Component level repair
wizard at voyager.net
Fri Jan 26 14:34:04 CST 2007
On Fri, 2007-01-26 at 10:44 -0800, Billy Pettit wrote:
> I think everyone who looks at this issue forgets that technicians are human.
> They have needs. They like to be paid; they need tools and space; they only
> work so long. To date, nobody has found a way to automate their skills.
I look at this issue from the perspective of BEING a technician;
I've always had this conviction that I actually AM human. And, until
the mother ship comes to pick me up, I'm going to work on that
> And to William's final and most critical point - repair sections are not
> a profit and loss center. They represent only loss - they do not
> generate income.
Actually, I chose the specific example out of my past BECAUSE that
repair section WAS a profit and loss center. Working boards HAD to be
sent to the customer for a fixed price by contract. The company then
looked, most cold-heartedly, at the relative costs of simply sending the
customer a new board out of production, or repairing the boards, and
sending out repaired boards as maintenance spares. They came to the
conclusion that repairing boards was cheaper. I actually contributed to
that by starting a procedure that made the repairs take, on average,
much less time. In this particular case, about $400 was coming in per
board. Before my procedure, I did about four a day. My salary and
benefits, I can assure you, were part of the calculation as to whether
repair or replacement was least expensive. Using my system, my average
output more than doubled, to almost ten per day, on average. If my
daily expense divided by four was covered by the repair income from
board swap fees, clearly my daily expense divided by ten would make the
repair section into a much better profit center.
> So if you set up a business making widgets and they can break and need
> repair, you have to make a choice. Do you just replace them or do you fix
> them? A repair department is a constant drain of money and resources.
> Replacement-only can take advantage of the volume/cost curve. It is the
> cheapest alternative.
It depends upon the equipment involved. In the case I mention, we
built single-board computers that accepted plug-in daughter boards.
It's not like the production boards did NOT need to be checked by a
technician... Often, the manufacturing process was followed by a repair
process to ensure a working product; new manufacture had technicians
troubleshooting. At that point (very late 70s) one simply could not
discard a manufactured board with a wealth of components because it
didn't work after manufacture. The boards were, in use, subject to a
significant amount of physical shock, being mounted on a moving robot of
one kind or another. Therefore, all components were wave-soldered in
place. Only top-quality components were used, both in terms of
durability and ease of use. The boards were VERY expensive, and they
WERE repaired if they came off of the production line in a non-working
> It may look like you are wasting money, spending hundreds to replace 1-2
> dollar components. But looking at the overall costs to a business, it is
> extremely unlikely to economically viable to repair parts. You have to look
> at the real cost to your business, and not the cost of failing element.
None of the decisions were mine. On the other hand, I'm aware that
the boards had over five hundred dollars worth of parts on them. They
were, apparently, worth more than one fourth of my daily cost. Bear in
mind that I am NOT making the claim that this situation is mirrored
around the industry. Particularly today, when components are cheap and
skills are even rarer, it's unlikely that such a thing is true any more.
Actually, it would be instructive to contact my old company, and see if
they are still repairing boards... my guess would be that they are not.
> So coming back full circle we have the hobbyists on this list who repair for
> the love of it. They bitch about the lack of documentation or parts. But
> they don't accept that the generation of documents, parts, reparability has
> a very high cost associated with it. And there is no income associated with
> creating those items. With all our high level skills, none of us got rich.
> It is not a marketable skill in a world focused on profit.
Most true. Again, I'm not arguing against your point, other than
that I was in a situation in which it WAS profitable to repair boards.
And, in an odd way, the throw-away culture has made our skills more
valuable. There are very few people who learn to troubleshoot to
component level today, and those of us who can are rare. I have a job
that pays very well, which is based upon my troubleshooting skills.
Warren E. Wolfe
wizard at voyager.net
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