Customers Don’t Matter

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Things around here have been extra stressful lately. I wear a bunch of hats on my production line, everything from assembly to rework and repair, mechanical inspection, electrical inspection, dealing with warranty units from the field, and helping other lines when they fall behind their production schedules. The techs use me for all the worst case rework jobs. I’m the blue collar grease monkey they wheel fucked up boxes to and expect fast turn-around. Most of them only troubleshoot a failing unit down so far and when they’ve narrowed the problem to a section of the box I get to do all the rewiring and replacement of various electronics. Some of them prefer to do their own rework which is good, but most of them don’t. They take the lazy way out.

Sometimes I damn near have to gut close to a hundred pounds of electronics out of a box to get to where the problem lies. It’s challenging and tedious work all at the same time. I don’t mind. In fact, sometimes I volunteer to take the worst of the worst cases because I always seem to learn more about our instruments in the process. While I’m working like that I’m constantly looking for misloaded components on the PC boards, or other random damage. If I find any I power through it by replacing an IC or repairing a cooked wire. I never say much to anybody about that stuff, I just do it and move on.

What I don’t dig is while I’m mired knee deep in new production that has to get out the door and dog piled with broke-dick boxes, I don’t like being fucked with by my supervisor. My boss, Potatohead, has pretty much unofficially declared me Public Enemy No.1 so he’s been getting in my face and trying to jack me up as often as he can. I already have enough shit around here to worry about and stress over without Potatohead adding himself to the mix. Keeps me on my toes though, believe me. Thankfully he isn’t too bright. I attempt to stay a few steps ahead of him regardless.

I try to treat customers really well who have sent their boxes under warranty back to the factory for repair. The last step in our process is what we call MI/EI which stands for Mechanical Inspection/Electrical Inspection. Some employees refer to this job as “Button Up”. We go through the unit with a fine tooth comb looking for any missing hardware, damaged parts, chewed up wiring, and anything else out of the ordinary. There’s a final battery of electrical tests we perform to verify basic functionality of the box, and then we close it up. All the cosmetic stuff like outer instrument covers, bottom and rear feet, and side strap handles are installed. Then we inspect the unit for any cosmetic damage like chipped paint or dirt smudges and fix them. After the calibration certificate is complete and all the shipping documents are in order the box is ready to go.

With warranty boxes I have a personal policy of trying to make a customer’s test instrument look like new again before we ship it back to them in good working order. I maintain a secret stash full of scrap but useable parts that I will give to customers when the hardware on their unit is screwed up. Little stuff, like when their instrument has a busted side strap handle or a snapped rack mount ear, if I happen to have a better one in my scrap box, I give it to them free of charge. I also clean smudges and crap off the covers and front panel displays and repaint any surfaces that have been scraped down to bare metal. It doesn’t take me but a few extra minutes of my time to do stuff like that and it costs our company practically nothing but a few drops of touch up paint, a few drops of isopropyl alcohol, and a couple scrap parts at most. This is the way I have been operating for the last couple of years here and nobody has complained about it. Until now.

Potatohead got into yet another fight with me while I was working on a customer’s $70K box that came in from the field for repair. He saw me cleaning up the unit and repainting some damage on the front panel so he came over to where I was working and questioned what I was doing. It was pretty obvious, but he didn’t get it. I explained to him my policies on warranty boxes which seem reasonable to me. He brawled me right there on the spot. Potatohead told me to stop doing that kind of work on customer boxes and he informed me there was some new corporate policy that came down from the top recently about not making cosmetic repairs anymore for warranty boxes. That’s fucked up. I mean, how would you feel if you spent fifty thousand dollars on an item, the shit breaks on you under warranty so you send it to the manufacturer for a repair and when you finally get it back, it’s dirty with coffee stains and fingerprint smudges and there’s paint chips in it. I know how I’d feel about that. It would kinda piss me off.

How can they justify this? Isn’t the customer important anymore? Apparently not as much as it used to be. So I argued with Potatohead about it to the point of him threatening to fire me. Unbelieveable. I told him what he wanted to hear just to make him go away then I continued to fix up the warranty box like I normally do. I guess from now on I’m going to continue working like this but on the sly. I simply can’t do anything less than what I think is required to keep customers happy with our repair services.

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~ by factorypeasant on October 15, 2005.

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