PC-based tracking system streamlines tool crib management

Tracking tools is a lot simpler for Caterpillar's Large Engine Center, Lafayette, IN, thanks to the recent installation of a PC-based bar code-driven system. Up until 1995, the plant had an open-door policy in its tool crib.

02/01/1999


Tracking tools is a lot simpler for Caterpillar's Large Engine Center, Lafayette, IN, thanks to the recent installation of a PC-based bar code-driven system.

Up until 1995, the plant had an open-door policy in its tool crib. Tools were issued on the honor system. No procedures were in place to track the thousands of assets in the plant's inventory. This inefficient method was discarded when the company decided to install Tool Hound from Software Integration Services, Ltd., Edmonton, Alberta.

The system operates similar to a library issue/return program. Tools are marked with individual bar code labels. Tradespeople also are assigned an identification number. When an employee checks out a tool, his ID number is entered in the computer along with the tool bar code. The process is reversed when items are returned.

Like a library system, the program tracks who has a tool, where it is, how often it is used, and when it is due back. A variety of reporting capabilities are available, offering data on inventory value, asset locations, and equipment use.

Tool crib attendants label assets in one of three ways: as tools, as parts, or as kits assembled for specific maintenance tasks. Tools and kits are expected to be returned to the crib after use. Parts considered consumable are tracked to monitor item availability.

Issue and return transactions are completed at the PC. The tool crib operator signs out articles by keying in the employee and inventory bar code numbers. He also runs reports to monitor who has what and if anyone has an overdue item. The recordkeeping lets tools be found quickly if needed.

Although the keyboard enables users to process transactions, a more efficient way to use the system is with handheld, radio frequency laser scanners. The RF scanners let crib attendants communicate with the PC in real time from anywhere in the crib. Operators can scan employee and tool data off the bar code labels and instantly send the information directly to the database.

Information about the status of both the equipment and the employees are transmitted from the PC to the handheld unit in real time. For example, if an employee at the counter has an overdue tool, or if he is not certified to use the item he is trying to sign out, the PC sends that information to the scanner instantly and displays it on the screen of the handheld device. The procedure heightens the company's control of its inventory, and makes the workplace safer by flagging items due for service or employees not properly certified to use a given piece of equipment.

The company plans to implement the RF scanner capability in the near future. At the time the system was installed, the plant was more concerned with the tracking ability of the system than with the speed of the process. Now that the tracking system is in place, the scanning feature can be incorporated into the process simply.

The plant reports the system was easy to learn and has introduced an accountability into the operation that had not been there before. By enabling management to know where tools are, who has them, and when they should be expected to be returned, the system gives the company a user-friendly, effective way to control assets.

Software Integration Services, Ltd., may be reached at 17707 105 Ave., Suite 205, Edmonton, AB T5S 1T1 Canada; 403-454-3001; Fax: 403-454-3096. For more information, check out its web site at www.sisltd.com or circle 201 on card .





Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
Choosing an automation controller, Lean manufacturing
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me