November 25, 2013

The most succinct definition of “troubleshooting” that I’ve ever read comes from an article by Stephanie Krieger, “Troubleshooting 201: Ask the Right Questions,” which was published in TechNet Magazine:

“There are two rules that always apply, whether you’re troubleshooting hardware or software:

    • Troubleshooting is a process of elimination
    • The most important assumption you can make, no matter how much you know about the technology, is that you could be wrong

If that first rule seems obvious, then consider this: Troubleshooting—or any problem-solving process—is clearly a process of elimination. However, it’s not that simple.

Your success or failure lies in what you choose to eliminate, and more importantly, why. It’s a game of Pick Up Sticks where you evaluate, reason, then remove any obstacles that get you closer to resolving the problem without breaking anything else. How you make those choices depends entirely on the questions you ask and how you interpret the answers.

As for the second point, the assumptions you make lead to the questions you ask and the way you interpret responses—whether you’re asking a person, a document, a piece of hardware, a software package or a network infrastructure. When you assume you could be wrong, no matter what your level of experience, you keep an open mind that helps you see simple solutions you may never have expected.  .  .  .”

In the process and manufacturing world, the ultimate test for instrument technicians, electricians and electronic technicians, as well as mechanics and millwrights will be their troubleshooting skills.

While most maintenance tasks in a plant are routine, knowing how to systematically think through a problem is vital to a plant’s operating efficiency.

And, troubleshooting skills are best acquired through hands-on practice, as well as multi-sensory training programs that provide a degree of simulation — simulation that occurs when full motion video or gaming is encountered in an interactive way.

Acquiring troubleshooting skills equips the worker with strategic thinking that can be applied to the analysis of problems in any industrial system. Developing logical thinking skills and the ability to create a personal troubleshooting outlook will prove valuable under any troubleshooting situation.

Developing logical thinking should arm one with the knowledge to:

• How to define root cause problem solving.
• How to define troubleshooting.
• How to describe the basic steps involved in any general troubleshooting procedure.
• How to obtain information about any malfunctioning system.
• How to compare problem symptoms to normal operation.
• How to identify sources of information concerning normal operations.
• How to identify sources of information concerning the background of a problem.
• How to recognize the difference between a symptom and a cause.
• How to develop a troubleshooting plan.
• How to recognize the importance of schematics while troubleshooting.
• How to identify the steps necessary to repair a problem.
• How to identify the steps that can be taken to prevent future trouble.

Developing logical thinking skills is the bottom line test of every good maintenance technician. Individuals with excellent logical thinking skills are worth their weight in gold. They’re the ones who keep American industry humming!

Hands-on practice and multi-sensory training, rooted in interactive video simulations or gaming, are the best ways to acquire and sharpen those skills!

Enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend. More next Monday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning (Mondays & Wednesdays)