Investing in the proper tools is critical, according to Potter. "You need to have the proper tools to work in an industry like this."
Christian Corrigan, global marketing manager for the cordless tool division at Ingersoll-Rand, says their product line is focused on making a perfect fit for the technician, whether they are using impact wrenches, drill drivers, cordless ratchets or die grinders.
In traditional pneumatic ratchets, for instance, Corrigan says that when technicians tighten down bolts during a repair, there is 'kickback', or the sudden movement of the tool that often results in knuckle or hand injuries. Corrigan points out that one of the benefits to the electronic circuitry in the Ingersoll-Rand tools is to help prevent kickback, which ultimately helps to prevent technicians from getting hurt.
Another way the technology makes practical sense, according to Corrigan, is by providing cordless tools for technicians to increase mobility in the shop or for technicians who have a mobile repair business.
"In the shop, being able to run around the vehicle without having a cord really adds a lot of value," he says. "One big benefit is that when you look at the technology of cordless tools, it's getting to the point where you're not really giving up much from a performance standpoint. And in many cases, the cordless tools can outperform comparable air tools."
Corrigan says that one of the main reasons technicians use ratchets is for easy access. "No one necessarily wants to use a ratchet," he says, but adds that the majority of technicians he talks with prefer to use an impact wrench versus a ratchet.
"They use a ratchet when they can't get an impact wrench in there. So when you think about the benefit from a ratchet, it's for access. Throwing a hose on the back of a ratchet really doesn't equal the best access," he says.
Removing the hose gives the user flexibility and mobility to maneuver around the vehicle and be able to get the job done quicker, Corrigan says.
"With electronics, you're going to be limited in your run time, but what is key for many applications when you talk about gasket removal, cleaning surfaces, mating surfaces or cleaning wheel wells out," Corrigan says, "is that these ratchets are great because they allow you to not have to drag the hose out there. You can do it wherever you are in the shop."
Corrigan says that one of the biggest challenges for a technician or fleet manager is being able to build up their tool supply when they are often limited to the pre-determined kits tool companies offer.
"Maybe today you want an impact wrench, so you go out and buy that impact wrench with a charger and a battery," Corrigan says, "but tomorrow you decide you need a grinder or a drill driver. So you have to go out and buy the same kit for the grinder, and now you've got redundant batteries and redundant chargers."
From a cost of operation standpoint, Corrigan says it seems to make sense for a fleet manager to have a cordless line of tools to avoid the obligation of having redundant chargers.
TRAINING AND TECHNOLOGY
Arnold Lauret works for the city of Milwaukee public works department. He and his team of approximately 20 technicians work on police and other light-duty city vehicles. Part of Lauret's job is to coordinate training and purchase equipment for the technicians, which is often time-consuming for supervisors or management.
"Arnold stepped up to the plate a few years ago, because we didn't have the time," says his supervisor, Patrick Brushafer.
Lauret also researches and bids for the kinds of tools or training the technicians in the shop need based on what is available within their forecasted budget.
He says that he periodically asks the technicians about what topics or classes interest them and coordinates training with companies such as Ford, AC Delco or local technical colleges. At one point Lauret thought they were falling behind in getting their technicians up to speed with training courses, but ever since he began to organize and coordinate training schedules and classes he feels more comfortable. He says they are now caught up on general training techniques, but he recognizes that he needs to maintain their interest levels. Now it is just a matter of keeping abreast of current industry trends and technology.