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Six steps…

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Lady luck is always with HXXX MXXXX.
Juicy, ripe, examples are just waiting everywhere for him to pluck.
Oh I forgot to tell, HXXX MXXXX is a trainer I adore, try to emulate, and sometimes envy.
Like all those who attend his classes I too eagerly wait for moments when he is stuck. But as I told you, luck is always with him.
We think he is stuck… soon he will say “I am sorry, I don’t no” or ” Let me check with MXXX”. [MXXX is his boss in Japan] or something similar… But… See what happened last week!
It was a level 3 session.
First day of the course Basics of Troubleshooting. A prerequisite for the advanced troubleshooting courses.
The participants!?
All skilled diagnostic technicians… hardcore professionals with years and years of experience in troubleshooting…
And HXXX MXXXX was teaching them basics of troubleshooting!

“I know it will be a little boring… But, you know, you have to complete this for Masters Certification… we are very rigid on the Masters curriculum… there are reasons… I know you all… what you are capable of… but we have to…”

Less than an hour into Six Steps of Troubleshooting and…

“Mr. HXXX, collecting information, analyzing symptoms, blah, blah, blah… we do this everyday… as troubleshooters this is what we all do every day… shall we skip this course?… shall we go directly to Advanced Body Electrical Troubleshooting?” They are ruthless even with revered trainers like HXXX MXXXX.

HXXX MXXXX stood silent for a moment. Then adjusted his tie… looked at his watch…  “All right gentlemen… we break for lunch… 45 minutes earlier… come back at two… sharp two”

And he went to the workshop while we headed towards the dining room.

Tricky situation. Trainees have lost interest in the topic. They question the relevance of the course. We were sure Mr. HXXX is at his Waterloo at last…

We had a quick lunch.

All of us were eager to be back in the training room.

“Let’s move to the workshop.” HXXX MXXXX was waiting for us near the elevator.

He took us straight to bay number 23.

Bays 23 to 25 belong to electricians. SXXX KXXXX, a very experienced electrician was at 23, beside a sports car…

“Why not Mr. HXXX?! I am happy to share all I know…I got her this morning. Haven’t touched her yet. Busy with a Radar Cruise Control System complaint. Accident repair at a local garage! They cooked up the wiring… this girl came three days back… not starting… cranking is fine…JXXX and KX SXXX tried… they tried for two days…today TXXX gave her to me… they think it is electrical… PCM may be…”

“Gentlemen… this is our baby… you have time till SXXX tames the Radar… let’s start.”

A short while later…

“PCM… can we have a PCM?” they were unanimous…

“PCM!… so quick! … PCM!! … why?… WHY?… gentlemen, why PCM?”

“We checked with JXXX and KX SXXX… everything else is fine… air fuel ratio at start is not correct… PCM is the only thing remaining.”

SXXX KXXXX stared at his trainees… the trademark twinkle in the eyes is back…

I saw a cloud of uneasiness descending on the trainees…

“Let’s have a word with JXXX and KX SXXX… guys, what was the customer complaint?”

“Engine not starting sir… cranking is fine sir”

“No sir… we didn’t see the customer… the recovery truck dropped it here sir…”

“No sir… he didn’t say anything…”

“CXXX AXXXX may be knowing it sir…”

“Good afternoon Mr. HXXX… no, I didn’t see the customer… she just gave me a call… we sent the recovery truck…”

“No Mr. HXXX… sorry I was too busy… I didn’t ask…”

After a moments silence…

“Gentlemen… now recollect what were discussing this morning… yes… six steps of troubleshooting… what’s the first step?”
“Collect the information! Correct!…but… did anyone do that?”

The trainees turned their faces towards JXXX and KX SXXX.

“No sir… we don’t talk to customers… service advisors do that sir…”

All faces now turned towards CXXX AXXXX, the service advisor who received the car.

“Did you ask me?… did you ask me anything?… they didn’t ask me a thing Mr. HXXX… now putting the blame on me…”

“It’s ok CXXX… You carry on… let’s move to training room… ”

“Gentlemen… let’s go back to the six steps. First step… yes… collect the information… can you tell me the sources of information?”

“Customer! Yes! The most important source of information. Let’s start with the customer. Who’s going to do the diagnostic interview? You have to concentrate on… yes… three Ws and one H! Can anyone tell me what do they stand for?… okokok…WhatWhenWhereandHowmuch… don’t forget them during the diagnostic interview. Plan the interview and call. Have a clear idea what to ask. Minimum questions. Easy to answer questions… Twenty minutes to plan”

“Things are clear now. It was a hot day. Customer was filling fuel from a fuel station in Al Ain road. Around 100 kilometers from start… yes yes the engine was running… then she heard a loud bang noise… like a firecracker… bang … from the engine compartment… then the engine stalled. A gas station attendant opened the bonnet and there was smoke… and the engine never started again… yes yes normal cranking”

“Gentlemen… what next?… information from manufacturer… exactly… service information from manufacturer… then, information from distributor… about similar incidents”

At this point one of the trainees interrupted. “We had a similar case Mr. HXXX, a couple of years ago. Engine stalled during refueling. It was…”

“Interesting… see gentlemen…. it is possible… let’s go to the car… As SXXX explained, it can be easily verified with a vacuum gauge.”

And… it turned out to be the same case.

The discussions went off track, for a while, before HXXX MXXXX could resume with Basics of Troubleshooting.

Basics of Troubleshooting course continued, as planned, for three days.

And it turned out to be one of the most useful training sessions we ever had.

A costly lesson

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“Hi, a friend gave me your mobile number. He said you are the engineer at XXXX. I am stuck among the  Jabal Akthar mountains. Please help”. It was a Thursday afternoon in January, a few years ago.

Those were the days when I was new to technical support. I had been trying very hard to earn a name as a reliable technical support engineer  and my efforts had started showing results. There were frequent calls from the branch network seeking my advice and support in technical issues.

In fact, I was eagerly waiting for such calls as those calls gave me the opportunity to test and prove my skills.

But there was a problem now…The call was not from a technician, it was from a customer. I was a little elated though, as I find my fame reaching the customers also! But the car was 150 km away from our nearest workshop. And, we needed 4 wheel drive vehicles to reach there.

“It was fine 2 hours ago,when I came here. Now it is not starting. I have to go back before the night falls. You see, it is very cold out here” I could hear his teeth chattering. Those mountains get extremely cold in that time of the year.

I called our branch which was nearby. It would take at least 4 hours before someone could reach him.

“My dear friend, you are an engineer, you guide me… it may be something very small… I will die of cold in 30 minutes”

It looked like an electrical problem. People with special skills and equipments are needed… Mistakes can be expensive…

“My friend, I am an electrical engineer from XXXX. I work for YYYY as an engineer. I have all the equipments to check a gas power plant with me in this car. If you can guide a technician of yours, you can guide me as well…’

An electrical engineer from one of the famous institutes of the West! He is calling me for techncal support!! I plunged immediately into action…

Soon he was at the engine control relay in the engine compatment fuse box, checking the voltage. Pin number 30 has battery volt. But no voltage at the relay control side, Pin number 85.

Now I knew, the problem was something minor. The voltage at the relay control side comes directly from the battery. One 15 A fuse. A junction after that. Two branches. One branch goes to the relay through a 7.5 A fuse. The other branch goes to the fuse block  in the pasenger compartment.

No voltage at the 7.5 A fuse.

By now the customer has started enjoying what he was doing. It was clear from his voice. He has started calling me by first name instead of “my friend” and “hello”

He took 15 minutes to reach the relay. But just 4 minutes to reach the 7.5 A fuse.

In another 2 minutes he reached the 15 A fuse and called out EUREKA.

It was blown.

There will be spare fuses in the fuse box cover and I asked him to try one.

“Sorry Suju…  no 15 A fuse. Two 20  and two 7.5. Shall I try 20 A?”

The car started. The customer was very happy. He stopped just short of saying that he would recommend me for next years Nobel Prize.

I did not realize my blunder. He too did not realize the dangers I was exposing him to.

I still thank God for giving him enough warning before the fire started.

“Suju.. I smell something strange from the dashboard side… like burning rubber”

It was after 45 minutes drive down the mountains.

Within seconds he was out of the car removing the 20 A fuse he had installed.

Later, our technicians who reached the spot found a completely molten wiring harness inside the dashboard.

Soon it will be April. A fresh batch of technicians will be joining me for the Electrical Systems Level 1 course on the simulator. This is their first course in Level 1. They will be progressing to Level 2 and Level 3 courses later, to get certfied as master technicians.

I always start the Electrical Systems Level 1 course with this story… oh no… not a story… real incident from the life of their trainer!