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Every good tradesperson knows that use of incorrect and inferior quality tools can result in inferior work. That said, no definitive study has been performed on resulting costs (the direct costs incurred through broken tools and broken fasteners, and indirect costs from reduced lifecycle and production-downtime losses) associated with use of incorrect and inferior quality tools.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a tool as a “handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task,” or “something (such as an instrument or apparatus) used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession.” Unfortunately, the dictionary doesn’t spell out the importance of using the right tool for the job.


I recently employed professional movers that specialized (supposedly) in moving pianos. Their job was to move a grand piano across town to my home. Being interested in how they would dismantle and move this awkward, but beautiful, 750-lb work of art, I hung around to observe.

I began to grow concerned when one of these white-gloved movers came in with an ancient-looking, rusty-metal toolbox, out of which he proceeded to pull an equally rusty pair of locking pliers (commonly referred to as vice grips). Then, to my horror, he made a move to clamp those pliers on and loosen the first of six recessed 13mm bolts attaching the legs to the piano body. I stopped him right there—before he could attack that target bolt head—and asked if he had used this tool in the same way on past jobs. He informed me that he had done just that, successfully (according to him), for many years, and that this pair of rusted locking pliers was really the only tool needed. He went on to state that the occasional mangled/marked bolt or screw was acceptable, as such items were hidden from sight. To my way of thinking, that was not the right answer.

Interestingly, the Merriam-Webster dictionary also defines a tool as a “foolish or unlikeable person.” Needless to say, my beautiful piano did not move that day!


In my piano-mover scenario, the obvious tool choice for unfastening a recessed bolt on a fine, Japanese- made instrument would have been a correctly sized 13mm metric socket. As pianos, vehicles, and machines, both old and new, are built or manufactured in different places around the world, a craftsman, tradesperson, maintainer, or operator is required to carry an assortment of metric and imperial tools to safely perform fastening or unfastening procedures and not damage the fastener, part, or person should the tool slip off whatever is being fastened or unfastened.

Correct assembly and disassembly techniques are universal, simple to learn, based on common-sense principles, and taught early on in a trade-apprenticeship program. Sadly, though, these techniques are often disregarded for expediency when the correct tool isn’t readily available. Correct tool utilization is a fundamental cornerstone of maintenance that ensures a job is performed safely and efficiently. A tool-management program is easy and inexpensive to implement. The following points can be used as a starting point for your program

♦  Always purchase and use professional quality tools (these are usually accompanied with a unconditional lifetime warranty).

♦  Torque fasteners according to fastener grade and material. (Click on the link below to read more about best-practice torque procedures in Drew Troyer’s “Cut the FLAB” articles for The RAM Review.) Provide and update training on torque principles for screws and bolts, for wet and dry torque.

♦  Perform a fastener inventory across the work site, and develop a minimal-required tool list for each trade/operator employee allowed to maintain assets.

♦  Conduct  a tool inventory for individual tradespersons to ensure each person has the correct compliment of tools available for use.

 Implement a shared-tool program for specialized and infrequently used tools.


A quality tool-management program is a hallmark of a well-organized maintenance department. The question is, how well does your department measure up?TRR

Click Here For Drew  Troyer’s “Cut The FLAB” Articles


Ken Bannister has 40+ years of experience in the RAM industry. For the past 30, he’s been a Managing Partner and Principal Asset Management Consultant with Engtech industries Inc., where he has specialized in helping clients implement best-practice asset-management programs worldwide. A founding member and past director of the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada, he is the author of several books, including three on lubrication, one on predictive maintenance, and one on energy reduction strategies, and is currently writing one on planning and scheduling. Contact him directly at 519-469-9173 or kbannister@theramreview.com.

Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, fasteners, lubrication, alignment, balance, FLAB, torque, hand tools, tool management, precision maintenance