A variety of tools are often capable of completing a particular job. But in most cases, there is only one proper tool. The job may get done whether using the wrong size screwdriver, a poor quality wrench, or using a torque wrench to loosen a fastener. However, there can be consequences.
For instance, damaging a fastener or torque wrench can add time better spent elsewhere and reduce productivity. Threats to health and safety also come by regularly carrying tools that are never used, or modifying a tool from its original design. A continued effort by the wind industry to lower its O&M costs make it increasingly important that personnel have and use proper tooling.
Clearly, the wind industry benefits from accepted methods of tool management developed in other related industries, such as those that work at height. Observing the five following best practices can drive significant improvements in safety, productivity, and work quality.
1. Apply lean principles
Identify the appropriate tools required and carry only them in the toolkit. Lugging around the extra pounds of unused or improper equipment increases risk. “Leaning” a toolkit – removing the inappropriate tools – reduces cost, weight, and the potential for foreign object damage, often referred to as FOD.
2. Organize your tools
Applying the lean principles of the 5S’s (Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain) to a tool management program can translate the five into: Organization, Visibility, Security, Trackability, and Accountability. Building a system on this foundation facilitates quick inventory and assessment of tool location. Bonus climbs, those made uptower to retrieve a forgotten tool, impact the bottom line. Worse yet, a tool left in the hub can damage and shut down a turbine.
3. Design specialized kits
When performing repairs on equipment such as gearboxes and main bearings, certain tools may be needed that are not used on regular basis. Designing and assembling custom kits for specific types of work eliminates the unproductive time of gathering such tools. Kits can be color coded or labeled, creating a “grab & go” environment. This also reduces the chance of equipment damage from an improper tool.
4. Asset management
Managing tools and other assets is critically important. Calibrations and certifications are required to ensure that work is done properly and safely. Barcode driven and simple to use asset-management software can provide real time information and make it easy to track tools and equipment.
5. Special tool design and manufacturing
It’s common for technicians to modify their tools to accommodate the space constraints and large fasteners in nacelles. But it’s not a good idea. Tools are made to strict specifications. Reducing a socket OD by machining it down or bending a tool after heating it compromises the tool’s integrity and creates a potential hazard. On the other hand, using custom tools with defined design parameters and made by an OEM is the most effective way to prevent injury, extend tool life, and ensure the correct tool is being used.
On the surface, a tool’s functionappears straight-forward. However, consequences of overlooking even minor details can be extreme.
Fortunately, as with any specialization, there are resources available to support the development of dynamic and rigorous tooling programs. Tooling professionals have the knowledge and experience to design and implement custom equipment that supports improvements in safety, productivity, and profitability, by reducing injury, equipment damage, improper assembly, and wasted time. WPE