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Right tool for the right job

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Members of the Shaffers Crossing Locomotive Shop pose for a photo at the expo, from left to right: Billy Harper, Roger VanDoren, Keith Harris, Brian Wilson, Shannon Hodges, Tina Gibson, Steve Humphries, Mark Shampine, James Snavely, Ryan Stege.

Employees at Shaffers Crossing Locomotive Shop are on a roll. Last year, four shop machinists won Norfolk Southern's first Ergo Cup competition for designing a tool that makes it easier to reseat engine pistons in EMD-manufactured locomotives. At the safety expo, the shop displayed its latest innovation: a prototype custom tool kit that will save money and increase operating efficiencies.

About 360 employees work at the shop. Currently, around 300 tool kits are assigned to specific employees, and most of the kits don't have all the tools a machinist or electrician needs. That means they often have to stop what they're doing to go search for the proper tool, said Ryan Stege, shop manager.

Under the new plan, those incomplete kits will be replaced by 30 or 40 "community" tool kits that will contain a full set of tools and be strategically placed around the shop so that they are easily accessible to all employees. The custom kits will feature a foam liner with cutouts in the shape of each tool. In addition, a label will be attached under each tool that identifies it by part number or size, in the case of sockets.

To help keep track of tools, the shop plans to purchase commercial tool-control software that will require employees to scan their ID to record who is using specific tools.

"This is going to reduce the number of tools required at the shop and also improve asset utilization," Stege said. "The individual tool sets are used five days a week for eight hours at a time by the employee they're assigned to. These community boxes will be out there and can be used 24/7 when a locomotive is there. We're going to see a productivity improvement just by eliminating all the time spent looking for the right tool to use."

The shop has 10 sets of foam on order to create its first round of community tool kits. Stege said employees are calling the launch date "T-Day" - for tool reclamation day.

Machinists James Snavely and Mark Shampine took the lead in developing the innovation, Stege said.