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How to manage Tool Control and the Challenges of Part 145 - some answers. Keeping efficiency is paramount.

Electronic and Visual Tool Control Henchman henchmanTRAK

Tooling Coordinators and Base Maintenance Managers are faced with meeting compliance issues and can find it extremely daunting which way to turn - on the one hand with pressure from aviation authorities and on the other from their mechanics objecting to change.

Compliance requirements remain through these troubled COVID-19 times and whilst the volume of flights no doubt have dropped off radically, these requirements remain. Funds may not be so great at this time but it could be the best opportunity to get on top of things in preparation for getting back into the whirlwind.

As we are aware, CASR Part 145 requires suitable accountability of tools/equipment, suitable procedures to avoid FOD and correct calibration management of tools/test equipment within specified date requirements. Meeting these requirements can be seen as creating a whole lot of extra work, red tape and delays when time is so precious. Is this how your company feels?

Some points from our experience as a solution providing company:

Visual Tool Control
After working with many airlines around the world we have proved that with the introduction of good tool control procedures, the efficiency levels and user experience is considerably enhanced. Whilst the mechanics often buck against switching from privately owned toolkits to company owned, it is unquestionably proven that working from standardised company-owned toolkits does reduce FOD potential and saves a considerable amount of time. Company-owned toolkits with quality tools set out in a sensible way in two-coloured shadow foam places tool control right up on the work-front. No longer does it take an hour or more to do an inventory-check on your toolbox. Actually it takes as long as a glance on each layer. Previously these inventory checks may have been required to be performed say once a week by every mechanic on their personal-owned toolkit. Consider the cost in time!

Manual Tool Management - downside
Manual systems can be put in place to manage toolkits, hand tools and equipment. If done suitably, full accountability at any time can be proven, it certainly meets compliance requirements and can go a long way to meeting the need. However, toolkits, tools and equipment have to be stored securely, issued as complete and returned as complete requiring much human resource to accurately do so with manual methods. This could include signing in and and out, a storeman checking every kit or piece of equipment in and out of the toolcrib. The question is, do you believe your system will provide 100% accountability for all your tooling at a moments notice?

Electronic Tool Control in Tool Cabinets
Automated Electronic Control systems to suit hand tools in drawers is not as simple as it sounds. There are less than a handful of companies who produce anything along these lines and even from this handful most are unable to manage small items like 1/4" Drive Sockets, Screwdriver Bits, Cutting Tools, etc. When the discussion of electronic tool control comes up many think RFID is the state-of-the-art solution, where in fact it is almost impossible to successfully tag all the required small tools. Successfully reading all tags when a kit may comprise of 1,000 plus tools in a cabinet is highly unlikely. Tagging of tools can work sucessfully on larger tools, but even so it is expensive both initially and ongoing, it can obstruct safe tool usage and be a FOD issue in itself, when a tag comes off. So moving away from RFID, there is a solution which does not require any tool modification (ie: no tagging), covering exactly what is needed for aircraft tools and is the fastest system available - the henchmanTRAK system

Electronic Tool Control of Portable Kits
People are led to believe that a portable kit with a reasonable number of tools that are tagged can be read through a scanner - this is only partly true. Unfortunately only about 80% of the tools tend to be read each time. So apart from the RFID theory not working in practice, issuing and returning of portable toolkits is thought to be only possible by a visual check. We have a solution for issuing/returning of portable kits that is 100% accurate, secure and can be unmanned. 

GSE & Special Kits & General Toolcrib items
Consider some of the specialised tooling in your toolcrib. Some may be quite complex with attachments and fixtures etc., so that when it gets returned the storeman could hardly be expected to know if every last part of the tool was returned. You cannot tag many of these intricate items and if you tried, how many tags do you put on to cover each part of the tool? We have a simple yet safe solution for this, as well as a simple scan out/scan in system for bar-coded or tagged items.

Centrally accessible Overview
Ultimately all these tool movements of hand tools in rollcabs, portable toolkits, task specific kits, general tooling including GSE, can be monitored centrally through one system giving clear indication of the "tools out" status and which aircraft they are used on.

For more information visit our henchmanTRAK solution page or henchmanTRAK.com

Written by Alisdair Chambers, Director of Henchman Products