Tool Tracking

At a glance

Even in highly automated production, many work processes need to be performed manually. Technicians need to be vigilant if production work processes are to run smoothly. When dealing with individualized products, information on the work to be done can change regularly. And when that happens, it is important that tools are used correctly to ensure both quality as well as the safety of technicians.


Fraunhofer IIS develops smart sensors to record manual job processes and is solving a diverse range of issues concerning digitization, quality assurance and increasing the flexibility of manual job processes during assembly.

Have tasks (such as screwed connections) been correctly and fully completed? Has the tool been used on the correct workpiece (e.g., car door) and at the correct location (e.g., position of the screw hole)? Has the tool been moved from its prescribed working area? Where is the tool? What is happening right now with the tool?

The Fraunhofer IIS smart sensors can be connected as detachable add-on modules to handheld tools, such as battery-powered or pneumatic screwdrivers. The sensor module networks the tool with the IT system to accept work assignments and report back on the status of the work-in-progress to the completion of the assignment.

This allows the various risks associated with different screw joint characteristics, such as the risk of a malfunction or even the risk to life and limb, to be quickly detected while quality processes are steadily improved.

Intermediate goals to improve flexibility and quality assurance in production


Support for technicians

Process transparency

Automatic verification of job completion

Visualization of job status 

Automated documentation

Recording of data for subsequent evaluation

Optimization of job processes

Technical Information concerning tool tracking

It is important that tools are used correctly and are at the correct location, both in terms of quality assurance and to ensure the safety of the technicians. Previous systems have used radio systems to locate tools, with the drawback that they are dependent on infrastructure and potentially subject to interference from other signals. Cable-powered tools cannot be removed from their prescribed location, but the employees’ freedom of movement is restricted. The approaches that are currently available cannot classify multiple different states. In other words, it can not be simultaneously determined if a tool is on the move and what is being done with it.

Additional benefits of our solution

Recording and digitization of manual work processes

Use of low-cost sensors (both low-cost and high-end MEMS) for short-term object tracking and status classification:
Determination of acceleration, rotation rates, and magnetic field

Simple software installation

Autonomous data recording and processing (infrastructure independent and without radio)

Robust against interference

Easy to retrofit to existing tools

Also for non-electronic tools

Combination of real-time positional data and sensor data analysis


For instance, in processes involving screwing, the following states and events are registered: Screwdriver at rest, screwdriver on the move, orientation of screwdriver, start and end of a screwing process, duration of screwing, set torque reached, correctness of the screw fit (OK or not OK), double screwing, loosening of screws, work assignment completed.

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Possible applications

Support of work processes

Quality assurance and monitoring

Automated digitization and documentation of work processes

Correct handling of tools (adaptable requirements)

Locating and tracking of tools


Range of services



Development and application-specific adaptation of algorithms for state classification, inertial-based object tracking and combination with radio location systems

Consulting and feasibility studies

Simulation and testing in application-oriented environments (Test and Application Center L.I.N.K.)





The retrofittable and intelligent sensor module for hand tools measures various parameters in manual work processes and thus enables process optimization.