Gadgets and processes fascinate me. In fact, I count myself as one of those people who has to keep vigilant against what folks call “analysis paralysis.” I can get so wrapped up in finding a perfect process or gadget to solve a problem that the problem goes unsolved.

Here, I want to talk about your gadgets and processes. Most months since spring 2015, we have run a feature called You Know the Drill. (Though, not this month. Click here to see all of the articles in one place.) We use a simple format, asking the same seven questions of each person featured. A favorite, for me, among those questions is, “What tool can you not imagine working without?” Answers range from good employees to a sledgehammer, but each answer gives an insight into the person, the industry and the time in which they answered.

The most common response over time? It has nothing specific to do with drilling, and would likely prove a popular answer if I asked the same question in any industry. The lucky tool is the smartphone.

That doesn’t surprise me. I might say the same thing. My iPhone records interviews, whether the person sits across the table or across the country. It takes usable — though not super-high quality — photos and video at trade shows, and fits in a pocket. It serves up email. I capture receipts with the camera and use the iPhone to file expenses. It can post to National Driller’s social media channels. Did I mention it also makes and receives phone calls?

I carry a pocketknife most everywhere I go (which sometimes gets me in trouble at airports, but that’s another story). The truth is, a smartphone out-pocketknifes any pocketknife. Its versatility makes it indispensable. It shows. Most people, once they get a smartphone, rarely part with it for more than a few minutes. It comes out in line or on the throne. It interrupts dinner or a movie. Like many people, I’m more likely to leave my wallet at home than my smartphone. Thanks, ApplePay.

Which brings me back to the question of which tools you can’t imagine working without. What’s your answer? Is it a smartphone, or something else?

If it is a smartphone, think about how you use it. Think of all the tasks you use it for. I hear many jobsite uses from readers. You likely take pictures to document problems or issues, and send those photos up the chain or to a good friend and veteran driller hundreds of miles away. Perhaps you use an app to calculate properties of fluids. Or look up pump specifications or wiring schematics. Maybe you have a hole-logging system you can access anywhere. Maybe, like me, you use it to post to company social media channels.

Smartphones qualify as this generation’s pocketknife — except pocketknives have a set number of tools, and the tools a smartphone has are limited only by our imagination.

Of course, you won’t whip out your pocket computer in every instance on a jobsite. They can distract as much as they help, and safety always comes first. But, drilling contractors, what did I overlook? What tasks has a smartphone made easier out in the field? What apps — industry specific or general interest — do you find most useful?

This one device embodies gadgets and processes to solve problems, as long as it doesn’t work against you through distractions or paralysis at the sheer array of tools. How do you use it to solve day-to-day problems as a driller? Let me know. Send an email to

Stay safe out there, drillers.