Cool Tools: Moving Materials And Tools

Moving supplies, materials and tools to and around job sites can be a time-consuming task that often significantly reduces an electrician’s productivity.

Portable carts and dollies expedite moving materials to where they are needed, and a wide variety of carriers are available to help keep tools organized and accessible throughout the workday. Many of these products are available at big-box home improvement centers, while equipment supply centers offer a varied selection of these products built for daily professional use.

Some carrying and storage devices are designed specifically for electrical work, such as reel carts to transport and lay out wire and cable and portable work benches that include storage space for conduit, supplies and tools.

Home Depot stocks a variety of these products that are not industry-specific.

“Mobile workbenches are also becoming more popular among the professionals,” said Darryl Tieken, merchant for Home Depot’s Pro Business Segment. “With the durable hardwood work surface mounted on top of a steel rolling cabinet, they are useful in a variety of trades.”

Home Depot carries Husky brand tool-storage products, which recently have been rebranded to enhance toughness.

“Professionals expect durability and ease of use in a brand they can trust,” Tieken said. “One of the latest innovations is a new clear-front-drawer chest and cabinet set—a steel storage cabinet with clear front drawers, enabling the user to see drawer contents all without having to open the drawer.”

Also popular is the Husky Rolling Pro Tool Tote with 150-pound capacity; 38 storage pockets; and three heavy duty, steel-reinforced wheels for mobility.

Tool manufacturers are recognizing the need for on-site tool and material storage. Bosch’s Click & Go line features storage, organization and transport products.

“Organization is key,” said Jason Feldner, group product manager for cordless tools, Bosch. “For many professionals, especially mobile technicians, only one-third of the day is productive. Most of their time is spent searching for various tools, equipment or consumables. By incorporating specific organization solutions to a mobile dolly system, similar to a cart, electricians can always know what they have and work optimally.

“At the center of our system are five different sized storage boxes [L-Boxx], which include a one-click stacking and interlocking feature for the quick and easy transport of multiple boxes all at once. Electricians can store power tools, bits, blades, consumables, hand tools or anything that will fit within. Pick-and-pull foam inserts allow users to create their own customized inlays to store tools, measuring equipment, hand tools or other devices.

“In addition to the basic storage boxes, Bosch expanded its system with a modular, stackable, rack-style drawer system, which is especially useful for electricians and their many consumables, such as fasteners, couplings, fuses, switches and more. Modular open drawers click to each other or to storage boxes. Stack them tall to create a cabinet or short to easily pick up and go.

[SB]“Even though standard boxes and racks interlock together, electricians also have the choice of a custom dolly, perfect for rolling around job sites. Simply click each of the boxes together and then on top of the dolly to roll it all from location to location with ease. Similar to a traditional rolling utility cart, another option is a simple multipurpose folding two-wheel hand cart that stores easily in the back of a van or truck,” Feldner said.

Greenlee markets material carts, storage boxes, chests, cabinets, wire and reel caddies.

“Material carts contribute to contractors’ efficiency by moving what’s needed to where it is needed, reducing time walking back and forth for tools and materials, thus increasing time for value-added work,” said Rafel Mayol, product manager, Greenlee. “Some studies report that at least 42 percent of electricians’ time is spent on these and other non-value-added activities.

“Electricians can improve their efficiency by applying lean manufacturing principles to eliminate wasted time by using the right processes and tools to concentrate their efforts on the activities that they are paid to do. Important features for material carts include wheels of an appropriate size to allow heavy carts to go over power cords and for easy movement.

“Storage boxes need to be quality-­built to stand up under difficult conditions and difficult to break into. The most important features for wire caddies is the number and size reels it can accommodate, how easily reels spin when feeding cable, and ease of movement around the job.

“Selection of tool boxes and pouches is a matter of personal preference. Some people will prioritize the lightness of the plastic over sturdiness and protection of traditional metal boxes,” Mayol said.

Southwire’s Maxis line includes wire carts, cable pullers, conduit bending equipment and portable work stations.

“Wheeled carts and portable workstations are invaluable to an electrician for several reasons,” said Don Godfrey, product manager for Southwire. “Hand trucks and carts designed for specialty wire products have greatly increased the speed and ease of setup for circuit wire pulling. These products, in tandem with the mobile workstations, have made electricians more efficient and more productive.

“Wire payoff systems have been incorporated into several of the carts and hand trucks developed for circuit wire. These roller systems help electricians get wire off the carts without the wire becoming tangled or jammed during installation. Another key advancement is the way wire is packaged and handled. Instead of installing with traditional wire reels, many electricians are using CoilPAK and WireBARREL technology. The carts that handle these unique packages are specifically designed for ease of mobility and versatility of application on the job [see sidebar, page 94].

“There has been an increased emphasis by our company for mobile workstations, as opposed to typical wire carts, in the industry today. A mobile workstation, easily transports their materials and increases their productivity with the mobility and versatility of the cart,” Godfrey said.

Linda Rolfe, product manager for Klein Tools, believes bags and carts should be made to last.

“Today there is increased focus on durability for wheeled carts and tool bags,” she said. “It’s not enough to put basic casters on a cart or bag because job sites can have some pretty rough terrain. Rolling tool carts and bags such as our Tradesman Pro have larger, more durable wheels to stand up to those kinds of conditions and obstacles they may encounter, and containers have larger openings and brighter interiors to make access more convenient.

“Tool boxes have evolved from heavy, metal cases to lighter composite and fabric—it all comes back to weight. Soft-sided carriers are often much lighter than metal cases. These carriers are also more comfortable to carry because they typically have padded shoulder straps and web handles. With rugged weave material and durable molded bottoms, these bags offer the same kind of protection that a metal case would provide from water, mud and dirt. Depending on the container, the fabric may adjust to the bulkiness of a set of tools better and/or provide easier access through larger openings than a rigid hard-sided case.

“Backpacks are a convenient, hands-free method of carrying tools and provide padded protection for technical equipment (such as laptops) or delicate items (like safety glasses) and tools (such as fish tape and cables). When maneuvering the obstacle course—otherwise known as the job site—the mobility of a backpack makes it easier to get around.

“In focus groups, electricians tell us removable pouches are a useful feature. It gives them the ability to load pouches with the tools they need for specific jobs and change out those pouches on their tool belts as needed,” Rolfe said.

About the Author

Jeff Griffin

Freelance Writer
Jeff Griffin, Oklahoma City, is a construction journalist specializing in the electrical, telecommunications and underground utility construction industries. Contact him at .

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