The resources drained away by under-managed tools and supplies often are shrugged off as not worth the cost of correction.

But improved software and bar coding products are now letting managers track even small tools and consumables, such as drill bits and work gloves, so they can be brought into the job-cost equation with accuracy.

S&B Engineers & Constructors Ltd., Houston, an engineering, procurement and construction company in the process, power and pipeline markets, recently shelved its own tool management system and adopted Tracker 7, a product just out in version 7.2 from Waterwheel Software Inc., Los Altos, Calif. Spencer Pratt, S&B's construction management technical liaison, says it is is simple to use and gets a good buy-in from managers.

"Our management at the jobsites now have a weekly report that converts everything to a dollar value and a consumable cost and burn rate," he says. It is helping to eliminate the phenomenon of a trailer load of unused supplies coming back to be sorted and restocked at the end of a job, or worse, discarded, for lack of a better system. Information is at