re more diligent about returning them. Tool tracking typically leads to a dramatic reduction in tool loss.
A tool tracking system that follows you to the next project
When you rent a Truck of the Future from United Rentals, the tool tags are associated with your company and the project you’re working on. When you view the jobsite in Total Control, you’ll see the number of tools you should have on site, how many are accounted for and where they are.
When the project is finished and you’re ready to move to the next one, United Rentals will associate the truck and the tools with the new job. Tool tracking for the new project can start right away.
Utility crews need reliable access to working tools to do their jobs. Managers and supervisors need an effective way to reduce tool loss. The Truck of the Future from United Rentals provides complete visibility into the location of tools so craft workers are less likely to lose, steal or discard them. As tool loss shrinks, productivity increases, and the bottom line grows.