"What's in your Toolkit?"

Field service is about repairing equipment.  Depending on your particular expertise, the items in your toolkit might be vastly different from another tech’s. Over the years  I have had exposure to quite a few different toolkit styles.  For a long time the soft-sided briefcase style was popular, but now I have noticed that the hard case seems to be making a comeback.  I have seen toolkits that are similar to laptop bags and my favorite is the backpack style toolkit.





Although the type of equipment that field service techs repair, I believe we all can agree that there is one indispensable tool — the magnetic screwdriver.  Truly the workhorse of the toolkit, I can say that I use the mag screwdriver on just about every service call I do.  This screwdriver comes in many shapes and sizes depending on what provides the best use for you.




ron palinkas Wiha-Magnetic-Screwdriver-1


My favorite for years has been the Wiha 6-in-1 1/4″ magnetic screwdriver.  It can be found online and in regular tool stores.  I have purchased mine through Tecra Tools for several years, and have always been happy with the service I receive from them.  Price is reasonable — $16 to $19 depending on where you purchase it.  At the bottom of this post are two links–one for Tecra Tools and the other for HMC Electronics.



ron palinkas Wiha-Magnetic-Screwdriver-2



For me, the benefits of the Wiha are is very strong magnet, the 6-in-1 magazine for bits and what Wiha calls the “power handle.”  The magnet is strong enough to hold the bit on securely, help find the missing e-clips in the dark carpet, and cheat a reed switch.  The red cap swivels, allowing you to “palm” and rotate the handle easily with one hand.   I do not normally find myself in a situation where the 1Kv rating comes in handy, but I do like the idea that the shaft does have some insulation.





HMC Electronics magnetic screwdriver field service





If you have a minute, snap a pic of that magnetic screwdriver and leave it in your comment.  I will make a gallery with a directory of mag scrwdrivers if I get enough of a response.


“What is in your toolkit?”







Valujet 592 Memorial

Valujet 592 Memorial EvergladesOn the afternoon of May 11, 1996, Flight 592 pushed back from gate G2 in Miami after a delay of 1 hour and 4 minutes due to mechanical problems. There were 105 passengers, mainly from Florida and Georgia, on board, as well as a crew of two pilots and three flight attendants, bringing the total number of people on board to 110. At 2:04 pm, 10 minutes before the disaster, the DC-9 took off from runway 9L and began a normal climb.

At 2:10 pm, Captain Candalyn Kubeck and First Officer Richard Hazen heard a loud bang in their headphones, and noticed the plane was losing electrical power. Seconds later, flight attendant Mandy Summers entered the cockpit and advised the flight crew of a fire in the passenger cabin. Passengers’ shouts of “fire, fire, fire” were recorded on the plane’s cockpit voice recorder when the cockpit door was opened. Though the ValuJet flight attendant manual stated that the cockpit door should not be opened when smoke or other harmful gases might be present in the cabin, the intercom was disabled and there was no other way to inform the pilots of what was happening.Valujet 592 Memorial Everglades

Kubeck and Hazen immediately asked air traffic control for a return to Miami due to smoke in the cockpit and cabin, and were given instructions for a return to the airport. One minute later, Hazen requested the nearest available airport. Kubeck began to turn the plane left in preparation for the return to Miami.

Flight 592 disappeared from radar at 2:13:42 pm. It rolled onto its side and crashed to the ground nose-first in the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area in the Everglades, a few miles west of Miami, at a speed in excess of 507 miles per hour (816 km/h). The crew continued to fly the plane until seven or fewer seconds before impact, likely until the front left floor beams collapsed and caused failure of the flight controls. Kubeck, Hazen, the three flight attendants, and all 105 passengers aboard were killed. Recovery of the aircraft and victims was made extremely difficult by the location of the crash. The nearest road of any kind was more than a quarter mile (400 m) away from the crash scene, and the location of the crash itself was a deep-water swamp with a bedrock base. The DC-9 shattered on impact with the bedrock, leaving very few large portions of the plane intact. Sawgrass, alligators, and risk of bacterial infection from cuts plagued searchers involved in the recovery effort.

Valujet 592 Memorial EvergladesThe NTSB investigation eventually determined that the fire that downed Flight 592 began in a cargo compartment below the passenger cabin. The cargo compartment was of a Class D design, in which fire suppression is accomplished by sealing off the hold from outside air. Any fire in such an airtight compartment will in theory quickly exhaust all available oxygen and then burn itself out. As the fire suppression is accomplished without any intervention by the crew, such holds are not equipped with smoke detectors. However, the NTSB determined that just before takeoff, expired chemical oxygen generators were placed in the cargo compartment in five boxes marked COMAT (Company-Owned MATerial) by ValuJet’s maintenance contractor, SabreTech, in contravention of FAA regulations forbidding the transport of hazardous materials in aircraft cargo holds. Failure to cover the firing pins for the generators with the prescribed plastic caps made an accidental activation much more likely. Rather than covering the firing pins, the SabreTech workers simply duct taped the cords around the cans, or cut them, and used tape to stick the ends down. It is also possible that the cylindrical, tennis ball can-sized generators were loaded on board in the mistaken belief that they were just empty canisters, thus being certified as safe to transport in an aircraft cargo compartment. SabreTech employees indicated on the cargo manifest that the “oxy canisters” were “empty” instead of being expired oxygen generators. ValuJet employees interpreted this to mean that they were empty oxygen canisters, when in fact they were neither simple oxygen canisters, nor empty.Valujet 592 Memorial Everglades

Chemical oxygen generators, when activated, produce oxygen. As a byproduct of the exothermic chemical reaction, they also produce a great quantity of heat. These two together were sufficient not only to start an accidental fire, but also to produce enough oxygen to keep the fire burning. The fire risk was made much worse by the presence of combustible aircraft wheels in the hold. Two main tires and wheels and a nose tire and wheel were also included in the COMAT. NTSB investigators theorized that when the plane experienced a slight jolt while taxiing on the runway, an oxygen generator activated, producing oxygen and heat. Laboratory testing showed that canisters of the same type could heat nearby materials up to 500 °F (260 °C), enough to ignite a smouldering fire. The oxygen from the generators fed the resulting fire in the cargo hold without any need for outside air, defeating the airtight fire suppression design. A pop and jolt heard on the cockpit voice recording and correlated with a brief and dramatic spike in the altimeter reading in the flight data recording were attributed to the sudden cabin pressure change caused by a semi-inflated aircraft wheel in the cargo hold exploding in the fire.

Smoke detectors in the cargo holds can alert the flight crew of a fire long before the problem becomes apparent in the cabin, and a fire suppression system buys valuable time to land the plane safely. In February 1998, the FAA issued revised standards requiring all Class D cargo holds to be converted by early 2001 to Class C or E; these types of holds have additional fire detection and suppression equipment.

Valujet 592 Memorial EvergladesOn the third anniversary of the accident in 1999, a memorial was dedicated to the victims in the Everglades. The memorial, consisting of 110 concrete pillars, is located just north of Tamiami Trail about 11.9 miles west of Krome Avenue in Miami-Dade County and points to the location of the crash site eight miles to the north. The 110 pillars represent the lives of those who perished in the crash.


(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ValuJet_Flight_592)




The Scout Law

Troop 395 Hike at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Fl




This past weekend I had the privilege of joining my son’s Boy Scout troop on a camping trip at one of our local state parks.  I say “the privilege”  because that is exactly how I feel about the opportunity to spend time and enjoy the outdoors with this group of young scouts.  One of cornerstones of Boy Scouts is the Scout Law.  repeated at every Troop meeting and on activities, it serves to remind the scouts and leaders of the basic values that are such a big part of scouting.


Whenever I have the opportunity to repeat the law with the group I remind myself that these are enviable qualities I should strive for each day.


A Scout is:

  • Trustworthy. A Scout’s honor is to be trusted. If he were to violate his honor by telling a lie or by cheating or by not doing exactly a given task, when trusted on his honor, he may be directed to hand over his Scout badge.
  • Loyal. He is loyal to all to whom loyalty is due, his Scout leader, his home and parents and country.
  • Helpful. He must be prepared at any time to save life, help injured persons, and share the home duties. He must do at least one Good Turn to somebody every day.
  • Friendly. He is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout.
  • Courteous. He is polite to all, especially to women, children, old people, and the weak and helpless. He must not take pay for being helpful or courteous.
  • Kind. He is a friend to animals. He will not kill nor hurt any living creature needlessly, but will strive to save and protect all harmless life.
  • Obedient. He obeys his parents, Scoutmaster, patrol leader, and all other duly constituted authorities.

Scout law

  • Cheerful. He smiles whenever he can. His obedience to orders is prompt and cheery. He never shirks nor grumbles at hardships.
  • Thrifty. He does not wantonly destroy property. He works faithfully, wastes nothing, and makes the best use of his opportunities. He saves his money so that he may pay his own way, be generous to those in need, and helpful to worthy objects. He may work for pay, but must not receive tips for courtesies or Good Turns.
  • Brave. He has the courage to face danger in spite of fear and to stand up for the right against the coaxings of friends or the jeers or threats of enemies, and defeat does not down him.
  • Clean. He keeps clean in body and thought; stands for clean speech, clean sport, clean habits; and travels with a clean crowd.
  • Reverent. He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion.









Reducing Conflict

10% of conflict is due to difference in opinion and 90% is due to wrong tone of voice

I saw this sign posted in the employee area of a client.  Honestly, this is the first time that I recall seeing or hearing this quote. Although the quote was most likely  inspired for personal relationships, I was impressed to see this sign posted in a retail store.

I talked with a few colleagues about the quote and there was a consensus that, although optimistic, the 90% number seemed a little high.  I countered that even if the number was 50% it was still dramatic.  I asked myself if I could reduce the volume of conflict in my life by 50% by just monitorig and adjusting the tone  of my voice would it be worth it?  I said aloud “I’ll take those odds.”

angry_customerFor example, I took a pool sample to the pool store (a weekly errand during the summer.)  At the pool store the analyze the sample and have chemicals there you can purchase if there is a level that is low or high.  The rep was testing ym sample and looked at me and said “What do you have your chlorine set at?”  I thought to myself that this was such a poor way of asking a customer a question.  Maybe it would be better to state along the lines “Your chlorine seems pretty low, what is it set at?”  Not much of a difference in number of words but I  believe a huge difference in tone.

I have decided to incoroporate a greater awareness in my tone when talking with customers and colleagues.  After listening fully, paying attention to what I say and how I say it.  If pausing to listen and pausing again to concentrate on my tone can reduce conflict even by 50% I am all for it.