How to Manage Tool Crib Inventory

Jonny Parker
October 26, 2023

Efficient tool inventory management can help you track tools and equipment in your tool room, resulting in a better tool borrow and return system (and fewer lost tools) across tool cribs. In this blog, we will take you through the basics — and best practices of tool crib management.

What’s a tool crib?

A tool crib is exactly as it sounds, a room designated for storing tools and equipment inventory. Also called tool rooms, tool cribs are typically large areas fitted with wire cages to hold tools. These tool cages are usually kept secure with locks and can only be accessed by an authorized tool crib attendant.

Depending on the scale of your operations, you can have one tool crib or a network of several. In large operations, job sites can even have their own tool cribs that can be accessed by selected foremen. As such, tool inventory management software can often prove helpful in ensuring that everything is organized and accounted for.

Tool inventory management best practices

Here are some of our top tips for effective tool crib inventory management:

Create a layout that works

The first step of effective tool crib management is creating a layout that will help you organize everything efficiently so that it’s easy to find what you need, when you need it. A good guide is organizing your tools much like a hardware store would, so you can categorize them according to groups like plumbing, electrical, appliances, etc.

Grouping your inventory on their respective shelves helps tool attendants easily locate everything. Also, have large, easy-to-read signs to mark categories, such as subcategories (drills, hammers, saws, etc.).

Use tool inventory management software

If you’re still using pen and paper or Excel sheets to track inventory, you might want to consider inventory management software to facilitate better inventory tracking and overall management.

Manual procedures can often cause problems like erroneous reporting, inefficient workflows, and poor visibility—leading to larger losses over time. Specialized inventory management software is a good investment, especially if you want to scale operations down the road.

Streamline your checkout process

Utilize an efficient tool tracking system to keep track of your inventory as workers check out and use tools on job sites. This way, you’ll know exactly where the tools are and how many are left in your inventory at any given time.

Some examples of effective tool tagging methods for streamlining your checkout process are:

  • Asset Tagging/Barcoding: Using barcodes to tag larger equipment allows for easy scanning and location updates, while asset tagging is ideal for hand tools that can also be scanned as they go in and out of your tool crib.
  • Radio frequency Identification (RFID) Tagging: RFID tagging allows for even more precise scanning than barcodes, as they use electromagnetic fields to track equipment.
    • Bluetooth Inventory Trackers: There are also Bluetooth-powered tracking tags that you can use for mid-range tools and equipment. Some trackers even have buzzer sounds to help in locating misplaced items.

Have a tool crib attendant

Self check-out systems can work for smaller operations, but having a tool crib attendant or manager is the best way to go. The attendant can help you plan and track inventory to ensure that tools are sent where they’re needed. Having a designated person also helps prevent delays due to hoarding, resulting in a better managed construction equipment logistics chain.

It’s not often discussed, but a well-managed tool crib is paramount to ensuring that jobs are completed on time and that workers have everything they need for each task.