If you are a lineman with Georgia Power, getting your tools repaired is truly “easy breezy” these days, thanks to the efforts of Harold “Breese” Calabrese and his fellow mechanics at Georgia Power's Central Tool Shop just outside Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., in Forest Park.
The Central Tool Shop, Breese explains, was formed about four years ago, starting with service only for metro Atlanta-area employees. Within six months, the service expanded to all of Georgia Power's territory, and today, the company has reduced its annual tool repair expenditures from just over US$7 million per year to around $1 million per year.
“It was costing this company out the ying-yang!” Calabrese quips of tool repairs in the past, quickly adding that “ying-yang was their terminology.” Today, he says, he and his shop handle an estimated 99.5% of tool repair while also evaluating new tools, attending industry-sponsored tool schools and providing input to manufacturers based on the company's need.
Breese's shop is near the Atlanta airport, which is also fitting, given that his background and training is as an airplane mechanic. Born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S., Calabrese joined the Air Force without clear career goals but soon decided to become a fighter jet mechanic.
“I joined the Air Force because my grandmother made me mad with something she said, I don't even remember what,” Calabrese begins. “I had a scholarship to go to Norfolk State University, but she got me mad, and I went out and joined the Air Force. They showed me a film on jet engines, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. One day, I was on the flight line at a base, and this sergeant said he couldn't figure out my last name, so he was just going to call me Breese. I'd been called everything from Collard Greens to Callaboose, but I never got angry, I just understood. Breese is a good name, too. I've been around the world, and people know who I am by that name.”
Around the world meant work as a mechanic for military contractors like McDonnell Douglas and Boeing. Eventually, Breese settled in the Atlanta area and worked for Lockheed but was laid off in a cost-cutting move. While waiting to go back to Lockheed, he responded to an ad for a mechanic for Georgia Power's new tool repair shop.
“I make less money but enjoy it more,” Breese says of his current job. “It's all troubleshooting, the same as in military contracting. You learn to go two steps back, find the problem and fix it.
“You can't imagine some of the stuff that comes in here,” Breese continues. “Some of these tools can withstand pressures of 20-plus tons, and how they can drop them and cause them to shear in half, I don't know. I cannot apply enough pressure to cause them to break. I often wonder, how did you twist this, how did you do this?”
Linemen, Breese says, will both “do anything” and “tell me anything” when it comes to breaking their tools or trying to get them repaired. Linemen within 20 miles (32 km) of the shop usually drop off the tools. If available, they are offered a one-to-one swap — a working tool to take with them while the shop repairs the broken tool and puts it into inventory. Tools in need of repair from outside of the metro area arrive at the tool shop via a contract carrier. To save money and keep repair costs down, Breese buys parts in bulk whenever he can and is proud of his record of only two repaired tools having come back, out of an estimated 7,000 the shop has repaired.
No word, though, on one of his more memorable repairs. A short while ago, a lineman brought in a Stanley CT15 hydraulic crimp tool that Breese says is designed to withstand several tons of pressure but was “flattened like a penny.”
“Must have been a big outrigger that drove over it,” he speculates. “But what got me was what the guy wrote on the repair tag: ‘It leaks!’”
The Central Tool Shop is such a success that Breese and Steve Render, Georgia Power's distribution support specialist, have made presentations on it to neighboring utilities.
A key benefit to centralized tool repair within a utility, Breese says, is a shared focus between linemen and the repair shop: fast turnaround.
“Most of the time it's more cost-effective to repair even warranty tools in house. The manufacture will only repair what's wrong as stated on the repair tag and not go completely through the tool as we do at the shop. Additionally, the manufacture may take up to eight weeks to return a tool to us. Our repaired tools operate as good or better than any new tool.”
In his non-tool shop time, Breese, married and with adult children, plays piano and bass guitar, presently for his church, but has been in at least three bands in the Atlanta area.
Breese is also an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan, rattling off the names of about 20 former or current Steelers players before proudly proclaiming that the Steelers' record of six Super Bowl victories is yet to be matched by any other NFL team — a claim that, no doubt, any lineman who brings a tool to the Central Repair Shop has to listen to at this time of year.