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Back to Basics: Simple Tool Program That Works
A simple tool program can reduce costs while ensuring that your workers have everything they need to be productive and safe

By Clarence Leising
Date Posted: 4/1/2010

            As I have recently visited pallet companies and talked with their management and ownership, one thing has become clear. We need to GET BACK TO BASICS! Managers need to understand what they can do to design simple systems to run more efficient, effective operation.

            One of the things that immediately sprung to mind is the tool program that we developed and successfully used in the Lockport, N.Y. recycling company where Dick Burns and I held management positions. It is simple, and it works. Over the years I have been in literally hundreds of pallet recycling plants and cannot remember any others that had an effective tool program.

            The objective is to ensure that employees have the needed safety equipment and tools to do a good job and protect themselves. Each new hire will be given the following items: A 20 ounce or larger hammer; safety glasses, hearing protection, leather lift belt, tape measure, and gloves. Every person will be required to use safety gear; the hammer and tape measure are essential tools.

            Every new hire is charged $60.00 for his safety gear and tools. If an employee pays for his gear, he is more likely to take possession of it and be responsible for it. To make it financially easy on the employee, he is charged $10 a week for each of his first six weeks. When he leaves the company, no matter when it is, the company buys his gear and tools back, regardless of their condition.

            When designing and starting a new tool program, I suggest that the company outfit its existing employees at no charge. That way the same rule applies to all and nobody can complain about the cost.

            If any tool or piece of gear needs to be replaced due to wear and tear, it will be replaced at no charge to the employee; so there is never any additional cost for items that break due to use. When an item is lost, an employee is required to buy a replacement item from his employer; he cannot buy them from outside sources. This keeps each person responsible for keeping up with his own items, and buying a replacement from the company preserves the quality of the gear used. It also prevents things like buying an inferior quality, such as a light weight hammer from a hardware store. Using the right hammer helps make the most of an employee’s effort. I am always surprised when I see workers struggle with an inferior hammer instead of use one that will do the job.

            Remember to keep it simple and keep it effective. Without an effective tool program, a few dollars here and there can easily cost a typical recycling company $3000 or more per year in tools. The bottom line is “BACK TO BASICS!”

            Clarence Leising is available for consulting. He is the author of Pallet Head, the first pallet recycling handbook ever written. While it is out of print until we can prepare a revised edition, the original is still available digitally for $24.95 and on CD for $34.95. Contact Clarence at 615/415-6781 for consulting advice. Contact the Pallet Enterprise at 804/550-0323 to order your digital copy of Pallet Head.

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