For a machine shop to thrive, it must have systems in place to ensure that operators have the right tools, in the right places at the right times, so they can work efficiently.

As the old adage goes, you need to use the right tool for the job. In order to do so, however, you need to be able to find the tool in the first place. As many DIYers will attest, this can be challenging enough when the desired item is stashed in a toolbox, but for companies and manufacturers that possess enough tools to fill entire rooms or more, the ability to keep track of these items and to access them efficiently is critical to their bottom lines and, ultimately, their overall success. This is where tool crib management comes in—the science of organising tools.

Basic function

All tool cribs fulfil the same basic function—to inform manufacturers of what tools they have, where they have been and where they need to be. In short, they ensure that operators will have the right tool, at the right time, in the right place to carry-out business-critical tasks. Tool cribs are also essential to prevent accidental losses and intentional thefts.

Common principals

Every company will approach the physical organisation of its tool crib differently, based on what they need and what they have, but there are common principles for effective tool-crib management that apply to all. Here are five easy steps that will keep tools and PPE under control.

  1. Put one person or a small team in charge of managing the tool crib
  2. Develop an effective system for organising tools – this might involve an alphabetical or numerical list, or listing them by their function, colour or size. Each company will have its own needs. Alphabetical and numerical systems work well for organising large inventories, but if the same tools are used for the same jobs, it might make sense to organise them by job type.
  3. Update the tool crib database regularly – while it may seem sensible to keep track of this information using a basic spreadsheet or with a pen and paper, the use of these archaic systems can create a host of issues.
  4. Ensure your tool crib has a check-in and check-out policy so the location of tools and the last people to use them can be identified. Using a simple paper check-out sheet may seem appealing, but it will not work for long and is easy to cheat. Electronic systems are usually the best, and the use of barcodes can make check-in and check-out simple.
  5. Tool cribs need to keep tools safe. No-one likes to think about their employees stealing from them, but it happens. One of the leading contributors to fraud and theft is opportunity—in this case access to the tools and PPE – such as gloves, repurposed in the garden, during the summer.

Tool crib-management software

The implementation of such a system can be a daunting task, but the latest technologies – namely cloud-based inventory-management and tool-tracking software – can simplify the process significantly. CRIBWISE, for instance, is modular, customisable and easy to integrate, and grants machine shops of all sizes complete control over their tooling inventory with minimal effort and expense. The software eliminates administrative hassles, eradicates production delays and cuts excessive – often hidden – expenditure.

Find out how CRIBWISE could help your business or discuss your needs with one of our team.