Rant: oddball parts and manufacturer support

More channels means more money for the techs, right?
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PID_Stop
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Rant: oddball parts and manufacturer support

Post by PID_Stop » Fri Sep 04, 2015 10:44 am

Two weeks ago one of four multiviewers in our regional master control room started displaying an alarm message that one of its fans had failed. Fair enough; I found the manufacturer's web site but could not find an obvious way to order parts, so I created a trouble ticket. This launched a three day round of emails in which I went back and forth with someone in support, who was more concerned about checking off the boxes on his warranty script than in just selling me the part. Then I went several days with their accounting folks to arrange payment (had to use my personal credit card), complicated by extra paperwork because they're in Canada and we're in the United States... plus paperwork to deal with New York State taxes. Again, it could have taken less than an hour, had they sent me the correct forms.

Every email to them triggered a spate of fairly meaningless automated replies to let me know that my email had been added to the trouble ticket. I suppose I should have been grateful rather than annoyed, since the bot-replies did at least confirm that my email had gotten somewhere, even if live people wouldn't reply for hours.

I never did get confirmation of the order; the first indication of activity came from my wife, who was wondering if I had actually bought something from a prominent manufacturer of wire and cable. Turns out, they've been buying a number of broadcast manufacturers lately. So, yes... they charged my card well before shipping the part.

Well, the replacement fan just arrived... and it's the cheapest plastic blower I've ever seen. It looks pretty much like a centrifugal blower with the outer case removed... mainly an unshrouded impeller with the motor base that somehow attaches somewhere. It's made by a Chinese company I've never heard of, with no distributors in this country... and no remotely comparable second source.

There are a great many ways to cool equipment using readily available and mechanically standard devices. Instead, they chose something weird and generally unavailable. Fie.

They take a part that would sell for about $15 from Mouser or Digikey, and have the nerve to charge $100 plus over $50 for shipping. Again, fie.

The support person led me to believe that this would be a minimally disruptive repair. On closer examination, I'm going to have to take this piece of equipment out of service, disconnecting several dozen densely spaced cables, and disassemble the chassis -- the fan is apparently buried somewhere toward the back of the unit. I don't have a problem with doing the work, but I have a big problem being misled by someone who is supposed to know the product. Fie, fie, fie.

Sometime next week I will be replacing the fan, once I figure out a time when our operators don't need to actually see the stations they are switching for a couple of hours. I'm hoping the replacement process will be better than what has led up to it... I'm not taking bets.

And if the occasion presents itself to buy a multiviewer for a project, I know for sure what "M"anufacturer won't end up on my list of candidates.

Okay, that was therapeutic. We now return to our normal engineering, already in progress.


-- Jeff

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Dale H. Cook
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Re: Rant: oddball parts and manufacturer support

Post by Dale H. Cook » Sat Sep 05, 2015 5:55 am

PID_Stop wrote:... I'm going to have to take this piece of equipment out of service, disconnecting several dozen densely spaced cables, and disassemble the chassis -- the fan is apparently buried somewhere toward the back of the unit.
Jeff -

You've been doing this long enough to have been through that kind of repair before. :-) I just did one on an RF amp module from an Energy-Onix Pulsar 1000, where I had to do major chassis disassembly, including dismounting the heatsink for the MOSFETS, in order to pull the fan out. I was fortunate that Bernie used a Sunon fan and it was easy to find a replacement online. You at least have some vestige of factory support for your repair. Energy-Onix is gone, but what I've worked on so far has been fairly easy to figure out and repair, even with two revisions of the manual, neither of which completely matches the transmitter.
Dale H. Cook, Contract Engineer, Roanoke/Lynchburg, VA
http://plymouthcolony.net/starcityeng/index.html

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PID_Stop
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Re: Rant: oddball parts and manufacturer support

Post by PID_Stop » Sat Sep 05, 2015 1:11 pm

Dale H. Cook wrote:You've been doing this long enough to have been through that kind of repair before. :-)
Oh, yeah... the repair really isn't the big deal. What really frosted me was dealing with dysfunctional customer service to buy a piece of cheap plastic crap for about seven times what it's really worth, and have it take a week and a half to finally arrive. Thank goodness it wasn't a more disabling failure! I was secondarily frosted by whatever designer thought it would be a good idea to use such a shoddy and unobtainable part in the first place.

I have mostly recovered now... the last two weeks have been the broadcast version of "whack-a-mole". :lol:

Thanks!

-- Jeff

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Dale H. Cook
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Re: Rant: oddball parts and manufacturer support

Post by Dale H. Cook » Sat Sep 05, 2015 2:20 pm

I most often play whack-a-mole after a round of severe thunderstorms. Last night they took out an LPB, a couple of weeks ago the Energy-Onix, a few weeks before that a Nautel. I guess it isn't really whack-a-mole if you only have one active mole at a time. When lightning hits multiple client transmitter sites on the same day it is another matter.
Dale H. Cook, Contract Engineer, Roanoke/Lynchburg, VA
http://plymouthcolony.net/starcityeng/index.html

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