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A Toolbook for Quality Improvement and Problem Solving (contents)

Choosing the right tool

The Quality Toolbook > Making tools work > Choosing the right tool

Knowing the principles | Knowing the practicalities


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Tools are used because they serve a purpose in completing a task. This use may be essential, as the task can only be completed by using the tool, although tools are often used simply to make the job easier. Another key reason for choosing a tool is to increase confidence in the reliability of the result.

To choose the tool for a given application requires a knowledge of both the principles and practicalities of use. To make effective use of a tool, it must be applied correctly and the people interfacing with it must be able to interpret the results.

Knowing the principles

Each tool has a basic purpose which can usually be stated quite simply. For example, a screwdriver is for inserting and removing screws. If, however, a deeper understanding of the fundamental principles of how the tool works can be gained, then it can also be used in any appropriate circumstance.

An approach to this it to identify the 'root purpose' of the tool and then to use this knowledge to extend the tool's application. For example, the 'root purpose' of a screwdriver may be defined as 'applying leverage' and additional uses derived from this, such as opening tins of paint.

Thus a detailed understanding of tools can help not only in appropriate usage, but also in maintaining a relatively small but flexible toolkit.

Knowing the practicalities

Knowing when a tool should and should not be used is often more than knowing its basic purpose. This usually requires a more detailed knowledge of its limits and constraints.

There are usually various limitations on the use of tools. For example, an ordinary screwdriver may give insufficient grip to remove a corroded screw. Tools may also have circumstances where they can be used in combination, for example where a drill is used to tap a hole for a screw.

Although many tools can be successfully used for more than their basic purpose, the hazards should be understood before they are used outside their normal domain. For example, a flat-bladed screwdriver can usually be pressed into screwing in a cross-point screw, but the risk of slipping and damaging the screw head or the surroundings makes it an unwise choice for visible screws around decorative surfaces.



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