Thursday, December 1, 2005
Keep Track Of Those Tools
Every mechanic has awakened in the night to this nightmare: you've just buttoned up a beautiful aircraft after extensive work under tight time constraints and you are watching it taxi out for the first flight after the work. Just then you glance into your toolbox and wonder where that screwdriver is. . .
Conscientious maintainers use many methods to ensure that this nightmare, which can not only cost tremendous amounts of money but can also cause the loss of priceless lives, never becomes reality. One of the methods that has gained tremendous acceptance in the industry is the use of toolbox-organizing systems as part of a total FOD-control program.
"The safety net to reduce these forms of accidents is tool inventory after each job," said Gordon Dupont, CEO of System Safety Services, a British Columbia (Canada) human factors training company.
Dupont, a former technical investigator for the Canadian Transportation Safety Board, said that accidents caused by FOD due to lack of tool control account for about 10 percent of maintenance errors. That data came from James Reason, author of the resource Managing the Risks of Organizational Errors.
Dupont stressed the importance of inventory after each job and said, "This is made easy by having your tools organized and by the use of shadow boards. If we can lower that 10 percent, equipment, lives, as well as tools, will be saved."
Snap-on boasts more than 20 years of experience in tool control and has designed a five-level system to deal with many different needs. "Thorough evaluation of tool kit requirements is the cornerstone for an efficient and lean tool-control solution," said Pat McDevitt, manager global business development at Snap-on. Once a final tool list has been made, that bill of material is input into Snap-on's CAD layout system. Once that system has constructed the layout and checked it for errors, the result is e-mailed to Snap-on's foam-cutting machine and the drawer liners are cut.
The five-level Snap-on system has increasing levels of control. The levels run the gamut from limited accountability all the way to high accountability. Level I starts with hand-cut foam that is not shadowed with not all tools controlled. Level II includes machine-cut foam, tool traceability, more defined FOD prevention procedures, policies, and accountability. Level III adds foam machine-cut to net shape of tools, high degree of standardization, silhouetted or shadowed pockets, laser-marked to specific set, and chits used for gang boxes. Level IV has a goal of absolute standardization and includes laser-marked serialization, serialized pocket ID, tethering/locking pins, and cut wire retention. Level V adds, among other things, electronic keyless entry that reads an individually encoded badge or ID card for access to the toolbox. Only authorized employees can unlock it and the box will re-lock itself in a predetermined time for added security.
Lista International has introduced foam drawer liners for protecting, organizing, and controlling tools. "It's a tool-control system," said Devin Lause, regional sales manager for Lista. "The basic concept is a foam liner that shadows the tools. It's used for protecting, identifying, and controlling expensive tools and for safety issues like having a tool left inside or sucked into an engine."
The shadowed foam drawer insert liners use a two-layer system. The bottom is a yellow foam liner that shows through the upper blue foam liner. The upper blue foam serves to protect tools in cut-out tool shapes and the yellow shows through to alert users to missing tools. The foam complies with military specifications and resists damage from jet fuel, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and other chemicals according to Lista.
The liners can be customized to hold the specific tools needed in the toolbox. The liners can be ordered in self-cut liner kits or custom-cut liners. "We have custom-fitted liners to go with any drawer size," said Lause. "There are two ways to do this: custom cut and design or go with a precut liner. With the custom-cut liners the customer is provided with a kit and specific instruction on how to cut it. There are tools included like an Xacto knife, ruler, vellum sheets, tracing tools, and the person would cut the liner using these tools and the instructions."
Alternatively, the customer could provide the company with silhouettes or the specific tool numbers and all the info needed for the layout. "Communicating with the customer [when designing the liner] is important," said Lause.
Stanley Proto is launching a multidivisional effort to offer a total turnkey solution for custom kitting as FOD prevention and overhead cost control. "Custom tool kitting evolved from the military," said Alex Tyler, government and sales manager for Stanley Proto, "but we're finding that it's migrating into the commercial market."
Stanley Proto's latest product is a mobile workcenter that includes a full set of Stanley Proto tools, laser-etched, and placed in foam drawer liner inserts with the profiles of each tool.
"We can also customize the liners to suit a unique requirement," said Tyler. He mentioned that aircraft-specific tools and even parts can be custom cut into the foam. "We have the flexibility to meet a customer's unique bill of material," he added.
"Many of our customers are military but now we are seeing more airlines utilizing these systems as a way of controlling overhead via tool accountability, especially if there may be a pilferage problem," Tyler said.
Matco Tools offers kitting solutions from portable 2-6 pallet bags, all the way up to customizable toolboxes. "We offer a fully integrated program complete with kitting, etching, and foam," said Chad Johnson manager, strategic market development for Matco.
Kits can be customized with configured foam layouts made to the customer's preference. These FOD-control tool cases are like a soft-sided book bag according to Johnson. The portable soft-sided bags contain pallet-type inserts with tool cutouts for tracking tools when working away of the hangar, on the tarmac, etc. "A smaller case like this makes a technician really think about what tools he will need [when away from the hangar]," said Johnson. The foam inlay can be customized from color to layout depending on storage needs.
Matco stressed that the company is flexible enough to design and develop kitting solutions for both large and small operations, based on the needs of one technician or a whole hanger. "We've put a priority on this for the last 10 years," Johnson said.