Responsibility for Tools

      Shop owners describe how they keep track of tools ó and try to keep workers from abusing them. January 26, 2008

My workers beat the heck out of the tools, which I sort of understand since we are always pushing to get things done... Just wonder how you get them to pay more respect. Tools get used up, I understand, but there is a line between normal use and abuse which gets crossed. How do you deal with this problem?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor J:
What sorts of tools are you having issues with? My production shop experience was as a patternmaker rather than cabinetmaker, so there are bound to be differences in your situation. Anyhow, my experience has been that employees buy and care for durable personal tools that are frequently used, storing them in a personal toolbox much like an auto mechanic does, and the cost of obtaining them made it worth taking care of them. In the pattern shop everyone had a drill or two, trammel points, an adjustable square, protractor, calculator, hammer, chisels, rulers, dividers, calipers, etc. Some guys sprung for their own nail guns or pneumatic sanders so they didn't have to compete for the beat-up shop-owned tools. The shop provided the more expensive and specialized power tools, plus saw blades, router bits, cutoff wheels and such.

From contributor D:
I had a couple guys go through three jigsaws in about six months. I said enough - if you want a jigsaw, buy it yourself. 18 months later, still using the same jigsaw. When they write a check for it, they seem to take better care of it.

From the original questioner:
Can you charge an employee for wrecking or abusing or mishandling a tool? Or losing a tool? I didn't think that this was permitted.

From contributor P:
Nope, that is not legal. I don't have any advice other than better employees, but finding any is a trick these days. Being more organized helps. Also making them put tools away frequently and clean up frequently. It forces organization. I used to have a guy whose only job was to cleanup and put away the tools - that worked pretty well. Quality guys usually have their own hand tools, screw gun, etc. If they don't have their own tools, that is a bit of a red flag as to their quality and interest or ability to take ownership for tools.

From contributor D:
No, it's not legal to charge them for broken tools. It is, however, legal for certain jobs to require certain tools. Auto mechanics are a great example - they own thousands of dollars worth of tools. My installers are now required to own all their own basic hand tools, including drills and chop saws, etc.

From contributor L:
We provide all tools and do not permit employee owned tools in the shop. There is never a question about whose tool it is, or if it can be pulled from service due to defects that might be a hazard.

Each assembly bench has an identical color-coded set of tools. Specialty tools are maintained in one location and are required to be put back there as soon as possible. All tool boards at the benches are identical. Every few years, we make new back-benches and tool boards to keep up with changing tools and processes. This process has reduced wasted time and theft. We still lose tools to theft, just not as many as before. Every new tool is inscribed with its location (bench number), date, company logo, and color-coded.

I keep a spreadsheet for all tools, date, cost, location, additional or replacement, model number, serial number, and disposal date/reason/method. Itís not a perfect solution - takes some time to administer - but I think worth it. There is nothing worse than an employee spending time looking for a tool. Damaged tools are turned in to the shop foreman, also a note if there is a missing tool. All tools go back on the boards at the end of the day so you can easily tell right away if there is anything missing.

The same practice is used for adjustment tools and the like at the stationary tools, and also includes a manual in a three-ring binder. I think it takes less time to maintain this system than was wasted in the past without it! If you lose 10 minutes/day/employee looking for tools, thatís an hour of production time per week/employee. $60 worth of production time, $30 in direct labor costs X 50 weeks = $3,000 or $1500/employee/year. I can afford a lot of bench tools for that!

Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?

Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?
  • KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base

  • KnowledgeBase: Business

  • KnowledgeBase: Business: Employee Relations

    Would you like to add information to this article? ... Click Here

    If you have a question regarding a Knowledge Base article, your best chance at uncovering an answer is to search the entire Knowledge Base for related articles or to post your question at the appropriate WOODWEB Forum. Before posting your message, be sure to
    review our Forum Guidelines.

    Questions entered in the Knowledge Base Article comment form will not generate responses! A list of WOODWEB Forums can be found at WOODWEB's Site Map.

    When you post your question at the Forum, be sure to include references to the Knowledge Base article that inspired your question. The more information you provide with your question, the better your chances are of receiving responses.

    Return to beginning of article.

    Refer a Friend || Read This Important Information || Site Map || Privacy Policy || Site User Agreement

    Letters, questions or comments? E-Mail us and let us know what you think. Be sure to review our Frequently Asked Questions page.

    Contact us to discuss advertising or to report problems with this site.

    To report a problem, send an e-mail to our Webmaster

    Copyright © 1996-2016 - WOODWEB ® Inc.
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without permission of the Editor.
    Review WOODWEB's Copyright Policy.

    The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices. What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk.

    WOODWEB, Inc.
    335 Bedell Road
    Montrose, PA 18801

    Contact WOODWEB

  • WOODWEB - the leading resource for professional woodworkers

      Home » Knowledge Base » Knowledge Base Article