small tools

E566: Ask Coach – How to Manage Small Tools

Small tools can become a large budget line item if not managed properly.


Q: How can I better control small tools on my projects?

A: Create a management plan and make everyone responsible.


  1. Create a small tool management plan
    1. What so your crews need to perform their tasks
    2. How are the tools distributed, stored, and managed
    3. Who is responsible for them
  2. Managing tools on the project site
    1. Control storage and assignment of the tools
    2. Create an inventory of all tools and accessories
    3. Review the tool inventory daily
  3. Incentivize your teams to manage the tools
    1. Create a small tools budget for each project
    2. Share the savings with the workers
    3. Solicit feedback on what is needed and how to manage

E388: Managing Small Project Expenses

Those minor expenses on your projects can really add up if not monitored properly.


  1. Small charges – those little charges under $1,000 for things needed on your projects
    1. They are often not monitored well because of the effort needed
    2. These are the little charges for misc. materials, small tools, cleaning supplies, surveying (second time), etc.
    3. They don’t fall into a specific category or sub so they go un-noticed
  2. Budgeting for these is a real challenge
    1. How do you know upfront how many signs you might need, how many drills will go bad
    2. Typically these things are covered with a plug number based on historical data or absorbed into overhead (I don’t recommend the later)
    3. These things need to be watched carefully
      1. I worked with a client that spent over $200K on these charges
      2. We found that almost half was wasted expenses
  3. Proactively managing these costs
    1. Create a procedure for buying these small items
      1. I used to require pre-approval for materials over $200 and tools over $100
    2. Add part of the savings into a bonus pool – it buys lunch for the crews
    3. Manage tools centrally to get the most out of the buying power of multiple units
      1. We used to buy small tools twice a year – you get great prices when buying 50 shovels at once