By Phil D’Eon
A while back I came across a discussion about equipment repair on a social media site that started with the question: “When you are having difficulty troubleshooting, who do you turn to?” This caught my attention, as it is the very question that launched me down a path from which CaseBank emerged many years ago.
The question implies that all the usual resources available to a service technician—the built-in test (BIT) and maintenance data, fault isolation manual/troubleshooting guide (FIM/TSG), the individual’s knowledge of the system, and the individual’s troubleshooting skill— have not revealed the cause of the problem or resolved the issue.
Usually, however, the call for help goes out long before these resources have been exhausted. Why would that be? It is because there could be a faster way. Most of the problems that occur in service have been seen and solved already, and IF we can find someone “in the know” they can point us right to the solution very quickly.
Here is the nut of the problem: the knowledge you seek is in the head of a technician somewhere out there, and you have no idea who to ask.
Many different approaches have been attempted to solve this problem. Help desks staffed by experts, searchable databases, bigger and longer FIMs, discussion groups on social media sites. . . the list goes on.
But there are trade-offs. How much time are you willing to spend looking for an answer instead of figuring it out yourself (the hard way)? For most people, the answer depends on how certain you are that your search will be successful. Help desks are perhaps the pinnacle of expert support, but they become a choke point because of staffing practicalities. Even so, the available expertise changes with staff rotations.
In-service activity reports are one way to publish the service difficulties that operators have experienced. Searchable databases, like in-service activity reports, may be able to contain a lot of potentially helpful information, but the larger they are, the more burdensome they become. Even with intelligent search tools, the user is expected to read and understand all the items returned from a search.
Trying to put all knowledge into the troubleshooting procedure of a FIM is an impractical task, in terms of both cost and the length of time it takes to get new knowledge out into the hands of users. Furthermore, those procedures would eventually become so long as to be unusable in most time-limited situations. In posting your question to social media sites, you take your chances on the right person being there to answer your question. And then there is the issue of technical credibility—can you trust what you read?
At CaseBank, we decided to create a technology solution that could do the following:
- Hold all knowledge.
- Ask you relevant and appropriate questions that lead to a qualified, validated answer.
- Let you know quickly if there is nothing in the knowledge database that will help and, in that event, provide a help escalation channel to continue troubleshooting.
- Do all this automatically 24-7.
The CaseBank solution is SpotLight®, an electronic fault isolation manual (eFIM) that consists of a customizable diagnostic reasoning engine that operates on top of a database of known equipment issues. SpotLight captures all of the symptoms, causes and solutions for every known failure mode for a given type of equipment. It’s always available, and it provides trustworthy knowledge about how to diagnose an equipment problem and then make the repair. It’s a solution that maintenance technicians and call center staff can truly count on.