Appropriate General Maintenance in Troubleshooting

“Maintenance is terribly important.” – Manolo Blahnik

Nothing very fancy, but drives home the point, doesn’t it?

In everyday life, all of us are general maintenance and repair workers as we often carry out some kind of maintenance tasks in the equipment we use. For example – after using a mixer grinder, the user would definitely wash and dry it thoroughly. This is the simplest kind of maintenance. Another example would be having an electrician come over periodically to check switches and wiring in the house even if everything was working correctly. Appropriate general maintenance saves us a lot of time, energy, hassle and cost. General maintenance does not require someone to have a formal education, just the mindset and the willingness to learn on the job. General Maintenance in troubleshooting is similar as it can be learned and improved by starting with minor jobs and watching other skilled troubleshooters at work.

The troubleshooting process itself is a combination of attitude and skill. It involves:

– Having an attitude to learn
– Identifying the symptoms
– Know and implement what is required to control the damage
– Recreate the events that led to the failure, in a training environment
– Elimination of many possible causes to narrow down to the root cause
– Tackling the root cause
– Testing the solution to know that it is correct and will work long term
– Conduct general maintenance to prevent any future occurrences

The benefits of general maintenance in troubleshooting are manifold.

– Increases productivity

When general maintenance of equipment and systems is undertaken regularly, a troubleshooting person would be able to find and repair minor faults, which if ignored could have resulted in blowing into a full-fledged problem. General maintenance in troubleshooting takes a few minutes whereas working on a problem that results in total failure takes hours, maybe days and utilizes the time and effort of one or more troubleshooting staff. This brings down productivity not just for the troubleshooting staff but also for the company as a whole and most often involves great costs. If the troubleshooting staff would spend a few minutes daily to carry out general maintenance, it would increase productivity for themselves and reduce the number of troubleshooting complaints thereby increasing productivity for everyone involved.

General Maintenance is preventive rather than being reactive. For example – if a few users seem to be having speed issues with their computer systems, it would be best to immediately conduct a general check and maintenance and isolate the problem, rather than letting this trigger the slowdown or complete failure of the server. Immediately responding to such minor complaints would increase time and productivity for all. In a home, if for example the turntable of the microwave is not turning, checking for stuck food or particles and cleaning it could be all that is required. Ignoring it, could lead to bigger issues that could result in the breakdown of the appliance.

– Decreases cost

In the examples above, if the troubleshooting staff did not conduct general maintenance on the systems, it would be certain that it would lead to major breakdowns resulting in the need for expensive replacements and or enlisting the help of an outside professional agency to reconstruct or replace the expensive equipment. Also if cleaning the microwave was the only general maintenance required, why not undertake that? Would you rather spend loads to have an expensive part replaced or maybe have to buy a new microwave?
The toughest problem assailing troubleshooting is a lackadaisical approach and the thought that if no one is complaining then everything must be fine. We pointed out in an earlier exposition, that bottlenecks and issues need to be discovered. They may leave traces, sometimes minor, which tend to be overlooked. General maintenance in troubleshooting ‘discovers’ these bottlenecks before they blow out of proportion.

– Saves the troubleshooting staff from unnecessary stress and workload. Having to apply and stress one’s mental faculties over issues that could have been controlled with general maintenance cannot be wise behavior. It is a waste of talent, time and mental capacity on the part of the person attempting to troubleshoot. It also makes the troubleshooting team seem inefficient if these breakdowns happen often. Conversely, regular and appropriate general maintenance keeps everything running smoothly and boosts the image and reputation of the troubleshooting staff.

– If a company does not stress on the importance of general maintenance, it could result in employee and customer burnout. Constantly putting out ‘fires’ and dealing with high stress situations is bound to take its toll on the troubleshooting staff, who would soon leave the company taking with them hours of training and a skill set that takes years to develop. The customers on the other hand would also get increasingly impatient due to failed orders and promises and soon leave the company for a competitor’s service.

– Decreases the need for constant repairing, replacements and being overcharged by an external agency.

– Being able to undertake general maintenance and follow the troubleshooting process, is most often enough to keep things under control. One does not need to have any specialized knowledge or training to undertake general maintenance. It’s easy to appear knowledgeable and skilled by simply keeping a constant check through general maintenance. You may not be the most knowledgeable but will certainly be looked up to since you will be seen as the person who ‘keeps things running’. Such an image is great for reputation, career growth and financial increases.

– The other major benefit of general maintenance in troubleshooting is the fact that there will be fewer big problems and so fewer escalations. There would be less need to call upon the next level help or in some cases the ‘big guns’ whose per hour cost would be very high and so prove costly for the company.

– Written material and well-maintained documentation of previous general maintenance and problem troubleshooting serve as handy guides. A good set of documentation will allow anyone to understand what needs to be done especially if the author is absent or has left the company since.

– General maintenance is especially useful for intermittent glitches. These glitches keep appearing and disappearing thus being a constant source of annoyance for the users. In a total failure, the symptoms can be reproduced in a testing environment and resolved. However, intermittent problems prove tricky as this reproducing is not possible since the reasons for the problems suddenly vanish and then reappear in a different setting.

Without general maintenance, the troubleshooter would need to constantly keep a check on the symptoms – note and keep statistics on them. This person would then need to recreate these symptoms in a training environment and understand the problems they create. And finally find a solution or do some general maintenance. This is a serious waste of time and energy, which could have been prevented by general maintenance of the system or equipment.
Appropriate general maintenance in fact can prove extremely useful and appear more skilled and trustworthy. It would assist the troubleshooter by increasing his or her chances of success within the organization, getting better and improved job opportunities, reduce the cost of failure and not being good at assigned tasks, better chances at job promotions and favor with the people who matter and better salaries and salary increases.

The potentially toughest problems can be pre-emptively sorted out before they become problems. Sometimes, the seemingly harmless or tiny glitches could be indications of bigger problems which could be easily uncovered by pre-emptive general maintenance. As an example – a car could be jerking while running indicating some minor glitch. Checking that out and removing it could save the car from going bust completely.

Using general maintenance as a tool and using it regularly would allow even a small task force of troubleshooters to effectively manage systems and or equipment. There would be lesser employee complaints and issues, decreased costs and higher degree of customer satisfaction and an overall happier task force.

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