Tool Control

This month, contributing writer Clay Seviers’ article on tool control discusses how Bristow has incorporated Snap-On’s Level5 ATC as part of its tool control program (see page 14).

If you attend trade shows like HAI Heli-Expo, you have likely seen the product developments that use technology to make tool tracking easier. I have visited with several companies that have high-tech tool control solutions. Snap-On has its Level5 ATC tool control system ( Cribmaster ( and PinPoint (from HABCO) ( offer RFID tool control solutions. It is interesting to see this new technology in action.

Things sure have changed since I started wrenching over 26 years ago. Back then, tool control meant cutting out pieces of foam for each tool and having our initials and last four digits of our Social Security Number engraved on each tool.

The new products in tool control have allowed aviation maintenance facilities like Bristow to implement robust tool control solutions. But if you don’t have the money in your budget to buy some of these high-tech tool control solutions, that’s no excuse for not having a tool control program in place. A lost tool isn’t just an inconvenience to the mechanic who has to buy another tool. A lost tool can lead to disaster if it is left in an aircraft!

Here are a few tips I have learned over the years when it comes to implementing a successful tool and FOD control program:

The policy must be written. Telling a new mechanic, “Make sure you don’t lose any tools,” is not going to accomplish anything. If your company will require toolbox shadowing, clarify what is expected. If marking tools is necessary for identifying lost tools, make sure everyone knows how it is to be done and how to address items that cannot be marked (like small hex keys for example). How will tools be inventoried? Once a day? Before and after each job? Will supervisors perform daily or random checks? All of this needs to be in writing!

There must be corrective action for non-compliance. Your written tool control policy should include supervisors’ and mechanics’ responsibilities and corrective action for non-compliance. The most important part of this is to follow through with corrective action immediately and uniformly. This is critical to successful enforcement of any policy. If your company manual says that an employee will get a written reprimand for the first offense, be sure that happens. Letting Joe Mechanic slide because he is a “good ‘ol boy” sends the message to Joe that the company is not really serious about the policy and leads to the disrespect from the other employees towards that supervisor.

How do employees report missing tools?There needs to be a policy for what to do once a tool is found to be missing. This should include some sort of a form initiated by the mechanic. The policy needs to include what to do if a tool isn’t found. In our shop, all of the aircraft that the mechanic worked on since the previous toolbox inventory was performed were “down” until the tool was recovered. In the event a tool was not found, only the facility manager could authorize the release of the aircraft, and it was a responsibility he did not take lightly.

Finally, I would suggest having a policy that allows for the reporting of lost tools without fear of reprimand. After all, the ultimate goal of a tool control program should be to avoid the situation where a tool is left in an aircraft after maintenance. If your company responds to a missing tool report by reprimanding the mechanic who reports it, it is sending the wrong message. Reporting a missing tool should never be treated as a negative, so long as it is reported immediately after the tool is discovered lost. (Reporting a missing tool because you haven’t been able to find it for the last month doesn’t count.)

Do you have a tool and FOD control program in your facility? Does it incorporate technology as part of that program? What are your thoughts on implementing a tool control program? We’d like to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!  – Joe Escobar