DON KAFKA, PRESIDENT OF TOOL WATCH, in Englewood, Colo., says there are three main reasons builders and contractors buy his company's tool management software.

First, builders sign on when they spend too much money replacing stolen tools and want to reduce pilferage. Second, they can't find the tools they already own and find themselves buying new ones. And third, to improve overall asset management.

The basic idea behind ToolWatch is for builders to assign bar codes to the majority of tools and supplies they use on a job. Kafka says large builders tend to use ToolWatch and most typically have regional or local warehouses where tools are stored. Power tools, compressors, generators, and test equipment are large items and lend themselves to bar codes, whereas smaller, bin tools such as drill bits do not.

For drill bits, builders would put a bar code in front of the bin, and the tool manager at the warehouse would account for usage by scanning in a quantity on a laborer's badge or hard hat. Consumables such as saw blades and grinding discs can either have a bar code on the bin where they are stored, or the tool manager can scan the manufacturer's bar code on the package. Kafka says most builders track consumables to make sure the items get charged off to the right job.

Smarter tool management can help builders retain up to 96 percent of their tools and save 40 cents per hour for every person in the field, according to Kafka. Savings come from reduced pilferage and not having to repurchase tools.

ToolWatch is marketed to builders by Bosch Digital Power Tools. ToolWatch supports wireless Pocket PC handhelds. For more information, visit