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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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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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