Implementation of tool accountability and control is very important to ensure FOD is being prevented. Tooling Traceability is a great way to minimize FOD and can be done in a variety of ways. Below, we have listed eight strategies that can help minimize FOD damage by using tooling traceability.


Etching is a tool traceability system that consists of engraving a tool with a permanent mark or design. These marks include serial numbers, barcodes and other markings that can be easily etched into a tool so that it can be identified. Etching helps identify if a tool belongs to a specific location or tool box and is an easy way for personnel to tell if a tool is in the wrong place. The preferred method of etching is laser etching because it is easily legible. By etching in permanent marks and/or designs, tools are easily accounted for by a specific group or person, which aids in FOD prevention. The only downside to this method is etching cannot indicate if a tool is missing, only if it is not in the correct location. Additional methods will need to be used coupled with etching in order to identify a missing tool.


Color coding is a tool traceability system that uses specific colors or color schemes to identify a tool and its assigned location. Color coding is the most utilized form of tool traceability and assists in determining where a tool belongs. Color coding is a painless way of implementing tool traceability because it is usually done using tags or adhesive stickers. It is also a very successful way to prevent FOD. Again, this method cannot locate or identify missing tools so additional FOD prevention methods will need to be used.


Tool chits is a tool traceability system that utilizes assigned tokens or chits to help identify a tool and its proper location. The tokens or chits are physically left in place of the tool when it is removed from its assigned location. This tool traceability system offers the borrower’s name, identification number and picture; therefore, making it easier to track down a tool and prevent FOD because the user has been identified. Using tool chits will help you identify when something is missing and who was the last to use the tool; however, this is a slower method of identifying FOD because it might take more time to realize when something has been missing for too long.


A contents inventory sheet is a basic way to trace a tool. The inventory sheet consists of a list of all items kept within a specific storage location. It includes details such as the make, model number, and quantity of each tool. This sheet can be used to do frequent inventory and check against what is said to be present and what is actually missing. If a tool is missing from the inventory list, actions must be taken promptly to ensure the tool is found to prevent FOD. This is a great method to discovering missing tools and many will use contents inventory sheets daily to prevent FOD. The only downside is this is a manual process that can take up a lot of excess time of the quality manager.


A tool check-out and check-in sheet is another basic tool traceability system. This sheet is meant to record movement of all tools from one location to another. Most sheets include record details including who is removing or returning a tool and where and why a tool was used. This sheet helps to determine if tools have been accounted for and if they have been put back in the proper place. It identifies the tool user; therefore, it is easy to know who to contact if a tool is not in the right place or appears to be missing. By knowing who lost the tool, FOD can be prevented with swift recovery of the tool from the improper location. This is, again, a manual process that relies heavily on the honestly and promptness of your employees. If a tool is taken without being checked in or out, there will be no visibility into the possibility of FOD.


A shadow board is a tool traceability system that offers visual reference of a tool and its proper storage location. The shadow board outlines items and their designated areas of storage with outlines and engravings. This method works best when the outlines or engravings have a strong color contrast with the storage board. When a tool is not returned to its designated area, actions must be taken to prevent FOD. This is a great option, but has downsides similar to the previous options including no visibility into who took the tool.


ADUs are a tool traceability system that utilizes vending machines for storage of tools. These machines automatically track when a tool is issued and when a tool returns. Each tool is recorded in the machine by weight and barcode. ADUs will often pair with a software solution program that can identify tool usage and inventory levels. If a tool has not been returned, an ADU system can print a report and actions can then be taken to prevent FOD. This is a step up from the previous FOD prevention options because the process is automated and employees cannot take a tool without visibility into who did it and when. The only downside to this is there is no alerting system when a tool has not been checked in, unless someone prints the final report.


RFID is is a tool traceability system that utilizes radio frequency identification to assign a unique tag to a tool for identification purposes. The electronic chips are usually embedded or attached to a tool. When the unique tool tag is scanned, information about the tool is presented. This method is often used to track tool usage and location. With location tracking, a tool can be recovered quickly if misplaced; therefore, minimizing FOD. This is the most fully automated option out of all the FOD prevention options. Tools will be automatically tracked as soon as they leave the toolbox and with whom, employees will be automatically alerted when a tool is not checked in and who had it last and tail numbers can also be associated with tools to know where it was used last.