Most of us involved in flight operations are familiar with the multi-drawer toolboxes on rollers common to most hangars and repair shops. But a talking tool box? Snap-on Industrial showed a big blue one at NBAA’s 64th Annual Meeting and Convention in Las Vegas.
On the market since February, the Level5 ATC (for automatic tool control) system looks like any old Snap-on rolling toolbox–except for the stainless steel top and internal electronics, which contain an optical scanning system that recognizes every tool in every drawer, knows when each one is out of the box, who took it out and even whether it’s been put back in the right place. If it hasn’t, a professional feminine-sounding voice lets you know.
The new Level5 ATC tool-control system combines software, a keyless entry system, foam cutout toolbox drawer liners and digital image capture devices inside the toolbox to help keep track of tools. Optical recognition is precise, even recognizing colors. What makes ATC 5 unique is that it allows mechanics to work at the same speed and doesn’t force them to adopt a new technique when removing and replacing tools.
The system’s not cheap: $20,000 to $26,000 for the entire toolbox, electronics and software, depending upon size. But it saves money in many ways and is already being used by a number of airframers, MRO organizations and airline and military maintenance shops in the U.S. and overseas.