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Is your tool park a blackhole?

It doesn't need to be that way in 2020

While tool park managers and purchasers take great care in selecting tools for their toolpark, oftentimes they lose track of all the tools currently in their possession, or can lose sight of what tools they actually have. When this happens, while it is usually accidental, it can lead to a company’s toolpark becoming a metaphorical black hole, where time and cost is continually put in, and nothing ever comes out in return. This causes huge issues for productivity. 

McKinsey reports that productivity on construction sites is growing at just 1% compared with 2.8% for the total world economy and 3.6% for manufacturing, with output from workers much the same now as it was 20 years ago. Essentially, construction productivity has been stagnant for years - but this doesn’t mean you have to stay this way. 

 

More tools do not equal greater productivity

Productivity is the rate of output per unit of input, and it can be extremely difficult to measure and figure out how to improve this on site. The default measure tends to be of labour productivity, however, there are many other factors contributing to overall productivity, such as the number of tools bought, used on site or held in storage. 

A construction company usually puts substantial investment into buying tools that are used to complete work and therefore make a profit. However, if you have a significant amount of capital invested in a surplus of tools that aren’t being used to their full potential, these tools therefore aren’t making you any money and this could lead to a decrease in overall productivity - especially when storage can be costly and tools have to be maintained and recorded.  

One of the examples of how too many tools can reduce productivity is having an abundance of spare tools.

When a tool breaks, a spare tool will be used in order to get the job finished. While this may seem productive because you are not preventing workers from completing a job, constantly relying on spare tools in case of damage is not the best way to use your toolpark. 

Often these spare tools are stockpiled in warehouses, in the back of workers’ vans and even left on site. While having spare tools is generally a good idea, keeping them in excess is bad for productivity because while they are in storage, they aren’t contributing to the work and therefore aren’t making you any profit. 

Productivity grows when the output begins to increase faster than the input. Therefore, by reducing the amount of investment you put into a large toolpark (for example, an excessive amount of spare tools) and instead focusing on optimising tools you already have, you can directly increase productivity.

 

According to the global engineering software company Intergraph, tool and equipment shortage is one of the main contributors to a decrease in productivity across the sector. It can be extremely frustrating as both owners and workers often aren’t aware of why the issue is occuring, or how to fix it. 

If you feel like you are constantly adding more tools to your toolpark but not seeing any change in the amount of tools available to you, there are a number of reasons why this could happen:

  • Lost tools

Many companies need a more efficient asset management system in place, because their current processes lead to tools getting lost. This could be because they are not sure what the tool’s last location was because of misplacement by a worker, or general forgetfulness.

  • Stolen tools

This is a common issue across the sector and can be exacerbated by poor management and maintenance. Like losing a tool, it can often happen due to misuse by workers or because of a lack of accountability and responsibility for equipment.

  • Not using the correct tools

Many companies invest in a large amount of tools, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right tools for a particular job. Changing tools or equipment throughout a job can lead to frustration and confusion through both trying to locate and use the right tools effectively.

Instead of addressing these problems and figuring out the cause, many companies look to the short-term solution of buying more tools. This is not only an expensive practice, but it is also unproductive. Although buying more tools may be a quick-fix to a problem that can prevent jobs being delayed, the newer tools are only going to be subject to these same issues further down the line.

What is the real cost of maintaining a large toolpark?

The purchase price of building a toolpark is just one thing to factor into the cost of maintaining a toolpark; large toolparks in particular can incur numerous hidden costs - many of which are hidden and rarely accounted for. These include:

  • Repair and maintenance costs

Some examples of these costs are fixing a broken tool, transporting tools to and from the repair shop, downtime and hours lost on site.

  • Administrative costs of repair

These include accounting for tools in storage, overseeing the repair process, deciding if you want to repair a tool, arranging collection and paying for any invoices - the more repairs you have, the more these administrative tasks become a high cost to the business.

  • Battery replacement 

These costs arise out of issues such as non-compatibility between tools and batteries.

  • Hire costs for replacement tools

Many companies often end up keeping tools for much longer than they are needed which leads to increased charges.

  • Testing, inspection and maintenance costs

The more tools you have, the more you need to maintain. Ensuring all the tools meet legal requirements can be difficult when you have a lot to manage.

Due to these hidden costs, a large toolpark can often be counterproductive because it is more expensive to maintain and manage successfully. Because of this, it makes sense to optimise your toolpark.

How to optimise your toolpark

There are a number of ways you can increase productivity through optimising your toolpark to work for your business. These include:

  • Using the right tools for the job so that workers are able to perform applications on site as effectively as possible

  • Reducing the number of tools in your toolpark by removing any tools broken beyond repair.

  • Having an effective back-up plan in place for if tools breakdown - perhaps you could source external help with this to manage your tool fleet successfully

  • Creating better accountability throughout your workforce to ensure that the tools are well looked after and returned to storage after use.

  • Improving the way you manage and maintain your assets - perhaps you could look into an automated asset management system to ensure organisation and efficiency across the board.

Attempting to entertain a huge toolpark is inefficient, expensive and frustrating for everyone involved and it makes sense for you and your business to reduce these problems by optimising your toolpark. By doing this, you can have a direct impact on site by lowering costs, reducing downtime and improving overall productivity.

If you want to know how to improve productivity across all aspects on site, download our guide How to Increase Productivity on Your Construction Site. It contains everything you need to know, from how to define productivity in construction terms, to how to best optimise your site to increase productivity.

 

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