AV Police Squad

Lack Of Documentation: But Wait…There’s More!

AVR performs some 3rd-party engineering for different integrators around the country as a subcontractor. We arrive on site as part of their team and assist in closing out projects or service issues when they need a few skilled resources quickly. However, since we don’t have direct contact with the client (correspondence is done through the integrator), nor are they “AVR Systems” (again, we are just offering additional engineering support), sometimes the information is lacking.

I was recently included in a service call where we were asked to upgrade the firmware on a controller and then change the configuration on the touch panel. It was straightforward enough. We arrived on site, got into the space, updated the firmware and changed the configuration on the touch panel in the room. We reviewed the changes with the integrator’s client, and they were happy. I packed up all my gear, and we checked back in with our client (the integrator) to let them know the service call was complete.

“Did you update all the touch panels?”

“Yeah…I only see one in the room.”

“I think there’s a scheduling panel outside the room that needs the same changes.”

The integrator was in Ohio. The project was in New York. My contact had recently taken over the Service Manager position. This was my first time in the space. Neither of us knew all that much about the system.

So, I started looking around, and sure enough, right outside the door, there was a scheduling panel that required an update. I unpacked my gear and started the process again. The panel was updated. I reviewed the changes with the integrator’s client, and they were happy (again). I packed up all my gear (again) and called our client (again, the integrator) to let them know the service call was complete.

“Did you update all the scheduling panels?”

“Yeah…I only found one outside the room.”

“I found the original proposal. There’s supposed to be two scheduling panels.”

So, I started looking around, and sure enough, right outside the “other” door, there was a second scheduling panel!

I think you see where this is going. It was bad, but it could have been worse. I could have left after each iteration and had to come back, taken the room down again, further disrupted the client, and cost a lot of people more time and money. This example maybe created an extra hour in wasted time. I’ve heard examples of this situation, where it ate up weeks of warranty time that no one was getting paid for. Lack of documentation doesn’t stop haunting a system at its commissioning. It stays with the system throughout its life, and arguably, gets exponentially worse as time goes on. How are service technicians supposed to maintain and service a system when there is no way to know how big or small the system is?! If the system is not adequately documented, how are new employees, users, students, managers, etc., supposed to know exactly what the system can do?

What can we do to combat this, for the sake of users and service technicians (and our profits!)? At AVR, one thing we do is make a “Highlight Sheet” for any system we touch (design, install or commission). Each sheet has a picture of the room, a picture of the equipment rack(s), a list of the major components and a list of the major functions. They take about 10 minutes to create and can save hours of headache over the life of the system. Most systems, even a divisible training room, can fit onto one page. It doesn’t go into how to operate the system per se, but it gives someone an idea of what the system encompasses. It also helps with remote assistance, where if you haven’t physically been to the system in years (or you’ve simply never been to the site), at least you have a quick reference of the system that can be quickly digested and maybe answer some general user questions over the phone. (i.e., Did you try the second touch panel? Try cycling power to the mixer in the middle of the rack.) It will also avoid the triple-pack-up fun for service technicians in the “But wait, there’s more…” game described above.

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