Apple Restoration will restore anything on the outside of a building, from slate roofing to copper fixtures. Employees of the Brooklyn-based company use expensive tools and equipment. Some of them, such as chipping guns and sky-climber motors, cost as much as $5,000. The company has to make sure that these pricey tools arrive at the right job site at the right time, which means tracking them at up to 25 different locations.
Through a partnership between toolmaker Bosch and software vendor ToolWatch, Apple Restoration uses RFID tags on half of its tools to better track them, as well as track who is using—or abusing, or even stealing them, says John Weiss Jr., Apple Restoration’s president. Now, he says, “We can see where everything is.”
Apple is able to attach tags to its existing tools, and Bosch now offers more than 60 tools that are embedded with RFID tags. Bosch claims that with the RFIDs, companies can limit their tool loss from theft or damage to just 4 percent. Weiss finds the tags also make workers more efficient. If a foreman needs a particular tool, the tag can tell him if it’s in the tool shop and he can send someone authorized to pick it up. The tool room employee uses a handheld computer with a built-in scanner to document the switch, then updates the ToolWatch database.
Weiss says the technology is expensive (the tags alone are $5 apiece), and it takes workers time to log equipment in and out. But tool theft, loss or damage are huge problems in the construction industry. Theft alone amounts to an estimated $1 billion annually and the two-cent bar code labels Apple Restoration had used since the late 1990s tended to wear away.
“The RFID tag never gets worn out,” Weiss says. “It’s a little peace of mind for five bucks.”