My main purpose in life is to avoid service calls. To a certain extent, Service Calls are indicative of failure. That can either be my failure to be able to properly aid the customer in the resolution of their problem, or the customers failure to have any sore of technical knowhow in the bank for when disaster strikes.

For your consideration:

Get a call from a OEM first (a bad sign) and then the customer on a packaging machine. The information from the OEM was a bit sparse, they did say “Battery Error”. With the code that they gave me on the drives, this sounds like a standard “The customer needs to replace the battery and then re-reference the machine” problem. So then the customer calls and things get worse really quick. They have 4 drives with the “Battery Error” on them, and the machine control is also showing that the battery probably failed, which means the main control program has evaporated. This is why I want everyone to have “Known Good Backups” available. Amazingly enough, the OEM is able to email them a copy of the machine control program, and they evidently left a copy of the programing software on the PC interface.

Which leads to the second problem. Nobody knows how to reload the program. Nobody has even opened the software before. As this is German software, the learning curve can be considered a learning cliff face, very nearly vertical. German software is much less forgiving as well, it will allow you to erase the control and the copy of the program without one of the Microsoft “Warning, this will format and erase all information, Proceed Y/N?” questions. German software figures that if you were man enough to open the program, you should be able to live with the results. If you didn’t know what you were doing, why did you open up the software in the first place?

While the entire plant is down is not really the time to try to teach someone how to use a highly complex program…over the phone…with the student having no real knowledge of what they are doing at all. This is one of the things that has changed over the years. When I was Engineering Manager at a large automotive Belt plant, all of the maintenance people (and Engineering staff) went through a 3 week training course on the controls we were using, with a few of us picking up an additional 3 weeks of advanced programming instruction. When we got a new person, they had to go through the same thing. Now it seems like companies would rather pay someone to come in and fix it rather than building their own people up to a level that they can handle larger problems. In this case, it means that the company got to pay weekend rates, plus at least 4 days of downtime. The weekend rates alone would have paid for one of their employees to go to class, and someone who had been to class would have understood what was going on long before it got to the point of bitbarfing the program. Hopefully, they would have also made a “Known Good Backup”.

So, the service call goes out. My failure of not being able to explain how to load the program up (actually 9 different programs) and the customer’s failure to have his people prepared for the problem. The cost though, is entirely on the customer.