Seven vital tools for a “go bag" in the field

For field projects, it’s good to bring a bag with tools that might come in handy for specific purposes or to prepare for any unforeseen challenges that sometimes come up.


Over the years, the contents of my "go bag" have been refined and updated. The "go bag" is a duffel bag that is used for assignments at a customer site. Many of the items have been suggested by more experienced engineers. Others have been added based on personal experience. The contents might change depending on the project, but these seven tools are almost always in the "go bag."

1. Networking gear

There are a number of good options now for compact wireless routers, and this means that setting up a temporary wireless network for use during commissioning is cheap and easy. There are models that are small enough to fit in one's pocket while being durable enough to put in an electrical panel. Of course, adding a wireless access point to your control network, even if temporary, does carry some risk that must be evaluated. Security and information technology (IT) concerns might override the convenience. For those cases, a couple of Ethernet cables (including one 50' long) and a small switch are in the bag.

2. Compact USB keyboard

This one is surprisingly useful for certain field assignments. Compact wired models can be very inexpensive (less than $15 online), but there are also more expensive compact models available.

3. Power strip

This one doesn't need a lot of explanation. It's another one of those items that can save endless frustration and make you a hero to your coworkers.

4. Portable hard drive

I keep a dedicated portable hard drive just for software and ISO files that have been useful over the years. It includes legacy versions of programmable logic controller (PLC) software, various productivity tools, password recovery images, disk utility images, and even virtual machine images of older operating system (OS) versions. It's easy to take the Internet and the ability to search for and download software for granted. Sometimes, though, you're on your own with whatever you happen to have with you once you're on-site.

5. Serial cable

If you ever have to go online with a PLC without an Ethernet connection, the odds are good that an RS-232 serial cable with a null modem adapter will do the trick. With fewer laptops including a serial port now, it's good to have a USB to serial adapter on-hand.

6. Precision screwdrivers

If only needed for occasional use, it's generally not hard to find a screwdriver to borrow. Nevertheless, a set of small precision screwdrivers are an invaluable asset to have. Depending on the project requirements, a set of good, double insulated screwdrivers might be necessary also, but that's likely something you'll know in advance.

7. Multimeter

Possibly the "king" of this list, a multimeter may be either a no-brainer or something you can't even carry with you, depending on the rules and expectations of different customers. As a troubleshooting device, a good multimeter is a bit like a stethoscope for a doctor. You don't want to be caught without one when you need it. It's also worth carrying an extra battery and fuses.

What are some tools you've found useful when you're in the field?

This post was written by Evan Pederson. Evan is an engineer II at Maverick Technologies, a leading automation solutions provider offering industrial automation, strategic manufacturing, and enterprise integration services for the process industries. Maverick delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of areas including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, business process optimization, and more.

Maverick Technologies is a CSIA member as of 6/1/2016.

No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Big Data and IIoT value; Monitoring Big Data; Robotics safety standards and programming; Learning about PID
Motor specification guidelines; Understanding multivariable control; Improving a safety instrumented system; 2017 Engineers' Choice Award Winners
Selecting the best controller from several viewpoints; System integrator advice for the IIoT; TSN and real-time Ethernet; Questions to ask when selecting a VFD; Action items for an aging PLC/DCS
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Future of oil and gas projects; Reservoir models; The importance of SCADA to oil and gas
Big Data and bigger solutions; Tablet technologies; SCADA developments
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
click me