Are you using the right tool for the job?

If you find yourself without the right tool to perform your work, don’t resort to a kludge. Work safely and effectively: Take the time to select the right tool for the job. Photo courtesy of J.B. Dawson

Have you ever had to connect a piece of electrical equipment or build something that came in what seemed like 1,000 pieces? Then in the midst of connecting or building, maybe you arrived at a point where you didn’t have the exact tool that you needed but had something that “could work.” Perhaps you were on a tight schedule and figured that you didn’t have the time or the desire to find or order the appropriate tool, so you made it work, and it did seem to work fairly well … at the time. Time went on, and then something seemed not to work properly or fell apart sooner than expected. That’s when you began to question what could have gone wrong. Perhaps it was when you decided to “make it work” by using the incorrect tool.

Using the correct tool for the job is essential to making sure things operate at peak performance. Using a tool that is not suitable for your work can cause personnel safety or operational quality problems. Such problems may not be immediately evident and can develop over time, for example when the part fails, resulting in downtime and the need for rework. Rework requires time and money and may even jeopardize job or project schedules.

Recently the Quality Assurance Subcommittee investigated an issue that highlighted an incompatibility between miniature coaxial connectors and the crimping tools used to install the connectors. Often referred to as LEMO connectors (since LEMO is the best known brand), these connectors are made by a number of different companies. A lab staff member discovered that while each brand’s connectors perform the same function, they do not have the exact same measurements. A connector of a specific brand requires a crimping tool of the same brand, similar to the way that only a Chevrolet engine can be started with a Chevrolet key. Using a different brand resulted in crimps on the cables that could turn out to be ineffective. Matching brands solves the problem and ensures that the coaxial connector is securely attached.

This situation highlights the importance of using the right tools for the job being performed. If you find you do not have the right tool for your task, you are encouraged to stop work, notify your supervisor and obtain the correct tool.

Failure to appropriately plan for the job or task by obtaining the proper tools will affect the quality of the job and can have further implications on cost, schedule and safety. So before you begin a job or assemble those 1,000 pieces, evaluate what you need to perform it effectively, and don’t hesitate to notify the right people if you do not have the right tools. Let’s do the job correctly the first time.