BUSINESS TOOL Punch List represents new direction. (Photo courtesy of the Robert Bosch Tool Corp.)

In what may be the first move of its kind, a major international tool manufacturer now is offering its customers digital management tools in addition to its traditional power tool product line.

Robert Bosch Tool Corp., Chicago, launched its new Bosch Digital Power Tool line and unveiled its first offering, Punch List, at the International Builder Show Jan. 21-24 in Las Vegas. "This is the first of a series of products" to help the productivity of field project managers and building and remodeling superintendents, says Doug Robinson, Bosch's business development manager for digital tools.

Punch List is a PDA and desktop-based software tool that allows users to manage task lists and distribute updates and task assignments to subs, suppliers, trades and others involved on homebuilding projects. It allows users to create files and track tasks in the field by tapping and selecting from lists of subjects. "Once you enter a task and assign it, you have a permanent record of the transaction--a paper trail," claims the firm. The product can be used for automatic messaging and can integrate with popular scheduling and project management software, the company says. The desktop version runs on any PC running Windows 95 or beyond and the remote version on Palm OS devices with at least 2 MB of memory.

According to company officials, the tool may help put an end to messy jobsite notes scribbled on bits of scrap paper and wood that are transcribed at the office. The tool transforms memos into faxes, e-mails, reports and letters with letterhead.

Bosch, founded in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1886, is best known for inventing the jigsaw and its well-known line of professional-quality drills and saws. It is offering Punch List through an exclusive reseller agreement with Strata Systems, Austin, Texas, the developer of the digital tool. It will be offered through software outlets as well as industrial tool sellers and has a list price of $299 for the software only, says Robinson. He notes that this is another way that the company is trying to differentiate itself in an intensively competitive market where major tool makers are expanding product lines.