Barcodes & QR Codes

How to Use Barcodes for Tool Tracking

May 3, 2024 • 7 min read

Every business faces unique inventory-related challenges, but for businesses that rely on tools to provide services to their customers, keeping track of tool inventory often proves especially difficult. That’s because businesses that maintain a large tool inventory often store inventory across multiple locations and aboard service trucks, travel from site to site to perform services, and lack one centralized, always-accurate inventory management system. 

To solve these pain points, many businesses implement a barcode tool tracking system to organize their inventory. This article explains the benefits of a barcode and QR code tool tracking system and outlines how businesses like yours can implement one right away.


What is a barcode tool tracking system?

A barcode or QR code tool tracking system is a software-enabled inventory management system that allows businesses to rapidly manage tools (and other inventory) using codes affixed to tools and a barcode or QR code scanner that reads them. 

With the help of barcodes and QR codes, your business can instantly learn more about inventory by providing immediate access to all relevant data about that item stored in your inventory database. With the scan of a code, your team can check items in and out, learn more about a product, update key details, view high-resolution photos, and more. 

A barcode or QR code may come affixed to your tools, or your team may need to generate and print a customized barcode or QR code for unlabeled inventory. Sortly allows customers to rapidly create unique barcodes and QR codes for their inventory, then print those codes directly onto label paper using ordinary printers. 

While you can use an external, Bluetooth-enabled barcode or QR code scanner to read labels, software like Sortly also offers an in-app scanner powered by equipment your business already owns, including smartphones and tablets. 

Free Ebook: Track Equipment & Tools Like a Pro

This easy, comprehensive guide can help you:

  • Determine which details to track about your equipment and tools
  • Set a standard operating procedure for asset tracking
  • Perform physical audits of your business’s tools and equipment

What are the benefits of a barcode tool tracking system?

There are various benefits to using barcodes and QR codes to manage your business’s tool inventory. Here are a handful of the most compelling reasons to start automating your tool inventory management right away:

1. You’ll track tools faster than ever before

Barcodes and QR codes are designed to speed up just about every aspect of inventory management, from learning more about a product to “checking in” new tools to moving those tools to a new location, such as a tool crib, a vehicle from your business’s fleet, or a job site. 

With the scan of a barcode or QR code, even your remote employees can review information about a tool, update the item’s condition, double-check quantities on a job site that’s halfway across the county, and so much more. 

2. You’ll reduce human error

Even the best employees mistake one wrench for another—especially when they’re in a rush and many items look and sound alike. You’ll virtually eliminate the risk of such mistakes by implementing a barcode or QR code system for your tool tracking. 

While the human eye can easily jumble rows on a spreadsheet or mistake one drill for another, barcodes and QR codes are unique. 

3. You’ll never have to wait for information

With a barcode system up and running, gone are the days of waiting for someone from the front office to get back to another employee on the floor or at a remote job site. With the right inventory app at their fingertips, all your off-site employees need to do is scan an item, find the information they’re looking for, and act accordingly. 

This doesn’t just save time for the members of your team who actually use the tools but for everyone else who works at your business, too. With always-accurate, always-accessible information available to anyone who needs it, the employees who used to spend hours disseminating inventory information are now free to tackle the rest of their to-do lists without interruption.

4. You’ll keep truly perpetual inventory

As far as inventory management strategies go, no system is considered better than a perpetual inventory system. That’s because when a business maintains perpetual inventory, it updates changes to its inventory list in real time. 

If a screwdriver from truck #3 is moved to truck #7, whoever moves the tool will simply scan the screwdriver and drag the tool from its old location to its new one. If a hammer cracks on the job, the employee who had checked it out can mark it as destroyed, remove it from the inventory system, and follow your business’s standard operating procedure for handling the repair, replacement, and restocking of the item. 

When a business keeps true perpetual inventory, it unlocks many other benefits, including reduced inventory shrinkage and obsolescence and more efficient, more profitable operations. That’s because when a business has a proper handle on inventory, it can quickly satisfy customers and move on to the next job even sooner while keeping unnecessary labor and supply costs down.

A construction worker using a drill.

How to use barcodes for tool tracking

If you’re ready to begin using barcodes and QR codes to better track your business’s tools, these next five steps are a great foundation. 

1. Select an inventory system that supports barcodes and QR codes

Search for inventory software that’s flexible, intuitive, and can grow alongside your business. Some inventory apps, including Sortly, offer free trials. Don’t be afraid to chat with customer service about how a company’s software might suit your business’s unique needs.

2. Barcode and QR code every tool

A barcode and QR code system works best when used universally. The easiest time to set yourself up for success is day one, when you are already adding tools and other items to your new inventory system. As you add details, pictures, and more to each item’s profile, take a moment to snap a photo of the item’s barcode and QR code.

If you don’t already have a barcode or QR code on a given tool, take a moment to generate a unique one using an app like Sortly, then print it out and affix it to the item. 

3. Train employees to check items in and out

To truly maintain perpetual inventory, every employee asked to manage tools must understand how to use inventory software to check tools in and out. From tool crib to truck to job site, articulating clear expectations about how your team manages and tracks tools in a standard operating procedure (SOP) is essential.

Sit down and create a strategy, train all employees to follow it, and ensure they have the equipment and resources required to maintain it for the long haul. Remember, after a few weeks, your barcode inventory system will become second nature—especially if you’re using an intuitive app.

4. Encourage employees to stay organized

Even the best barcode inventory system will fall short if employees cannot keep tools organized. To set them up for success, ensure all spaces where inventory is stored are kept neat and tidy. Using proven inventory organization strategies, organize your business’s tool cribs, storage closets, and company fleet. 

Remember that the simplest, most manageable organizational strategies are almost always the best. If a system is too hard to follow or takes too much time to maintain, then your employees won’t adhere to it for longer than a few weeks or months at best. 

5. Continue refinding your tool tracking strategy

No matter how solid your tool management strategy is, you’ll want to use spot checks, annual inventory audits, and occasional inventory cycle counts to ensure your employees are correctly adhering to your inventory strategy. 

If you find any cause for concern, carve out the time to retrain employees, adjust your standard operating procedure, and make tweaks to your barcode tool tracking system to reflect the realities of your changing business.


About Sortly

Sortly for barcode tool tracking.

Sortly is an inventory management solution that helps you track, manage, and organize your inventory—from any device, in any location. We’re an easy-to-use inventory software that’s perfect for large or small businesses. Sortly builds inventory tracking seamlessly into your workday so you can save time and money, satisfy your customers, and help your business succeed.

With Sortly, you can track inventory, supplies, parts, tools, assets like equipment and machinery, and anything else that matters to your business. It comes equipped with smart features like barcoding & QR coding, low stock alerts, customizable folders, data-rich reporting, and much more. Best of all, you can update inventory right from your smartphone, whether you’re  on the job, in the warehouse, or on the go.

Whether you’re just getting started with inventory management or you’re an expert looking for a more efficient solution, we can transform how your company manages inventory—so you can focus on building your business. That’s why over 10,000 businesses globally trust us as their inventory management solution.

Start your two-week free trial of Sortly today.