A resource for safe and effective troubleshooting from the leaders in simulation training.

Since 1995, Simutech Multimedia has led the industry in educating professionals in safe, and proficient electrical troubleshooting training. Today, Simutech Multimedia continues this legacy with its first instalment of “Troubleshooting Thursdays” providing troubleshooting tips to the industry.

Every Troubleshooting Thursday will be a quick and reliable resource for troubleshooting tips and everything else troubleshooting 101. Simutech Multimedia will be covering all topics related to troubleshooting from motor circuits to flash hazards and beyond. However, to start, Simutech Multimedia will stress the importance of following a logical, systematic approach to electrical malfunctions.

Why troubleshooting is important

Production downtime can be detrimental in a highly utilized operation. A Simutech Multimedia article titled “The True Cost of Downtime: What You Don’t Know About How Downtime Affects Your Productivity” points out that in the automotive industry, a single minute of downtime can cost $22,000 and one hour can cost 1.3 million. These figures alone show that there is value in teaching staff proficient troubleshooting to get the production line up and running as soon as possible.

Troubleshooting is a skill that takes time to develop and become proficient in. While Simutech Multimedia’ simulation-based troubleshooting training is the best way to become an adept troubleshooter, Simutech Multimedia is excited to bring “Troubleshooting Thursdays” (TsT) to those looking to feed their curiosity and learn some troubleshooting tips.

To build a solid foundation for troubleshooting education, we will begin by breaking down the logical process Simutech Multimedia has implemented since 1995: Simutech Multimedia’s Systematic Troubleshooting Approach. The steps of this process include:

  • Preparation
  • Step 1: Observation
  • Step 2: Define Problem Area
  • Step 3: Identify Possible Causes
  • Step 4: Perform Testing
  • Step 5: Repair and Confirm
  • Follow-up

This logical troubleshooting approach has been proven to provide troubleshooters with the confidence to tackle complicated electrical malfunctions that result in costly downtime safely and efficiently.  The first step of Simutech Multimedia’s logical troubleshooting approach is observation. However, before you begin the first step of a logical troubleshooting approach, one must set themselves up for success with thorough preparation.

 

PREPARATION

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
– Alexander Graham Bell

Before you begin to troubleshoot any piece of equipment, you must be familiar with your organization’s safety rules and procedures for working on electrical equipment. These rules and procedures govern the methods you can use to troubleshoot electrical equipment (including your lockout / tagout procedures, testing procedures etc.) and must be followed while troubleshooting.

Next, you need to gather information regarding the equipment and the problem. Be sure you understand how the machine is designed to operate. It is much easier to analyze a faulty operation when you know how it should behave.

Operation or equipment manuals and drawings are helpful sources of information to have available. If there are equipment history records, you should review them to see if there are any recurring problems. You should also have any documentation describing the problem on-hand. (i.e., a work order, trouble report, or even your notes that have been taken from a discussion with a customer.)

So, let’s dive into lesson one: Observation.

STEP ONE: OBSERVATION

“Strategy requires thought; tactics require observation.”
– Max Euwe (chess Grandmaster)

Most faults provide obvious clues as to their cause. Through careful observation and a little bit of reasoning, most defects can be identified to the actual component with minimal testing.

When troubleshooting malfunctioning equipment, look for visual signs of mechanical damage such as indications of impact, chafed wires, loose components or parts laying in the bottom of the cabinet. Look for signs of overheating, especially on wiring, relay coils, and printed circuit boards.

Don’t forget to use your other senses when inspecting equipment. The smell of burnt insulation is something you won’t miss. Listening to the sound of the equipment operating may give you a clue to where the problem is located. Checking the temperature of components can also help find problems, but be careful while doing this, some components may be alive or hot enough to burn you.

Pay particular attention to areas that were identified either in past history or by the person that reported the problem. A note of caution here: Do not let these mislead you; past problems are just that—past problems, they are not necessarily the problem you are looking for now. Also, do not take reported issues as fact, always check for yourself if possible. The person reporting the problem may not have described it accurately or may have made incorrect assumptions.

When faced with equipment which is not functioning correctly you should:

  1. Be sure you understand how the machinery is designed to operate. It makes it much easier to analyze a faulty operation when you know how it should perform;
  2. Note the condition of the equipment as found. You should look at the state of the relays (energized or not), which lamps are lit, which auxiliary equipment is energized or running etc. This is the best time to give the equipment a thorough inspection (using all your senses). Look for signs of mechanical damage, overheating, unusual sounds, smells etc. This is the best time to give the equipment a thorough inspection (using all your senses). Look for signs of mechanical damage, overheating, unusual sounds, smells etc.
  3. Test the operation of the equipment including all of its features. Make a note of any feature that is not operating correctly.
  4. Make sure you observe these operations very carefully. This can give you a lot of valuable information regarding all parts of the equipment.
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Have a subject you would like Troubleshooting Thursdays to cover? Send Simutech Multimedia an email at [email protected].

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