A US Coast Guard unit wanted to reduce maintenance time and improve operations by upgrading their tool system. ToolKeepers made the drive to Grand Haven, Michigan to hand deliver and install the new USA made tool system. While we were there, we saw firsthand how new tools can improve operations and employee morale.
Improved tool system is key to improved operations
Sullivan Smith, USCG Machinery Technician Petty Officer Second Class was honored to participate in the station’s mission when he was stationed at the Grand Haven, Michigan station in 2019, and quickly spotted an opportunity. He knew that better tools, properly organized, would impact the quality and quantity of the work he and his team could do. Smith summed up his point of view like this: “We’re here to do our best to keep people safe and to help the community. Having the tools and means to fully maintain our assets helps us achieve our goals.” When budget was granted by a new commanding officer, Smith immediately began his search for tools.
Requirement: USA made tool system
After ordering 700+ USA made tools from Tekton (which happens to be based in Michigan just 40 miles from his Grand Haven base) Smith found ToolKeepers, a certified US Government contractor, in an internet search and began talking to tool-kitting expert, Clark Plummer. Together they determined that 10 individual foam tool trays would be needed to protect the new tools that included a full set of specialized tools plus duplicates of the tools used most frequently.
Requirement: Easy to find the proper home for each tool
Every member of the maintenance crew will use the same toolkit to maintain the fleet of six boats: three 29’ and one 45’ response boat and two 47’ motor lifeboats. This tool sharing situation can make it challenging to keep things organized, so Clark recommended etching the trays with labels identifying each tool. The labels make it easy to find the proper home for each tool even when multiple team members are sharing one set of tools.
Drop-off and delivery road trips
There are a few methods you can use to order a custom toolkit from ToolKeepers.
Send info about your tools digitally:
1. Email CAD drawings of each toolkit element.
2. Email detailed photos and dimensions of each toolkit element.
Deliver one sample of each tool to ToolKeepers:
3. Package and ship your tools.
4. Hand deliver your tools.
The Grand Haven USCG team chose option #4. They loaded up their new tools and drove them to the ToolKeepers plant in Fairfield, Iowa. The 7-hour drive expedited the project and allowed face-to-face meetings with the ToolKeepers team where they could clearly explain their needs, view examples of ToolKeepers quality tool organization solutions, and receive answers to all their questions.
ToolKeepers can make any of the four tool delivery methods work, but #4 and face-to-face meetings are our favorite. Learning from our customers about how the tools will be used helps us get creative to deliver the absolute best solution. Plus – we love meeting fellow tool fanatics!
After a set of low-cost prototype tool trays were cut and test fit with the sample tools, a final set of 10 trays was cut and delivered to Grand Haven in another truck – Clark Plummer’s pick-up. Clark enjoyed the road trip to Grand Haven, Michigan where he re-connected with Smith, met his fellow engineers, and witnessed their excitement as they installed their Tekton tools into the new toolkit. ‘’We needed this in the worst way’’ said MK2 Engineer Reeder. ‘’This is such a blessing.’’ said MK3 Engineer North. Smith’s reply to his team’s reaction was a simple and confident “Roger that.”
Time, energy, and lives saved
In the US Coast Guard, process and procedure are paramount. An Asset Logistics Management Information System (ALMIS) is used to track maintenance on all assets – assets are military shorthand for aircraft and boats. Crews track annual, monthly, weekly, and hourly maintenance records for each asset in the ALMIS to insure their always safe operation.
Smith shared how he expects the new tools and organization system to couple with ALMIS to make the maintenance operation even more effective. “Our team can put 80-100 man-hours into a single boat over one weekend during the heavy rescue season. This new toolkit will save maintenance time so we can better use USCG resources to do the important work of keeping people safe.”
Since putting the new tool system into operation, Smith’s theory - an upgrade would help the unit achieve its lifesaving mission - has been proven. The team uses the new toolkit every day to maintain and make major repairs to the fleet. When asked how the new system is working, Smith remarked, “Rather than having to rifle through everything we had in unorganized drawers and fight over the tools we need to use, new foam inserts and duplicates of some tools allow us to quickly find what we need and save a lot of time when we have our assets out of the water for maintenance.” The impact of the Grand Haven toolkit project has been so positive that the new system is being considered a USCG standard for military asset maintenance.
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