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Pick the right kit

Aug 2017 Tools | Comments Off on Pick the right kit
Pick the right kit
 

Malcolm Duncan, distributor of Klein Tools in the UK and Ireland, looks at how the careful specification of hand tools can greatly improve on-the-job efficiency for electrical contractors, and have a positive impact on safety and costs too

Summer is finally here and for those handful of weeks when the weather is warmer and the evenings are lighter, no-one wants to be stuck at work finishing a job – so how can electrical contractors improve their efficiency, short of growing a second pair of hands?

Our advice? Keep it simple! It’s easy to overlook the basics and get caught up in complex solutions when trying to improve efficiencies. In reality, a brief look in your tool bag may be all that’s needed to help you work smarter. Having the right kit at your fingertips means you can get in and out of a job without any unnecessary hassle or delays.

Most contractors’ and installers’ tool bags feature a core set of hand tools that they use every day, plus a selection of ancillary items such a spirit levels and tape measures. For professionals carrying out maintenance work, having a variety of tools is necessary as you never quite know what you are walking into on a job. But for contractors who do the same work day in, day out, their tool resources can be more streamlined.

Multi-tools

One trend we have noticed is the growing market for multi-purpose tools. Some of these feature new and innovative designs, while others are based on original tools that have been given additional functionalities, often in response to feedback from contractors.

Although they are nothing new – the first real multi-tool would have been a standard pair of snips that could cut, strip and bend cable – multi-purpose tools have many benefits for contractors and installers. Because they consolidate a few different tools into one item, there is a cost efficiency versus buying the items individually, plus they take up less space in a tool bag. Most importantly, multi-purpose tools offer time efficiencies because there is no need to keep diving into the tool bag to find different tools, and you can keep a single tool in your hand to perform a variety of tasks.

Some multi-tools are specifically designed to improve the efficiency and quality of electrical work. For example, many existing tools on the market for data cables focus on either crimping or cutting, but not both, and very often the crimpers struggle to offer a complete termination. To reduce the number of failed terminations during commissioning, Klein Tools created a modular crimper that allows contractors to cut, strip and terminate data cables all with the same heavy-duty tool to help get the termination right first time.

Maximum comfort

It’s worth considering how comfortable your tools are to use as this will affect how efficient you are when using them. If you have to keep stopping to rest or stretch your hands, wrists or arms, this unscheduled downtime is not the best use of your time and chances are you don’t have the right hand tools to suit you.

Take a closer look at the handle of your tools: the handle design is crucial because it can give you greater torque – meaning it requires less effort to use – and it can reduce wrist fatigue and repetitive strain injuries so you can work comfortably for longer. If your tools are not ticking these boxes, it could be time for a change.

Tools that are the most comfortable to use will depend in part on whether you like to work with or without gloves – a chunky, cushioned handle offers a better grip if you wear gloves, whereas an ergonomic, slimmer handle is better if you like to work with your gloves off.

Built to last

You don’t need to spend a fortune on hand tools, but it’s worth considering that high quality, more durable tools make for more efficient working because they are made using better quality materials and are built to last. Nothing is going to slow you down on a job more than breaking an essential tool and having to improvise with a tool that isn’t fit for purpose or leaving the job to buy a replacement.

Durable, high quality tools are built to go the distance, and are more likely to survive the odd knock or drop. Some are made using materials that can withstand a 3m drop, others have an anti-roll handle design to prevent them falling in the first place. Some even have the addition of a hole for a tool lanyard.

More durable tools can also be safer. The insulation layer on a VDE rated tool, for example, needs to be robust to protect the user from 1000V – any weakness in the insulation, either from drop damage or poor manufacturing, will impair the tool’s ability to protect the installer from serious injury.

Handy extras

Not every gadget that catches a contractor’s eye will be an essential, but there are lots of innovative tools on the market that can help installers to work smarter and more efficiently such as lighted tool bag, which will illuminate your work space as well as carry your tools.

Far from being merely the ‘tools of the trade’ what’s in a contractor’s tool bag has the power to get them #workingsmarter. By taking a closer look at their tools, electrical professionals could find more efficient ways of working and as Benjamin Franklin once said, “time is money”, so what are you waiting for?