The importance of tool control. By Ian Brook, General Manager, Snap-on Industrial UK

The need to put safety and efficiency at the heart of aircraft maintenance is driving forward the need for audit trails in the aviation industry. Both military and commercial MROs and frontline services are tackling the issue by bringing in enhanced performance and control inventory giving greater visibility when it comes to tool control.  

Tool control has become the buzz word of the aviation industry as aircraft maintenance providers look to leaner processes and greater accountability. Having a full audit trail of equipment and tools used, plus calibration and inspection, creates a much more organised and highly efficient working environment.   

Snap-on Industrial (UK) has a well earned reputation throughout the aviation industry, working alongside civil aerospace MROs and aircraft manufacturers in addition to the military and the aviation supply chain, providing proven solutions to its customers’ requirements for quality hand tools, tool control and inventory management. 

Our ‘Level 5 Tool Control’ programme provides a comprehensive approach to lean working practices and combating crucial issues such as foreign object damage (FOD). Level 5 products are based around a solid understanding of combating FOD and creating an efficient and lean work process. Within the programme sits a number of products, including ‘TCMax Inventory Management’, ‘Networkable Tool Control’ and ‘Automatic Tool Control’. These products provide electronic keyless lockable tool storage units that only allow access to authorised personnel.  

Not only does this give real time visibility of the entire maintenance floor tooling inventory, but all tools are laser etched with an ID number linked to a specific cabinet.  This gives complete traceability for not only the technician, but to the supervisors and senior management as any tool removed from our cabinets is provided with a unique record, offering full details of who is currently using each tool, on which aircraft, even down to a specific area, if the system is linked to a work order.  

Critical events such as calibration schedules and broken or lost tools will also trigger an alert, with the ability to set an automatic email distribution to nominated personnel; in other words every element of tool control has been thought of!  

Although the UK has lagged behind some of our European counterparts, there is now an increasing awareness and interest in areas such as tool control. Likewise tool control and increasing productivity are areas of focus throughout the engineering supply chain; Level 5 products provide operations with a substantial advantage in achieving both increases in safety and efficiency.

In November, Monarch Aircraft Engineering (MAEL) partnered with Snap-on Industrial UK to replace all of MAEL engineer’s personal tooling at its new state-of-the-art maintenance facility at Birmingham Airport.  MAEL is one of the first aircraft maintenance providers in the UK to replace personal tooling and represented a major shift in working practices for the company.  

I believe that Monarch could reasonably claim to be the first UK based commercial MRO in the fixed wing sector to make the transition away from personal tools. Monarch’s deployment to the shop floor of fully managed company provisioned tool sets with real time monitoring is certainly the first of its kind that we are aware of in the civil, fixed wing, UK MRO environment.

Controlling tools has always been a massive worry for airlines.  Not only does it create a health and safety nightmare, but also the potential risk of aircraft damage, disruption to schedules, expensive downtime and, of course, potential reputation loss.  

The introduction of Snap-on Industrial’s Level 5 programme of tools and tool control to MROs such as MAEL offers exceptional levels of safety and efficiency. The Level 5 programme works to counter FOD and foreign material exclusion (FME), making the workplace safer and considerably more productive through five key messages, including tool organisation, tool visibility through coloured foam inserts, tool security, tool tracking and digital tool accountability.  

Our Level 5 products can be tailored into a bespoke solution for any operation.  Typically, we will work with an operations and engineering team to identify exactly what equipment the company requires, whether that’s mechanical high use, electrical or structures kits to composite repair and trim bay kits and tailor accordingly.  

There are pressures that appear to conflict with providers needing to meet deadlines for servicing agreements and the ever increasing demands for inventory, tool and audit control. However, as demonstrated, the solution exists to help manage this and drive further efficiencies for the whole industry. With increasing demand for new aircraft and projected growth in air travel for decades to come, the industry is well placed to continue to develop and grow in the knowledge that aircraft maintenance has the proven solutions available to meet its demands.

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