Tech Troubleshooting, Part One

Ten Minute Tech

The good the bad and the ugly in the life of a tech consultant

Published on: May 24, 2013

As the spring planting season draws to a close here, I can't help but be struck by the frantic twists and turns my life has taken over the past couple of weeks. I am sure all jobs have their rough times but I know mine has its predictable two to four weeks of extreme chaos each spring.

I have had quite the adventure over the past several weeks for a variety of reasons, but it all began with me leaving for Portugal over the last few days of April and first few days of May. I know better than to leave this time of year but it was a time-sensitive trip that would not wait. If you read last week's blog then you know it was an extremely rewarding trip. 

My adventure began almost as soon as the plane's wheels hit the ground in New Jersey and my cell phone got U.S. signal again. There were lots of missed calls from customers who were in a panic about getting to the field with all of their electronics working. 

There were also calls from customers who had equipment shipped late and needed it installed immediately. I actually put in an order on my way to the airport as I was leaving for Portugal so I knew the install calls were coming, but after being without a cell phone for six days in Portugal the intensity of the calls were a shock to my system. 

I can't help but have empathy for customers who are under extreme stress of spring crunch time. As a result, their problems become my problems personally. 

Although most installs we did this spring came off as planned, we did run into problems with slow shipping from manufactures as well as backordered parts. These situations definitely add to the stress of a farmer who knows that time, where conditions are acceptable for planting, is precious. Our stress is simply a result of what we do being so weather dependent. We all know there is nothing as unpredictable as the weather so when conditions are right farmers must be in the field.

So after a few days of installs and a weekend of family commitments, our guys were hitting the fields. This is the signal that the next ten days will be filled with frantic calls from farmers whose equipment is not functioning. Sometimes the calls are a simple as them saying "I have not looked at this screen for twelve months and can't remember which button to push."

Other calls are more involved and those usually begin with, "all of the sudden." These are the calls where the system unexpectedly stopped working. Usually the inoperability is the result of a component failure and requires troubleshooting the system to determine the faulty part.

The equipment we use combines high tech electronics, wire connections and traditional control systems. In a troubleshooting situation this combination can lead to there being a multitude of reasons for system failure. It is imperative that diagnosis happen in a systematic method. A single component is the easiest fix however; we all know that when one component fails it generally can create failures in others as well. The resulting situation can be very complex and challenging. 

Check back next week for a deeper look at the tech troubleshooting world.