The Joy Of Victorious Troubleshooting

Usually In a manufacturing facility you will find several mechanics and only 1 or 2 electrical people at any given time.
This is because you are dealing with moving equipment, which breaks and wears out frequently.
For the electrical people there are plenty of preventative maintenance tasks and upgrades to do.

However sometimes the equipment refuses to work or does something erratic, and no one knows why.
These are times of extreme stress because several machines make up what is normally referred to as a “Line”, and if one machine stops, the whole line stops.
And therein lies the problem, all those people are sitting around doing nothing and no money is being made. And then there is the fact that delivery was promised on a given date.
For management it’s a nightmarish situation, and when they’re stressed, everyone is stressed.Many of these lines might cost hundreds or thousands of dollars per minute of downtime, depending on a few factors such as closeness of promised delivery date and whether the necessary equipment is available for some kind of workaround. There is also the option of calling everybody in on Saturday and paying them time and a half. Hopefully that wont be past the due date. Some places run full capacity 24/7. Those guys have no way out, they are losing a LOT of money.

For that one electrical guy or gal who is responsible for figuring out what is wrong with the equipment, the stakes are high. He or she will be either a hero or a goat, and if it’s goat, That individual’s very job may be on the line. But if it’s hero, then he or she is truly appreciated.
That person must really get psyched up for the good fight, It’s war and your head must be in the right space or you won’t survive.
This may sound overly dramatic, but that’s where one must be, there is no room for self doubt because as we all know, once panic sets in… it’s over.

On the other hand, one can’t be overly self confident. When I worked for Coca Cola we got a new Tech in who was astonishingly confident of himself.
One day when I came to work on second shift Management immediately sent me to the line that this guy was working on, because the line had been down most of first shift.
When I asked him what was going on he replied that he was just re-writing and improving the code for one area of the line.
I pointed out that he was costing big bucks and management wanted the line up pronto, but He just didn’t seem to have much situational awareness and didn’t realize he was putting himself in dire straits. I finally convinced him to dump the old program back into the processor so that production could start back up.
The next day they fired him.
I an confident that kid found work in an area better suited to his personality.

To quote an old Mechanic I used to work with: “I’ve seen em come, and I’ve seen em go”,  many times. Success is survival, and if you want to make that mortgage payment next month, you better keep your head on a swivel.

Another fun time troubleshooting took place at 2am in a different bottling facility. I was having a wonderful dream when the phone went off and I was called in to work. Some of the conveyors on a line were refusing to run because there was an issue with the communication network that the Variable speed drives were relying on for instructions.
This one was especially difficult because there were about 30 devices on that network any of which could be putting trash on the line. Since the PLC program was written in such a way as to not allow certain conveyors to run unless it had verification certain other devices were happy, and nobody was happy due to the comm issue you couldn’t just unplug until you found the culprit. And then there was the issue that each device has it’s own processor running it’s own code with it’s own unique IP address, so you couldn’t just quickly substitute devices to see if the problem went away.
It was a long slow process of analyzing the PLC code live that finally brought success.

Most of the time problems can be traced to sensors that have gone bad. Other times problems can be traced to things like bad actuators, which is where your friendly mechanic comes into the picture.You are going to need good relations with these people and they need to trust you when you say that they need to replace something, because some things take a lot of work and time on their part. It’s all about teamwork and knowing what you are talking about.

Another time we had a situation of a blown VFD (Variable Speed Drive). The problem was we didn’t have an exact replacement but did have something that could work.

It was necessary to change the wiring , adapt the PLC code, and setup the firmware for the new drive before we could use it. This type of thing happens all the time.

I got a million of these stories since I have been working in this field for some 35 years.

Welcome to my world. Maybe some young people are trying to figure out whether they might like this line of work, If so then hopefully this glimpse will give them a better idea of whether or not to go in this direction.

Useful information on troubleshooting:

Thank you,

Wayne Dover,

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