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Dude, Where's My Tools? - - - misplace a tool and you'll be saying it yourself.


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Dude, where’s my tools?


It’s another busy day out in the shop. You’re concentrating on getting this job done, when all of a sudden the phone rings. You dash off to the nearest phone with the wrench still in your hand. The phone call wasn’t all that important, but you spent enough time on the phone that you’re not quite sure where you left off. So, you head back to your work area to re-acquaint yourself with what you were doing. Let’s see, I was turning that bolt with the wrench…the wrench, “Dude, where’s my tools?”


With the flair of a police pat down you do a quick pocket search, but it doesn’t yield the missing tool. Then you try looking in places you know you’ve left it before. Next, you try bobbing up and down, over and under the car. By now, you’ve broken out the flashlight to follow the beam of light as you peer into places you haven’t even been near. Finally, you walk back to the phone to see if you mistakenly carried it over there. Still nothing. You’re talking to yourself right about now asking, “Dude, where’s my tools?”


In a daze you start walking around the shop, snooping into every crevice you can think of in search of this elusive tool that has somehow grown legs and walked off. Oh, don’t worry, it will show up, just keep looking. It’s here somewhere. Admit it, we’ve all done it. What’s worse is when ya can’t find it even though you haven’t moved an inch. You know you’re looking right at it, but it has somehow camouflaged itself. Time to walk away, come back, and what do ya know… there it is. It happens to the best of us. At least I know I’m not the only one muttering, “Dude, where’s my tools?”


A few weeks ago my son and I were working on a project at home. He wanted to build a trebuchet; to be exact, not your basic trebuchet mind you. Oh no, not my boy, it had to be some fancy, smanshy one. Sure, why not, I’m up for the challenge. We had no plans, no diagrams, just a photo. It’s amazing how much stuff you have to figure out to make each and every different piece fit together, especially without much more than a photo to go by. Quite a challenge, to say the least. But, just like at the repair shop, tools disappear just as easily, and it’s not long before I’m back to my old chant again, “Dude, where’s my tools?”


The pencil was the biggie this time around. Every time we needed to mark something we both would have to go on a pencil safari searching for it. From one work bench to another, and it didn’t matter how many extra pencils we got out, they all seemed to disappear just as easily as the first one did. By now, it wasn’t only me saying it, but my son as well, “Dude, where’s my tools?”


At the shop, when I’m working on a big project, such as an engine repair or a major wiring repair I try to have a cart close by with all the tools strategically placed on it. It works…well, most of the time anyway, but there’s always that exception when you have two or three sockets or a test light in use, and you put it down somewhere and somehow you can’t find them anymore. 99 % of the time you’ll recover your tools with no problem, but there’s always one that gets away. I guess that’s why the tool truck stops by once a week, you know, just to see what ya lost this time. Lose a tool, and it’s another trip to the truck to restock and hopefully avoid, “Dude, where’s my tools?”


When I finish a project I take inventory of my hand tools as I wipe them down and put them away. If something comes up missing I don’t waste any time before I go on a mission to find out what happened to it. Even if that means going out to the parking lot and checking the car I just finished. (Yea, tell me ya never done that before.) Tools are expensive, and some are irreplaceable. So, don’t be alarmed if you see me snooping around under work benches or behind the brake lathe. Ask me what I’m doing and I’ll bet you’re going to hear me say, “Dude, where’s my tools?”


Whether it’s your pocket screwdriver that just doesn’t seem to stay put, especially when you need it in a tight spot and you can’t move. You start doing the phantom pocket search several times while trying to concentrate on what you’re doing, only to give up and go find the blasted thing. Or, when you’re walking back through the office trying to find the missing pocket screwdriver and find that wrench you were using just before the phone rang, lying right there on the counter, next to the customer’s invoice. They all show up sooner or later, usually after you’ve caught yourself mumbling to yourself, “Dude, where’s my tools?”


Now, I haven’t quite got to the point that I act like my grandfather. He would roam around the house ranting and raving about not being able to find his glasses when the entire time they are stuck on top of his head. I’ve got a few more years to go before that happens… hopefully. In the meantime it will be just another day, like any other day, and yes I’ll misplace a few things now and then, and you’ll hear me say the same old thing, over and over again, “Dude, where’s my tools!”

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For me it's not so much the tools I can't find but the bolt or small part you remove and place down. Somehow it disappears, rolls away, or you drop it on the floor or it goes in a black hole(you drop it around the engine and it falls into a place where you can't see it or get to it.


Gonzo: perhaps this leads you to another story! Right?"Dude where is that bolt, nut or part I just had in my hand"

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Not crazy Gonzo. Real life stuff. I am a nut about tools. I got it from my father. He would say,"use a tool and put it back." If you didn't you would be in trouble. My frustration is seeing other techs not respecting their own tools. So how can they respect others. At the dealership, way back in the 70s I would mark my tools.


To this day when I walk in the shop I am always on the hunt for tools. As you said under the bench, behind the lathe, on the press. Every where. Nice change and nice article. Enjoyed it.

Over the weekend I cleaned up my wood workshop for the first time... in a long time. I found a bunch of pencils.... go figure.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Auto shop owners are always looking for ways to improve production levels. They focus their attention on their technicians and require certain expectations of performance in billable labor hours. While technicians must know what is expected of them, they have a limited amount of control over production levels. When all factors are considered, the only thing a well-trained technician has control over is his or her actual efficiency.
      As a review, technician efficiency is the amount of labor time it takes a technician to complete a job compared to the labor time being billed to the customer. Productivity is the time the technician is billing labor hours compared to the time the technician is physically at the shop. The reality is that a technician can be very efficient, but not productive if the technician has a lot of downtime waiting for parts, waiting too long between jobs, or poor workflow systems.
      But let’s go deeper into what affects production in the typical auto repair shop. As a business coach, one of the biggest reasons for low shop production is not charging the correct labor time. Labor for extensive jobs is often not being billed accurately. Rust, seized bolts, and wrong published labor times are just a few reasons for lost labor dollars.
      Another common problem is not understanding how to bill for jobs that require extensive diagnostic testing, and complicated procedures to arrive at the root cause for an onboard computer problem, electrical issue, or drivability issue. These jobs usually take time to analyze, using sophisticated tools, and by the shop’s top technician. Typically, these jobs are billed at a standard menu labor charge, instead of at a higher labor rate. This results in less billed labor hours than the actual labor time spent. The amount of lost labor hours here can cripple a shop’s overall profit.
      Many shop owners do a great job at calculating their labor rate but may not understand what their true effective labor is, which is their labor sales divided by the total labor hours sold. In many cases, I have seen a shop that has a shop labor rate of over $150.00 per hour, but the actual effective labor rate is around $100. Not good.
      Lastly, technician production can suffer when the service advisors are too busy or not motivated to build relationships with customers, which results in a low sales closing ratio. And let’s not forget that to be productive, a shop needs to have the right systems, the right tools and equipment, an extensive information system, and of course, great leadership.
      The bottom line is this; many factors need to be considered when looking to increase production levels. While it does start with the technician, it doesn’t end there. Consider all the factors above when looking for ways to improve your shop’s labor production.
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