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Improving Technician's Service Skills

16 Jan, 2002 By: Jim Intravia imageSource

Improving Technician's Service Skills

When I was a rookie technician, I worked on service intensive equipment
(meaning it broke all the time; even for a copier!).. As a result, it was quite
common to call for assistance: other technicians, service managers, technical
specialists, or even design engineers. I quickly developed my own policy. I
would never allow my machine (yes, my machine!) to be in a condition that anyone
else could find fault with it. At least no fault that would be mine. If there
were design, engineering, or service problems, I would have done all within my
power to correct them. I want my work to be beyond criticism.

It is 28 years later. I have no supervisor, no service manager, and no tech
specialists. I still treat every machine and every service call as if there were
someone about to look over my shoulder. These are some of the work habits that
help me to minimize my callbacks and other service problems.

There are other things that a technician should be doing to avoid callbacks
and other weaknesses in servicing. Let’s look at those other things:

All Work Should Be Inspected Before Completion

Every moving part that is touched should be inspected before it is put into
motion. If you remove the lens cover, you should be sure the scan will not hit
it, before you power up, not after. If you replace a fuser component, you should
inspect the unit before you turn on power. If you replace feed tires or a
clutch, you should rotate and spin the item before you turn on power. If you
work inside the machine, you should account for all tools and hardware before
you turn on power. I remember ever so well, a fellow technician who changed
fuser rollers, turned on the machine, made a copy, and saw his 5/16th hex wrench
destroy the fuser unit.

Bad Technicians Don’t Make Mistakes

You don’t believe me. Just ask them. Watch them work. They complete a job and
something else is wrong. Could it be their fault? Of course not. It is
coincidence. They rebuilt a fuser unit and now have a blown triac. What a
coincidence? Could it be that they pinched a wire or left an insulator off? "Naah,"
they say. These things happen all the time (to them, maybe). They clean optics,
and suddenly have a scanner blur or scan trouble code. A screw in the optics is
too long. How about that. Must have been like that before. They replace a wrap
spring clutch and bend a sheet metal mounting plate because they installed the
clutch backwards. How about the circuit board mortality rate? Isn't it amazing
how some technicians use a board every two years or so, while some need one
every month.

Someone once told me that you can teach electronics and mechanics, but that
you cannot teach technique. I now disagree with that. To me, how conscientious a
technician is and how is their attitude, is the largest factors in how well they
will do their jobs.

The Service Manager's Easiest Job

Technical ability - The tech must be able to fix and service things. They
need certain mechanical skills and abilities. It is preferred if they also have
certain electrical training and/or experience. It is also becoming more and more
important that they are computer literate. These are the easiest items for a
service manager to evaluate.

Servicing techniques are intangible - As discussed in the December
2001 issue, checklists can be used to help a technician become more observant.
Although we can hope all our technicians are motivated "self-starters," the fact
is that it is the service manager's responsibility. Whether he or she finds such
people or winds up with people who fit this description, it the end result is
that matters. A technician must be taught certain techniques, which can and
should grow into habit and instinct. Some of us learn by making mistakes. I try
very hard to tell other people about my mistakes (which require lots and lots of
articles to write) so that they may avoid them.

Minimize The Effect Of Mistakes

Why Don’t We Just Not Make Mistakes - That is an unreasonable
expectation. People make mistakes. Technicians have more opportunity than most
people do to make mistakes. They will. That's all there is to it. Accept that

How Do You Minimize The Effect - By finding the mistake before it
causes a problem. As mentioned earlier, moving parts should be tested after
being touched. Dry runs should be performed if necessary. When power is applied,
keep your hand on the power switch. I once worked in a situation where we hard
wired a momentary contact, normally closed switch into the interlock circuit of
every machine. We called it the "panic button." It could be pushed quickly to
kill power in any kind of emergency. That is overkill in our situation, but the
hand on the power switch is a good substitute.

Electrical Mistakes - Anything that is electrical should be treated
carefully (circuit boards, switches, photointerruptors, etc.). Problems, both
minor and major, can be caused by a wrong connection, a pinched wire, a wire
left off, a connector unplugged, a connector in the wrong location, or a bent
pin in a connector. It might seem overly cautious, but you can't go wrong if you
unplug the machine before you connect or disconnect anything electrical. The
odds of damaging something are extremely low. I believe I have only done it
twice (that I am aware of). That’s not very many times, but how do you think it
felt the day I did it? How much did the blown main circuit board cost my
company? How long was that machine down? How long did it take me to correctly
diagnose the original problem at that point?

Some Things Are Unpredictable - For example, there is no reason for a
beginning technician to suspect that vacuuming the developer unit might ruin the
sensor. They have to be told that to prevent it (or learn the hard way). There
is no reason for a technician to know that adjusting corona currents can damage
the drum. They have to be taught.

Think Backwards

Any time a machine is being serviced, and several times within the service call,
the technician should pause and review their work. If they made an adjustment
and it didn’t work, it should be set back to where they started. The mind should
"rewind" the last few minutes work every few minutes. Anything that was touched
should be quickly inspected to be sure that screws were not left loose or
missing, tools were not left in the machine, parts of the machine were not
exposed to damage, etc.

There are many skills that a copier technician must possess. Some are in the
hands, and some are in the head. No matter how extensive the electro-mechanical
ability of a technician, they will not be a good technician unless they are
conscientious and careful. I firmly believe that the less skilled technician who
is conscientious and careful can be more effective than the highly skilled
technician who is not.

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