Serviceability At The Forefront

lee-serviceability-0215If you survey a broad sampling of veteran AV pros you’ll find that they’re united by a common trait: They’re all really good at problem solving.

In fact, the best ones love problem solving. There’s a rush that comes from finding a solution and being able to yell out “I FIXED IT!”

Call it natural selection: people who aren’t effective problem solvers don’t have long happy careers in AV.

But do you know what’s even better than being really good at problem solving?

Not having any problems in the first place.

Now, it may be asking too much to never, ever have problems, but it’s possible to greatly reduce the number of problems you encounter simply by not over-complicating your designs, designing systems with future serviceability In mind and by keeping your processes simple.

Just this past week the AV system in my media room failed.

Troubleshooting the problem was elementary: Eyeballing my equipment racks I noticed that the power light on the RTI module that connects to all of my devices via RS232 and IR leads was not on.

That led me to page 1 of the installer manual in my head: Is the unit plugged in?

As it happened, the power supply for the module had died — which is really unusual; how many AC power supplies croak after a few years of faithful service? Not many, really.

Still it does happen. Which is why years ago when my colleagues and I built my media room, I designed in easy access to my power distribution/line conditioner, so accessing and replacing the power supply was a snap!

The lesson here is that keeping it simple pays off.

Ask anyone: Being too clever for your own good seldom works out. Once years ago a friend who’s a high voltage engineer for the power company replied to “How was your day?” was “Well, I learned two important things. First, I learned about what a ‘Transformer Inrush Magnetizing Current’ does, and I learned that you always learn better when something goes terribly wrong.”

He had to admit that his bright idea didn’t really work the way he expected. Fortunately, only a couple of neighborhoods lost power for only a couple of hours.

Deviating from the plan, as my friend did, and as I’ve been guilty of (and you too, probably) is often the source of system issues, and they’re preventable.

Design templates and install procedures are supposed to be standardized for this exact reason. A consistent approach to both design and install will drastically cut down on time puttering around in the field trying to fix a problem in a system that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.