Tools & Equipment: The Electronic Nail

The tool storage locker system

Those who possess the ability to maintain and repair machines, whether they fly or perform another function, require tools to assist in maintaining these machines. Hand tools, power tools, test equipment, and a myriad of other items support the business of maintaining equipment. Our efficiency in performing maintenance and repair depends on our ability to not only locate the fault, but to quickly repair it using the most efficient means available, which equates to the correct test equipment and tooling.

Many airframe and power plant repairs and test procedures require specific tools to perform these tasks using approved troubleshooting and repair procedures. Those individuals and organizations tasked with the maintenance and repair of machinery and equipment realize that these assets are critical to the operation of the organization. Specialized tools and equipment used to maintain equipment must be functional, readily available and in the case of calibrated tools, be within the designated calibration interval.

The electronic nail in the board

Tool control and storage in large commercial operations is challenging for everyone involved. Functionality, maintaining calibration intervals and tool location are all equally important in assuring assets are available when needed. In recent years many organizations have eliminated the pegboard and hook or the “nail in the board” concept and implemented tool storage lockers to store and control critical tooling and test equipment. A typical inventory may contain laptop computers, used in aircraft trouble shooting, navigation and communication testing equipment, air data testing equipment, multimeters, temp sensing equipment, and simple things such as tire pressure gauges and torque wrenches. These lockers are compact in design and work well in confined areas. One example is the SupplyPro tool storage locker system.

The tool storage locker system is a computer-controlled storage device, which when queried, will provide the user with a list of items contained within the storage unit. The device is usually connected to a larger database via an Internet Protocol (IP) address or telephone line utilizing a modem to communicate data. The operator has entered the product information, the users (aircraft technicians) who are permitted to access the device, and in the case of calibrated tools, the date in which various test sets stored in the cabinet are due for calibration. This information can be viewed by logging on to the provider’s web site.

The procedure in accessing the device goes something like this. The user gains access to the tool storage locker with a user ID and password, or a magnetic stripped access card. Once the user has gained access to the locker, he or she will either select the particular item using prior knowledge of its location, or you can query the menu for the needed item. Once the item has been identified, a tap on the touch screen will open the appropriate door. The user then removes the item from the storage device, closes the door on the empty opening and completes the transaction. The user performs the task which required the specific tool or test equipment item, and returns the device to the locker. During the return transaction, the user will be asked if the device is serviceable and can be used by the next user. If so, the storage unit accepts the item and completes the transaction. This transaction is recorded in the system’s database.

Recording the transaction enables the operator of the device to determine who has used a particular piece of test equipment. If the tool is missing from the locker, the system will provide the operator of the system with the employee identification of the users who have had access to the machine and used that particular item. If the user reports that the device which he previously used is not serviceable (dead battery, damaged, or missing components), the system will lock that device out until the fault is corrected. The recording of the users also allows the operator to track which aircraft the test unit was used on, as this feature is also incorporated into the checkout process. This is particularly beneficial in the case of a test device that is found to have malfunctioned during its use on various aircraft. This allows the operator to repeat tests on specific identified aircraft if needed.

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