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Connected Tools: Where Do We Go?

For years, we have been talking about stolen tools, lost equipment, and the long-term costs associated with not being able to effectively manage assets on a jobsite. Now, we are experiencing this firsthand—and I have some thoughts for contractors and builders to consider.

For those of you who might have forgotten, I am still on a journey with my husband Dave to build a Living Lab – one where we have partnered with several industry players to encourage energy-efficient and green living for all. The intention is to demonstrate advanced energy-efficient connected products and systems from some leading manufacturers and technology companies that are interoperable from across the globe. The objective was to build a house that would be an example for energy efficiency and connectivity. More importantly, the aim was to build a home that energy-efficient and cost effective.

From our firsthand experience, perhaps even greater than talking about tools being removed from the property, a bigger concern is safety. Or more specifically, personal injury and property damage to the structure, as uninvited individuals enjoy using this structure as a smoking den for illegal vices in the state of South Carolina. Many nights we have teenagers, coming into the unfinished property leaving blunts, spliffs, and other nicotine paraphernalia left for me to clean up.

Theft is also a huge problem in a structure that is not yet finished. As I always like to say, it isn’t a question of if theft will happen on your construction jobsite, but rather when it will happen. Perhaps I am preaching to the choir here, but it is time we do something about this once and for all.

The National Equipment Register recently released statistics on a rise in theft incidents during the Labor Day holiday. The organization provided a snapshot of the events, including theft by state, equipment type, location type, theft type, and loss value from the Thursday before Labor Day to the Wednesday after. It suggests there are roughly 269 equipment theft incidents reported during that timeframe alone. The total loss value was upwards of $7 million in less than a week’s timeframe!

So, consider some of the solutions.

First, create a plan. What is your theft prevention policy? Do all workers know what is included in it? Are you clearly communicating where tools and equipment are being left? Do you know who is authorized to take what home at night? The NER has a Spring Crime Prevention Tune-Up list to make sure security is a part of the equipment return or intake process.

Next, consider technology. Sure, cameras might be a good solution, but what if they stop working? Or what if the thieves walk off with the cameras too? What then? A layered security approach might be a better solution. Consider video surveillance, electric security fencing, video monitoring, and connected tools and equipment that can send alert immediately when they are removed from the yard.

Finally, maintain the plan. Preserve a database of fleet inventory. Continually test to make sure the technology is working. Move valuable equipment and tools to more secure locations. alert law enforcement and neighbors if theft is in fact occurring.

I know firsthand that this isn’t an easy feat. Not everything works like is says it does. So, try and try again. (Don’t ask me to explain what happens when your 11-lbs. dog eats the remainder of a joint, it’s not pretty). If you don’t the costs add up quickly. In fact, we are seeing theft in greater numbers today as an industry than we were even just a decade ago. What is your construction company doing to stay on top of the growing theft problem? Think bigger, as we move to the Fall months. People are looking for shelter and your unfinished properties might soon become more appealing in ways you just never imagined.

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