Survey Finds Need For Better Tool Control

By Lee Ann Tegtmeier
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

“Every time improvements are applied to our tool store control systems, we usually have huge discussions and obstructions from the technicians,” says a manager for this airline.

Survey results indicate 64% of respondents work at companies that own the hand tools; the other 34% represent companies where technicians own most hand tools used on the job.

Only 42% of respondents report that more than one person works on a single toolbox per shift—and nearly half of those say they inventory toolboxes daily to ensure they are complete.

Tool control practices vary greatly depending on the job and location. An airline, for instance, can have disparate practices for base maintenance and outstation operations.

Hub environments usually have higher-tech tool control options—often which scan tools and check them in and out to technicians or link them to aircraft, sending alerts when a tool doesn't come back and an aircraft is going out. In heavy maintenance environments, specialized tooling can be scheduled with work orders.

At outstations, those procedures might not be as tight. The same is true for MROs that have heavy maintenance facilities and provide line services.

Even though procedures might vary between maintenance bases and outstations, “all of our tool control policies . . . are laid out in our general maintenance manual, which spells out the day-to-day operation procedures for our maintenance department,” points out Joe Pergola, United Airlines' aircraft maintenance supervisor in Atlanta. And airlines' and MROs' maintenance procedures manuals feature a regulator's stamp of approval.

Because airlines and MROs follow strict rules for tool management, “mechanics are very aware that if they lose a tool, they could be sanctioned or charged with the its replacement cost,” which contributes to the cultural resistance, reports a South American maintenance executive.

Tools and tooling tend to be misplaced more often when items are signed out over multiple shifts. To combat this, one MRO flags tools used on multiple shifts as “critical,” which links them to work cards, so controllers cannot close a work card until those tools are returned.

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