tool crib software Tracker 7 startup guide

Easy to use software that cuts cost

tool crib software

Tracker 7 is construction equipment, inventory and tool crib software. Construction companies, tool cribs, municipalities, utilities, the military, and oil and gas companies use it to make employees accountable and cut cost.

Evaluating the Tracker

  • The fastest, easiest introduction to the Tracker is a live, over-the-internet demonstration. Click here to set up a time.

  • If you'd like to try our software, you can download a free Tracker demo (click here if you'd rather have us mail a cd). Our demo contains all our software and is fully functional (though limited to 25 items). You're free to work with the demo as long as you want, in as much detail as you like. Waterwheel provides free, unlimited phone and email support as long as you're evaluating the Tracker.

  • If you're looking for written material, check out our product overview.

  • Looking for references? Check out our testimonials.

The Tracker is very flexible. We offer 4 versions (Lite, Construction, Tool Crib and Maintenance Trackers), many options, and often give you more than one way to do the same thing. If you're unsure which approach to use, contact us. We can help you decide. If you've tried to figure out how to do something but aren't getting the results you expect, we can get you on the right track quickly.

Tool tracking procedures

You need tool-tracking procedures that insure your data is captured and entered consistently and reliably. This is true whether your system is computerized or not: white board, log book, and spreadsheet-based tool tracking systems will all fail if they're updated inconsistently or unreliably.

With the Tracker, many companies put a computer in the warehouse and let their warehousemen enter tool transfers. Some have their warehousemen fill out tool 'chits' that are entered by office personnel. Some use barcoding, some enter everything with a keyboard. Some have locked tool cages, others have warehouses with open doors. Some have long-time employees, others see new workers every day. Your situation will dictate the procedures you need.

If you have a tool-tracking system in place (manual or computerized), take a look at how you're doing things now. If you're satisfied with your procedures, your Tracker installation will be easy.

If you have no system in place or are thinking about big changes to your existing procedures, think things thru carefully. Who will do what, when? Will anyone need training (or re-training)?

Common questions

Do you need to assign an employee to track tools? Normally, yes.

  • That person will generally be motivated to keep the data current. Even long-time, trusted employees can forget to record a tool transfer. If you're trying to implement a tool-tracking sytem on top of an honor system (where people just take what they need), you'll need to make a special effort to get people to change their habits and record the data.
  • Some employees won't know what to do. If you're using a logbook or whiteboard, they can be shown pretty easily. But if you're using a computer, some training will be required. It can be done, just be prepared for some inconsistency. Keep your eye on the system and re-train anyone who's getting it wrong. Can barcoding address this issue? Yes, but don't assume that your employees will pick a barcode reader up and know what to do with it. Training is essential.

Is tool-tracking a full-time job? In most companies, no.

What about job-to-job transfers? Someone takes a tool then gives it to a buddy at another job. How can you track this? Many companies print inventory reports every week or month and tell their foremen to report discrepancies. Others have employees fill out job-to-job transfer forms. Others wait until jobs are finished then print a report of everything that hasn't been returned. A carrot or stick may help, e.g., you might charge jobs for 'missing' tools.

Is barcoding worth the effort?

Barcoding is faster and more accurate than typing. It's especially valuable if your operation is high-volume (if, for example, you check out a lot of tools in the morning and check them back in at night) or you have a large facility and want your warehousemen to collect data away from the computer without writing it down, e.g., while loading a truck.

While barcoding is reasonably easy, your users will need training. And you'll need to maintain your labels. Adhesive labels (paper, plastic, vinyl or foil) won't stick to some greasy or oily tools and will eventually fall off if they're repeatedly exposed to rough handling. If you regularly inspect labels and replace those that are damaged, your system will work smoothly. If you don't, the labels (and the entire barcode system) will become less and less usable and will probably fail.

Metal labels, riveted to a piece of equipment, appear to be near-permanent. Be sure the barcode is etched into the metal. If simply deposited on the surface, barcodes can be scratched off.

There are alternatives to labeling tools. With small items, it may be easier to put a label on a shelf or bin. And you can print barcode 'cheat sheets' (plain paper with barcodes printed on them) and put them in a notebook or on a clipboard.

Training

Up-front training is normally included with your Tracker license at no extra charge; ongoing training is normally included in your annual software maintenance and tech time fee. See tech time and software maintenance for details.

Our primary training vehicle is our streaming video tutorials. We urge you to watch them interactively, pausing the video frequently and repeating what you've just seen in the Tracker, clicking buttons and entering data. The first 2 videos have training guides that will help you with this.

If you're not familiar with the Tracker, watch the Tracker basics tutorial first. That tutorial covers basic features (adding inventory, checking items out to jobs, running reports) that aren't covered in other tutorials. Afterwards, the order you watch the tutorials isn't critical (with 2 exceptions: watch the advanced billing and repair & maintenance tutorials after watching the basic versions).

The Tracker is very flexible. We offer 4 versions (Lite, Construction, Tool Crib and Maintenance Trackers), many options, and often give you more than one way to do the same thing. If you're unsure which approach to use, contact us. We can help you decide. If you've tried to figure out how to do something but aren't getting the results you expect, we can get you on the right track quickly.

We're also happy to provide live training over the internet. Some training sessions are spontaneous, others are planned. We're happy to work with you in the manner you prefer but ask that you watch the videos first so we can devote our live, one-on-one time to specific issues and questions.

Some people like classroom training because it gets them away from distractions. And if a group of people need to learn the Tracker at the same time, classroom training makes excellent sense (especially if your company's requirements are non-standard or complex). Contact us for more information.

Before entering or importing data

In most cases, you can enter data or change an option, run the Tracker for a while, then change the data or option again. But there are exceptions: data or options you should enter in a particular order and/or try not to change, once entered. This is true whether you're hand-entering or importing data.

  • If you enter your descriptions before your inventory, you're more likely to enter the same description for identical items.
  • IDs can be changed once they've been entered but the process is tedious if you're changing more than a handful. If you have any doubts about the ID scheme you've developed, experiment with a small amount of data. Make sure the people the people who will be using Tracker reports agree with your scheme (especially your accounting department).
  • If you have the supplies and small tools module, think carefully about which items will be entered as unique, non-unique and non-returnable. The more history you enter, the more difficult it becomes to change between these categories.
  • If you're using the Billing module, enter your billing presets before entering data. The billing system 'hangs on' to the presets in effect at the time an ID is entered or transferred, e.g., if you check an ID out before entering its preset rates, it won't be billed EVEN after you enter those rates in the inventory window. You must change the transaction in history, a process that can be time-consuming if you're updating more than a few records.
  • If you have the complete Billing module, select your billing logic (described in the Tracker help system) before entering data. It's easy to change between some forms of billing logic but difficult to change between others.
  • If you're using the Repair & maintenance module, figure out your equipment types and plans before assigning equipment types to inventory. While you CAN change an ID's equipment type, the process can be time-consuming, especially if large amounts of data are involved. If you're unsure how to set up your equipment types, contact us.
  • If you're using the Employees module and plan to use employee passwords, set up your grids before turning the passwords option on. Once you've done that, grid modifications will affect just one employee at a time.

Integration with accounting systems

Integration saves time and reduces errors. Instead of typing the same data in 2 different places (e.g., new jobs and employees), you only type it in once then export it to the 2d system.

  • Many companies want the job, employee, and cost code data in their accounting systems to be transferred to the Tracker automatically.
  • Some want to transfer billing data from the Tracker into their accounting system.
  • And some want to transfer consummable data (receipts, transfers, quantity changes) from the Tracker into their accounting system. The concept here is: use the Tracker, often with a barcode reader, for high-speed data entry; use the accounting system for accounting functions like balance sheets and purchase orders.

What integration do you need? "None" is a perfectly reasonable answer. Most Tracker users operate stand-alone. They may need to coordinate with their accounting department, e.g., make sure job and employee numbers are the same, send reports with cost data, etc. But the amount of time spent re-entering data is often fairly small. If, for example, you add 5 or 10 new jobs a month, it only takes a few minutes to enter those jobs in the Tracker.

That said, integration is a powerful and useful feature. People are kept in synch. Fewer mistakes are made. And if the volume of data is high, a great deal of time can be saved, re-entering data.

The Tracker integrates, off the shelf, with American Contractor, ComputerEase and Timberline. You don't need to license any additional software. We've custom-integrated the Tracker with other accounting systems and could probably integrate with yours.

If you're comfortable manipulating data files, you can repeatedly import job, employee and customer data into the Tracker with the auto-import utility.

Importing data from a spreadsheet

If you have data in Excel and are comfortable manipulating columns, you can import that data into the Tracker by following the instructions in the Tracker help system (search for importing data from a spreadsheet). This is a one-time import. If you want to import data from Excel into the Tracker repeatedly, please contact us.

If you'd rather have us import your Excel data, please do as much of the work as you can then email your spreadsheet to info@waterwheelsoftware.com. If your data is ready or nearly ready to import, we'll import it for free. Otherwise, we charge $185 per hour for custom import work.

The auto-import utility

If you're maintaining customer, employee and/or job data in an accounting system or spreadsheet, the Tracker auto-import utility can repeatedly import that data. In other words, you can maintain your data in one place, e.g., in your accounting system, and update the Tracker without re-entering that data.

If you have American Contractor, ComputerEase or Timberline, use the Tracker import utilities designed for those systems.

The setup required for the auto-import utility will look easy to some and difficult to others. The process demands precision. If your files aren't set up right, you'll see strange results. Waterwheel can simplify this process by creating a custom import utility for you. Contact us for more information.

Descriptions

Tool, equipment, and supply descriptions can contain up to 40 letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and spaces.

  • Don't enter descriptions haphazardly. If you do, you'll end up with more than one description for the same thing (LADDER WOOD 8FT, WOODEN 8FT LADDER, 8FT WOODEN LADDER, etc.).
  • While you can enter your descriptions on the fly, as you're entering inventory, you're more likely to be consistent if you enter them all at once. The extra effort and planning required will pay off in the long run. Select OTHER EDIT WINDOWS, DESCRIPTIONS from the TRACKER menu to open the Descriptions window.
  • Include size, manufacturer, etc. information in descriptions if people describe items using that information. Size, for example, is often a critical descriptor: people ask for 10 inch circular saws and 8 ft ladders. But manufacturer may not be. When people ask for a drill, do they care whether it's from Black & Decker or Makita? If they don't, take the manufacturer out of the description and put it somewhere else (or don't record it at all).
  • Begin your descriptions with the general and end with the specific. For example, if you include size in descriptions, put it at the end, as in LADDERS 12FT, LADDERS 24FT. That way, you'll be able to find all your LADDERS quickly and easily (if you start with the size info, finding your LADDERS will be more work).
  • If you have the Repair and Supplies and small tools modules and plan to record detailed repair records, enter one or more non-unique, non-returnable labor ids whose description includes the word LABOR. This will enable the Tracker to separate labor and parts costs on repair tags and reports.

IDs and numbers

Every piece of equipment, tool and supply you track needs an ID. Every job, employee, storage site and vendor needs a 'number' (in quotes because they can contain letters, spaces and punctuation marks).

If you've established an ID or numbering system, it will probably work fine in the Tracker (but check out the comments below to make sure). If you haven't established a system or are thinking of changing your existing system, here are some suggestions.

While your IDs and numbers can contain up to 15 letters, digits, punctuation marks, and spaces, we urge you to keep them as short as possible. You'll be typing these often and fewer characters = fewer mistakes. In addition, many Tracker reports (which try to squeeze as much data as they can onto each row) are set up for 10-character IDs and numbers.

Avoid punctuation marks, which slow most typists down considerably. You MUST avoid asterisks (*) if you're planning to use our barcoding system.

IDs and numbers are sorted alphabetically, which can be confusing if they're numeric: 11 is before 2 alphabetically (just like AA is before B). If you want to use numeric IDs and have them sort numerically, use leading zeros to give each ID the same number of digits: alphabetically, 002 is before 011.

Your numbers cannot be duplicated. The Tracker will not, for example, allow you to give a job and a site the same number. If you're using the optional Supplies & small tools module, tool IDs and numbers cannot be duplicated.

If you don't have the Employees module and want to check tools out to employees, set your employees up as fake jobs. If you have both jobs and employees, you may want to differentiate between them so they can easily be separated in reports, e.g., if your job numbers all start with a number and you have the freedom to make up employee numbers, start your employee numbers with 'E' (there are other ways to accomplish this same objective, contact us if you have questions).

Many companies have employee numbers in their accounting system but don't use those numbers on a day-to-day basis. If that's your situation, consider using employee numbers that are name abbreviations, e.g., the first 4 characters of the last name followed by the first 3 of the first (JIM SMITH becomes SMITJIM). If there are duplicates, add the middle initial (or come up with - and consistently apply - some other wasy to differentiate between employees with identical or nearly-identical names).

Regarding tool IDs...

  • Do not use serial numbers (which are often more than 15 characters long) for tool IDs.
  • If you haven't previously numbered your tools, we recommend IDs that start with two letters (an abbreviation for the tool type, e.g., RH for rotohammer) followed by three numbers, e.g., RH001, RH002, etc.
  • Etch or paint each tool with its ID (better: do both).
  • If you're using Videx barcoding hardware, include at least one alpha character in your tool ids. If the barcode reader is programmed for non-unique items, it asks you to enter a quantity with every Id. If the quantity is 1 and your Ids include letters, you can simply barcode the next Id without entering a quantity. If your Ids are purely numeric, you must enter a quantity every time.
  • If you're using Worth Data barcoding hardware, you can avoid entering a qty every time you enter a tool if you make your IDs 4 or more characters long. This will allow you to use an optional automatic quantity entry feature (which allows you to ignore the quantity field if the quantity transferred is 1). Contact us for more information.

Storage sites

You can have as many storage sites as you want or need, e.g., WAREHOUSE1, WAREHOUSE2, OLDYARD, NEWYARD, SHOP, etc.

When you first start the Tracker, the default storage site will be 00. You can change that to anything to like (select OPTIONS, ALLOW KEY VALUE CHANGES from the UTILITIES menu then select OTHER EDIT WINDOWS, STORAGE SITES from the TRACKER menu and change 00 to the 'number' you want). If you have the Supplies & small tools module, however, note that non-unique inventory is generally sorted by id then location. If your default storage site's number is alphabetically before any job or employee numbers, it will appear at the top of the list. This is convenient, as you'll be looking for that row more often than any other. For example, if you have 10 20 foot extension cords (Id EXT20) in storage, 5 at JOB1, and 2 at JOB2, and your default storage site is 00, you'll see ...

  • EXT20 00
  • EXT20 JOB1
  • EXT20 JOB2

But if your default storage site is YARD, you'll see...

  • EXT20 JOB1
  • EXT20 JOB2
  • EXT20 YARD

If you want to track locations within your storage site(s), e.g., 'bin 27' or 'row 5 case 3 shelf 2', don't set up separate storage sites for each location (an approach that becomes cumbersome when you have to check item back in). Instead ...

  1. Turn on the Calc Weight option (select OPTIONS, TRACKER from the UTILITIES menu and check CALC WEIGHT).
  2. Enter your storage location data in the Inventory window Conotes field.
  3. Print shipping tags when you check items in and out. Those tags will display each item's storage location (a handy feature if you need to find that location to pull something or put it away).

If you want to record that tools are missing, broken, or scrapped, create fake storage sites named MISSING, BROKEN, and SCRAPPED and check items into those sites. After doing so, you can run reports with a find, e.g., 'Location starts with MISSING.'

Software maintenance and tech time

Contact us if you need help. Our office is normally staffed Monday through Friday, 8 am 'til 5 pm Pacific time.

We charge 18% of the current software license price annually beginning year 1 for software maintenance and tech time. This fee gives you access to the most current Tracker release and 1 hour of tech time per year for every $180 you pay in annual software maintenance and tech time fees. Tech time can be used for training, custom programming, phone or email support. If you need or want more tech time, we reserve the right to charge $45 per quarter hour. We also reserve the right to change these policies without notice.

User manual

We're constantly adding features to the Tracker, so it's difficult to keep a user manual up-to-date. Like many software companies, we stopped publishing a manual several years ago. If you'd like a printed set of instructions, you can print sections or pages from the help system (which we DO keep up to date) by highlighting the section or page you want and clicking the PRINT icon at the top of the window.

Technical support for Tracker Lite is $35 per quarter hour ($35 minimum).

Contact us for more information about our construction equipment, inventory and tool crib software.

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