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Dear Santa…Please send a tool to make my job easier

December 2012

From Canada to Singapore, from the United Kingdom to the United States, technical professionals have some pretty clear ideas about the tools they need to help on the job.

Approaching the holiday season, we asked Fluke News Plus readers to tell us which tools top their wish list, and why. As encouragement, we offered participants the chance to win a fine Fluke 550 Premium Tool Bag.

We heard an earful. Regardless of whether it comes courtesy of the Jolly Old Elf, the boss’s tool budget or ye old personal wallet, those who took part in our survey know which tools will work for them.

Most respondents (44) hail from the USA, with Canada (12) also well represented. We also got responses from two techs from the United Kingdom, two from Singapore, one each from Vietnam and Grenada.

The industries these 62 survey participants work in was as wide-ranging as their geography. Manufacturing was the top employer: eight of those responding work in this industry, making everything from automobiles to power generating equipment. Building and construction and industrial were the next most populous categories, with five in each. Four said they work in education, and four others work as independent installation/repair and maintenance professionals. The industries of healthcare, communication equipment services, metals, mining, professional services, transportation, and wholesale/distribution/retail categories were each represented by three respondents.

We know what we want

Now we know where these pros work, but what do they do on the job? Some 15 survey respondents (24 percent of the total) serve as maintenance technicians. Eight work as in-house electricians, seven work as maintenance managers, and seven as electrical contractors. Others serve as process technicians, HVAC/R technicians, facility managers, and in other roles.

And now the core questions: What tools do they want, and why?

Three tool categories were especially popular: clamp meters (11 mentions), process calibration tools (8 mentions), and ScopeMeter® portable oscilloscopes (8 mentions). Six team members mentioned indoor air quality tools, while four named digital multimeters.

And then they got specific.

“The Fluke 87 DMM,” said Jimmy, a US maintenance technician. “It has the features I want and has a great reputation for being dependable.” Across the globe, Sy Ming, an industrial testing and commissioning engineer in Singapore, also had the Fluke 87 in his sights. “A Fluke 87V with the Lo-Z input function,” he wrote, “to eliminate stray voltages caused by induction from nearby energized conductors.”

Some were less specific. “A Fluke multimeter,” said Robert, an HVAC/R technician in the American healthcare field. “I've had my original Fluke multimeter for almost twenty years, but after learning about safety due to your publications, mine does not even have a voltage safety rating. Time for some new gear!”

“A DMM,” wrote Bruce, a maintenance manager in the food and beverage business. “It needs to be in your tool kit just as a wrench or screwdriver would be.”

“My top tool is a remote display multimeter for the ability to be in two places at once,” said Colin, a Canadian industrial process technician. “A good example is being able to measure the signal at a PLC analog input while observing the HMI readout.” And he wasn’t the only tech with wireless testing in mind. “The meter with the removable face, for ease of use in hazardous locations,” said Curtis, an electrician for a Canadian utility.

A wish for higher functions

Others wished for more complex test tools. “I work as an automotive technician,” said Tim. “The automotive field is increasingly using more complex electronics and network systems. To be able to diagnose and ‘see’ what is going on, a good oscilloscope is a must. The days of a simple on or off switch are almost gone. Even a simple task of rolling a window up or down is transmitted from one module to another across a data network.”

Donald, a process technician in the Canadian metals industry, was also looking for the capabilities of an oscilloscope. “A good ScopeMeter® for identifying visual wave patterns,” he said, “to diagnose three-phase sine wave and other power generation and induction motor faults.”

A maintenance technician in the American semiconductor industry, Charles said he wants it all: an oscilloscope that is also wireless. “I need a scope that can connect to my laptop via wireless link. It would be great if it fit into the new CNX series of meters,” he said. “I have a Fluke 123 ScopeMeter® that will download via an RS232 link and a 233 DMM with the removable display, but I need the data in real time from a number of instruments at the same time.”

Of course ScopeMeters weren’t the only higher-level tools technicians wished for. “A Fluke 1750 power logger is at the top of my list,” said Pierre, an electrical contractor in the Canadian construction industry. “I presently have a 1735 and I am limited to the recording parameters that can be done at the same time.”

Checking without stripping

In the United Kingdom, the Fluke 805 Vibration Meter topped the wish list for industrial maintenance technician Adrian. “It would be useful to have the ability to check bearing condition without stripping a machine to pieces,” he said. “I would use it to produce condition trends for a preventative maintenance system.”

Dan, an independent maintenance manager in the US, agreed. On his list is “Fluke’s pen style vibration tester, then the 810 model,” he said. “These tools would assist greatly in troubleshooting problems, routine checkups on machines, installation verification, etc.”

James, a maintenance manager in the US metals industry, thought “a thermal imager to locate hot spots in motor control relays and power distribution centers” would be ideal.

Finally, the award for the most comprehensive (and ambitious) wishlist must go to Richard, a maintenance technician in the American pulp and paper industry. His wishes:

  1. ScopeMeter® to view output of power supplies, signals of encoders
  2. Thermal imager for hot spots and for checking thermal differences of insulating and drafts
  3. Power quality monitor because of increasing need to answer the questions of improving utilization of energy and upgrading or correcting inefficient equipment
  4. Laser tape measure to bridge the gaps you cannot walk over to reach target

We thank all of our survey respondents and hope your wishes come true.

Especially you, Richard.