Here are 5 items that I hate going without when commissioning any project.
These are not your typical items such as screwdrivers and multimeters, these are bonus items, items which are going to make your day much easier but they wouldn’t be a showstopper if you didn’t have them.
All these items are low cost and easy to bring along with you.
Coloured pens (at least 2 colours)
So many times I have seen engineers commissioning a job without a single pen, never mind two. I like to always keep a red and a black Uniball on me. I choose these types because they make a firm mark and can easily be seen on a drawing.
The reason I want two colours is so that I can make a distinction between the two. I like to mark up any comments in black, since these are easy to see anyway as you will be writing in clear areas on the page. I then use the red to mark up the drawings for any modifications I have made. This way it just stands out and it is easy to find when trying to complete the paperwork at the end of the job.
You can get these for less than £5 and they take up so little space you would be daft to not have them. Amazon link below:
A good mouse
Who likes trackpads, seriously?
I know they are getting better and they are ok for short periods but if you are ever needing to do a good amount of work you would be miles better off with a good quality mouse.
My mouse of choice is the Logitech MX Master. This is an older master but it is great. It connects via bluetooth so you don’t have to use any of your USB ports, always a bonus. It does come with a USB receiver though so if Bluetooth is not an option there is always that fall back available. The battery life is excellent. I have had mine years and I bet I charge it once every 6 months or so, maybe not even that; often I am using it for 8 hours a day.
Other great features include a horizontal scroll, whilst there is not support for this function in Niagara, it works great within the CPT tool and also when working on most windows applications, it is particularly good when using large spreadsheets. The standard vertical scroll also has a “free scroll” feature which allows you to let it spin resulting in faster navigation around the page, again really useful when working on large spreadsheets.
It is a larger, deeper mouse that sits firmly in your palm but it certainly works for me.
This is the most expensive item on the list but I would definitely recommend it. Coming in at a little over £60.00 it might make your employers eyes water a little for a “mouse”.
Pop up table and chair
Everybody makes such a fuss about ergonomics and the like when they are sat in their comfy offices, but when you are out on site it is often impossible to find a comfy spot to settle down and concentrate on your work.
This is why I carry a fold away table and a pop-up chair to use when on site. They are a life saver. Granted, some plant rooms are restricted, and I may not have room to set up a table, but more often than not its fine.
The table is just big enough to house my laptop, a mouse, and a bit of paperwork.
The table folds completely flat so it packs away nicely and the stool collapses to the size of the seat base. All in all, it adds around 7kg for me to carry, well worth the additional weight.
There are often times when I find myself using one or the other on it’s own. Panel modding for example, the stool is perfect for getting set up in front of a panel at a comfortable height, did I mention it is also modular so you can alter the height?
Same can be said for the table, it doubles up as an excellent additional bench if required on site. The table can be set at 3 different heights, to be honest I found myself set to the highest 99% of the time.
The table is currently on amazon for £39.99 and the stool can be picked up for £29.99. There are cheaper options available, but I like to keep it as lightweight and portable as possible. In hindsight I would get a different table. The surface area of the table if fine but the legs don’t actually fold in, they just close flat to the table, this means that when stored away it is actually just over a meter in length, the table is 770mm in length.
Now this may depend on the site and location where you work. Not all places allow people to wear a set of headphones in any situation, but when you can it’s great.
I like to use them because it leaves my hands free. I often find myself working with another engineer or electrician carrying out point to point checks, if I had one hand on the phone I would be limited when trying to test out cables, operate a laptop or use a hand tool.
Equally, when you receive phone calls do you need to stop using your hands? Whenever possible, I will carry on as long as it isn’t too distracting and is safe to do so.
Any headphones will do, I like to use the wired set that come with the phone, therefore there is no additional cost to me. Ideally wireless would be better though, less likely to snag on anything when working on site, just remember to keep them charged up.
Wireless access point
This is a bit of a luxury item and probably overkill in many situations; but it has a place.
The TPLINK TL-WR802N can be powered via usb which means it can be powered from most modern controllers, worst case is you will have to use the socket outlet of the panel. There is a little bit of setting up to do but it is very straight forward and doesn’t need to be done each time you use the device. It then plugs into the network port of the controller and can be accessed wirelessly, making your connection to the controller wireless and almost effortless.
Now you don’t have to squash into the plant room, you can give yourself some space and get a comfy set up with your table and chair.
Admittedly, it is often not that necessary, but in some situations it can be worth it’s weight in gold.
Mine is an older model which isn’t too readily available any more, the newer version can be picked up for less than £50 and looks to have more functions should they be required.