March 2018

March 22, 2018

First Things First...

Scientist are well accustomed to "First Principle" thinking.  It's an approach that dates back to Aristotle and holds that before you can solve a problem, you must distill exactly what is known to be absolutely true.  By focusing on only known facts, it is much easier to postulate a solution which is based upon a solid foundation of fact.  That foundation allows you to speculate on causal factors but such leaps are always based upon core principles.

Sound familiar?   Well, if you are a Field Service Engineer (a good one), then this is the motus operandi with which you approach everyday troubleshooting. The trick here is to ask lots of questions before you even lay your hands on a failed instrument.   Many times, a user or researcher may get frustrated by such probing, so it is important to explain up front, why you are asking.  Just as a doctor cannot prescribe a treatment for a sick patient without reviewing their medical history, an FSE cannot hope to repair a failed instrument without first knowing it's recent history. Both should operate under the "first, do no harm" methodology.  

When was the last time it worked correctly?  When did you first notice a failure?   Were there any environmental changes in the lab (power, air, floods..etc)?   Many times, after such probing, an FSE can find very important facts that will make diagnosis faster and more reliable.   A PC or software upgrade, a robot crash, a spill...etc.

So, to all those researchers who need to get a failed instrument back online, just remember...it is in your own best interest to share as much info as you can to assist the FSE.  And to you FSE's...ask, ask, ask.   First, do no harm.  No guessing.

March 6, 2018

Remotely Possible?

How often do you PM a ....well, anything in your lab?  More often than not, the answer will either be 'once a year' or 'never.'   While the latter response may be due to budgetary constraints, or indifference, it is usually a recipe for disaster.   Things break if you don't maintain them and they generally break when you need them the most.   Periodic Maintenance (PM) is always a good idea, but back to my original question...how often?  Most people choose to PM once a year because that is what the manufacturer recommends.  However, this might not be the best strategy for your lab or a particular instrument as it does not take into account utilization.   It goes without saying that something that is used everyday, or more than one shift per day will require more frequent PM's than something that is used occasionally.   The challenge for many labs is just how to keep track of that utilization and how to pro-actively maintain based upon actual usage.  Figuring that out will help forestall major failures on high usage instruments and also stretch support budgets for lesser used devices.  

A recent report by Astea International Inc.(Horsham, PA) , a leading global provider of service management and mobile workforce management solutions titled "6 Biggest Field Service Trends To Watch Right Now" highlights a sea change shift in field service from reactive to pro-active.   The report highlights the rapid adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable field service organizations to remotely monitor client assets to create added value by scheduling maintenance based on performance degradation or utilization as opposed to "because the manual said so."    Monitoring research lab instruments is very different than production equipment, but at the end of day, ensuring that instruments are properly maintained so that they are available when needed will always be a winning strategy.