I'm part of a small team of datacenter worker drones, and we're constantly wasting time hunting for tools because we can't find what we need.

In the case of some tools, I've just taken to buying literally 20 times as many as we need so that we can find them faster. But I can't do that for all of them.

Many are too expensive to buy one for every person and charge them for lost tools like I understand automotive shops sometimes do. We don't have personal lockers or space to install lockers, nor space for complete duplicates of all tools (one copy per employee) either.

What policies or procedures can we try, to reduce misplaced tools and the time wasted therefrom?

  • 2
    So, you have tools but no place to store them? Where do you leave them after use? Do you have an inventory? Who else could have access to your working area that could have taken them?
    – DarkCygnus
    Feb 12 '20 at 17:05
  • 1
    @DarkCygnus Who said that? and In the correct place of course.
    – Billy
    Feb 12 '20 at 17:07
  • 2
    Are these tools permanently lost, or do you eventually find them?
    – sf02
    Feb 12 '20 at 17:07
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    How come the, you "dont have space for that" but you also leave them in "the correct place"?
    – DarkCygnus
    Feb 12 '20 at 17:09
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    @DarkCygnus the 'that' which we don't have space for is indivudalized personal lockers, and duplicating all of our tool inventory. I have edited the question to remove the pronoun. We have space to store our existing tools. There is shelving.
    – Billy
    Feb 12 '20 at 17:13

If there are no consequences for not returning tools, losing tools or stealing tools, why do you expect any worker to return them when simply having them with you when you need them is far more convenient.

You need to setup a policy which makes people return tools to a central location. It doesn't matter if you have a board with the shape of the tools painted in. Or an alarm that triggers if a tool isn't returned after 10 minutes. Or just toolbox or a bunch of draws.

You need to start holding people accountable for the tools that they use. This means keeping track of who takes what. And making them responsible and accountable for returning it.

Some basic ideas

  • A sign off sheet which records who takes whan and when. With take and return times
  • Someone to manage the tools in general
  • A camera to record who takes the tools so you can figure out who to ask when it goes missing
  • 4
    As a variant on this, give each employee a stack of card with their name on them, and ask them to leave a card in place of each tool they are using. Feb 13 '20 at 2:45
  • @PatriciaShanahan all to easy to take a tool and not leave a card... Have to have a tool store controller - this is the only way that works for shared tools.
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 13 '20 at 11:47
  • @SolarMike any and each of these solutions will need enforcement anyway, and a card is not harder to "forget" than a signature.
    – Borgh
    Feb 13 '20 at 14:33
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    @SolarMike From comments, it appears the tools do usually turn up. Given that, just make it as quick, easy, and convenient as possible to leave a note of who has the tool. Feb 14 '20 at 1:05
  • @PatriciaShanahan having done an apprenticeship where there was a controlled tool store with a person issuing the tools and keeping records of who when and how long, I can promise you it works and works well - you know exactly who has what and who breaks it - tools can be expensive. From experience, not comments....
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 14 '20 at 5:41

In a small team, it's really hard to create mechanisms to force people to follow policies like "put the tools back when you're done using them." If you were in a big organization. you could have a secure tool room with an attendant to sign them out, but that's a hassle and really only suitable for expensive tools.

You could have locked personal toolboxes under your desks. But then everybody would need their own tools: unworkable.

It sounds like you have a teamwork problem. Certainly teamwork will help solve the missing-tool problem. Can you, or your supervisor, call a friendly problem-solving meeting? The problem is that people can't find the tools they need when they have jobs to do. Have a friendly talk about that problem, not a finger-wagging "you stole the drill!" kind of talk.

Be patient. It takes time for people to adjust to new ways of working together.

  • If your answer means that the best solution is to educate the people, then I agree with you.
    – virolino
    Feb 13 '20 at 13:53
  • Education yes. But also to try to help them care a little more about each others' quality of work life.
    – O. Jones
    Feb 14 '20 at 0:19

I'd go with Shadowzee's approach of having a central place and a return policy. If that however does not pan out for lack of a central place that can easily be monitored with respect to who takes what and who brings what back, there is also a decentralised approach:

Spread the tool responsibility! Each tool goes to a worker that by default has it. That worker is responsible to have it back at the end of the day if someone else requests using it. Otherwise he's gonna get X (reprimand, no coffee the next morning, has to bring cake, ....)

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