The Joy of Troubleshooting

Quickly and accurately finding and solving equipment or systems problems have always presented service and installation organizations with major technical and business challenges. This is even truer in today’s era of more sophisticated technology and sky-high fuel prices that eat into profit margins with each extra trip to a customer site.

Modern-day video, fire, access control and intrusion systems consist of many electronic components that tend to show whatever problems they may have early on. According to author R.S. Khandpur (“Troubleshooting Electronic Equipment”), “Electronic components, most notably silicon integrated circuits, tend to either last a relatively long time or fail very early in their operation.”

With that in mind, one technique to help reduce the incidence of such technical   failures in the field is “burning in” new electronic systems before they are deployed. It is accomplished by running the devices in a similar environment and system configuration at the local service shop. This process tends to increase reliability.

The fragile economic condition of today’s service environment is placing an extra burden on both service managers and technicians.

Service managers must be able to schedule the best qualified technicians, group daily service call locations and arrange dates/times with customers. Fortunately, management tools such as servicing software and GPS vehicle tracking can help reduce overhead costs, such as increasing gas prices.

Field technicians are under increasing pressure to be able to do it all. They must have knowledge of the product and the customer, and make sure all necessary parts and documentation are with   them at the time of service. Here again, new servicing tools, such as wireless Internet and VPN connectivity, can help by allowing technicians to send and receive data directly from the field.

These are just some of the strategies and instruments leading installing security contractors are using to remain competitive, minimize system downtime and maximize customer satisfaction. A host of other troubleshooting tips, tricks and techniques await your inquisitive eye just ahead.   

Remote Tools Save Bucks

It amazes me when I hear of technicians who are still programming alarm panels step-by-step through the keypad.

Even when servicing most alarm panels, the technician should be able to either locally or remotely quickly pull up the entire program profile of the panel being serviced. This is a good practice, if for no other reason than to get a quick global view of the panel’s programmed parameters.

Regardless the scale of the customer, the degree a company does its homework before visiting a service site can also save considerable time and money. In many cases the problem can be diagnosed and solved before anyone even has to drive to the service location.

For larger commercial enterprise systems that include video and access control, remote services such as WebEx can be used that allow technical support personnel to remotely and securely logon to PC-based systems via the Internet and analyze network-related issues.

High-speed remote connectivity should be required for these newer, IP-based customer accounts. In many cases, to ease security concerns, the connection to the Internet can be a simple physical action of the customer plugging in a connection only for the period of remote SSL Internet support.

When selecting new security systems for customers, the dealer/integrator may want to review the remote support services and software provided by the equipment manufacturer. This can have a dramatic impact on how the alarm equipment is serviced.

Some suppliers offer such services as a marketing tool for the dealer. They have coined terms like “Automatic Remote Maintenance” (ARM), which is service capable of verifying a panel is fully functional down to the last ‘nut and bolt.’ 

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