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FOD sucks. (That’s Foreign Object Damage, or what happens when you leave something behind when you’re working on something critical like an airplane or a race car. Wrenches, you know, can really muck up operating jet engines.) For years, shops that work on such sensitive gear have gone to great lengths to assure that every tool that leaves the toolbox makes it back home. When I was a kid and I’d visit my dad at work (he worked in aircraft maintenance), I’d see lots of tool silhouettes –pegboards with tool shapes painted on them in bright colors so you’d see color only when the tool normally stored there was missing.

Well, technology marches on. CribMaster, a company that sells all sorts of automated inventory management products, teamed up with Proto to offer professional-quality tools with integrated RFID tags. By mounting tag readers at various choke points (like the door to a hangar, for example) computer systems can automatically read the passage of the tools and mark them in the system as checked out or checked back in. The new brand: ProtoID.

What I wonder is how long it’ll be until this technology trickles down to home use. Certainly there’s a place for it in the professional world, and integrating the tags into the tool itself rather than simply attaching them must be sound pretty attractive to corporate buyers. And this system can’t be nearly as expensive as it would’ve been even a few years ago, which means it might make sense for less-sensitive businesses which are worried about theft or misplacement of tools. But if you could afford it, this would be badass for keeping your tool from falling into the neighbor’s coveting paws. Or getting left in the upstairs bathroom after you repaired a toilet.

Anyway, if you’re interested in how the system works, you can find out more on the company’s website, below. If you click through, be sure to check out the links along the left side of the page where you’ll find everything from toolboxes which automatically check out/in tools, software to handle the record keeping, and even some tool vending machines.

RFID Embedded ProtoID Tools [CribMaster]


19 Responses to There’s No Such Thing As Good FOD

  1. Mr. Patrick says:

    Make Magazine (www.makezine.com) has a number of RFID projects which could provide a homebrew solution (especially with bigger items). I think Ford has already offered a vehicle which has a tool-tracking feature as an opyion.

  2. Rick says:

    Certainly not for the standard garage. However in certain environments I can see it being needed (clean rooms, aircraft, shipyard).

    neat stuff, but niche market(but big dollar niche).

  3. Chris says:

    I’d rather have a system that GPS-tags all my tools so I wouldn’t have to wonder *where* I left something. My problem isn’t typically that I *left* something somewhere, but *where* exactly it went.

    Also useful to households with small children, curious/overly clever canines, etc. :-p


  4. gary zumwalt says:

    Very cool. I agree with Chris, I would love to have a device that tells me where I (or one of my kids) set something down. The older I get the more that would be useful.

  5. Rick says:

    FOD control is so huge in the US Military that I’d be surprised if they weren’t looking at these tools already. I was a UH-1H CrewChief in the 90’s and I remember one guy that nearly killed an entire flight crew because he left a Maglite next to the intermediate gearbox for the tailrotor drive shafts.

    • james grimm says:

      you mean, the cdi signed off even though a tool was not acounted for at some point before the flight..

      im sure some butts were chewed that day!!!!
      maybe even demotions, brig time!!!

  6. Stan says:

    The article says CribMaster teamed up with Proto but I believe both companies are owned by Stanley Black & Decker (formaly Stanley Works which recently bought Black & Decker).

  7. maxwood says:

    Hello, Ford has a system for rfid in the new courier service van(as an option)for keeping track of tools ,ladders and whatever

  8. MikeT says:

    I want an RFID on everything in my kitchen and LEDs in all the cabinet and drawer pulls. And I want it all tied to a computer with voice recognition so that I can say, “Where is the #*$&@ can opener?” and a drawer will light up.

  9. John says:

    I deal with asset tracking for a fortune 5 company. At least in high volume shipping operations, we canned RFID after initial POCs. We couldn’t get reliable read rates. That being said, we’re looking at it for high value tools when they drive in and out of the yard.

    In a case like this, it would be a total FUBAR if you couldn’t get an accurate read and spent a crap load of time reconciling what the system is supposed to do for you…

    • Brau says:

      I worked for a security company and experienced the same thing. Many want RFID systems to monitor everyone coming and going, but somehow the count frequently goes wrong (someone leaves their RFID tag on the desk, two arrive at once but only one reads). Next thing you know gigantic service yards have to be searched and overtime expenses pile up until patience is lost and the systems get shut down … unless it’s government, then the taxpayers keep paying.

  10. NickC says:

    Cool idea, but does RFID work though a steel tool chest? Wouldn’t the chest act like a faraday cage?

  11. johnnyp says:

    That line of chrome plated tools will never see the inside of aircraft engine assembly or overhaul facility. A .003 sliver of the plating can cause just as much damage as the whole wrench, and its a whole lot harder to find.Most quality manufacturers produce almost their entire line in black oxide as well as chrome plate.

    • Another BSME says:

      Came here to say the same thing. We don’t allow chrome-plated tools in my shop because the chrom chips off and those chips are…FOD.

  12. Jerry says:

    Well, this is disappointing! I read and read, searching in vain for the laser embedded RFID. If it don’t have a laser, it’s just no good. I wonder how many people went out and replaced tools so they could have the ones with built-in lasers. We had a lot of laser-joking fun on here but I got left behind when we moved to RFID’s.
    I think I need an RFID on myself.

  13. Chris says:

    Johhnyp – what are the dangers of chrome plating as it relates to aircraft maintenance, etc.? Flaking and subsequenet equipment damage? Please elaborate.

  14. Cameron Watt says:

    Two weeks ago I was servicing an overhead door for a helicopter hanger and FOD was on my mind. No RFID’s on Tek screws…

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