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For almost 25 years I have been a technician in the Appliance repair industry. In that time I have seen and witnessed many things that technicians have said or done in a home but there always seemed to be some sort of creed or code with techs that they wanted to learn and to repair the item in the home correctly. My history was I went to Devry for Electronics and actually got into the business from a friend. I never thought that I would end up doing this however being mechanically inclined, having common sense, and skills with an electrical meter, and also the ability to read wiring diagrams and timer schematics I soon found out that from helping a friend I enjoyed the freedom of being on the road in a van. I always read books, articles, and pursued knowledge in this field. My toolbox is not just tools, but an education in all things related to appliances at the time. I quickly learned in the field that there were 2 kinds of Appliance Repairmen… 1 you had the part changers, and 2 you had the actual technicians. Number 1 the part changer I could not understand how they did not want to trace down the problem. How the feeling of not knowing what was wrong with a unit drove me crazy, and made me learn and understand each unit I worked on. I had notebooks with notes, and repair manuals from the manufacturer and would take the time to read them. I would take the time if I was on a unit to learn something and not just slam in a part and leave, and say on to the next. I found out that there were many other technicians like me, that we traded information, that we called each other a lot, that we talked about issues that we were seeing, and how to test, and check them. We advised each other what to look out for. The information was invaluable. After a few years in the industry the place I was at was a little slow, what started as helping a friend to me became time to move on. I wanted to see what a larger company was so I went to Sears and they welcomed me with arms wide open because I was a full line tech who worked on everything, and every brand in a time were they literally just started working on things not sold at Sears and what they called “off brand”, items not Whirlpool, or Kenmore labeled. At the time when I started there I could say that most of the guys were technicians, truly skilled on Kenmore branded appliance and I learned many things from them. Kenmore was all that they worked on so a few guys were true masters, and I would work hard and become one myself. I wanted to be a great technician, because I wanted to know my job. I cant say that I am the best, but I could say I made it to the top, and they accepted me there and elevated me, it was a brotherhood. I helped Sears with truck stocks for off brands and became instrumental with the company in training technicians. Along with a few other techs we got a training program together and ran a course on basic electricity I & II to help technicians learn how to troubleshoot an appliance with a meter, with a live appliance. This is what separated the men from the boys, and I could not believe how many techs in different divisions had no idea how to use a meter (other than continuity) and troubleshoot an appliance. After many of these classes the area I worked improved with lower part usage and recalls. This truly shows the best tool in the toolbox is an education. I wondered tho, how the hell did some of these guys get by? How can you guess at what is wrong? If it was not a mechanical break, but something electrical that failed how did they figure it out? The meter, it never lies to me, it tells me what side of the schematic I'm on, the hot side or the neutral, and I could trace down between 2 points. What it told me was what was “good “ in the appliance and by elimination and method, led you to what was wrong in the appliance. It was strange I was in my 20’s teaching guys who have been doing this for 30 years in their 50’s. What I found was they were all trained by Sears, they were great at anything mechanical, and just lacked some knowledge, and now we gave them another tool. They did learn from other techs, with conversations and issues and they remember all that, that is how they troubleshooted electrical from experience or pure continuity checks, and it got some of them pretty far. For awhile we had an excellent overall group. THEN IT ALL CHANGED…. Sears stopped training a tech for 6 months, and literally said enough on what they considered lost labor hours and trained them for 6 yes SIX weeks total. Then they handed you a toolbox, keys, and a route. Even in 1 division like laundry you cant even see all the appliances in 6 weeks, never mind see the issues... and this was a time where there were not a quarter as many models. How could this guy with 6 weeks training run 10 calls a day?? Over time I just got fed up with many things there and left the company. It scared the sh^t out of me that they would let a guy loose in only 6 weeks. I had to train many of them, and I wouldn't let one go in a house if they weren't prepared, and I learned that the hard way after 5 weeks of training 1 guy. They had dropped the amount of pay, and had a crappy benefits policy and it attracted a lower skillset of workers. This new model of employee was trained for 6 weeks instead of 6 months and worked on all brands. It never made sense to me, they would put part in after part into a unit that had a service plan not knowing what was wrong. An Untrained, unskilled tech cost you thousands more than it does to train him. Think about the parts used on IW and Service plans, and then the lost revenue from high estimates or incomplete calls because he don't know what is wrong, and by excessive recalls and trying to clean up the mess. In the last few years Sears and A&E techs seem like a shell of what Sears use to be. The unskilled, and untrained techs in a home. The things they tell customers and the wrong advice and just mess they cause is crazy. I see it now more than ever, and it keeps getting worse. I cant believe the quality of technicians they had, and 20 years later what a mess of techs they have now. Sure there are a few excellent ones, there are great workers anywhere, but overall I have never seen a company do what they have done, just destroy their own reputation by letting the workforce just go. Are other techs seeing this as well is the industry in bad shape overall with training???
Samurai Appliance Repair Man posted a topic in AnnouncementsHad a good question via private message from a member asking about sharing manufacturer technical literature (tech sheets, bulletins, service manuals, etc) with DIYers here at Appliantology. I thought it was a good question that other members here at Appliantology may be wondering about so I'm posting it here in the forums. I've withheld the member's name for privacy reasons: The mission of Appliantology is to support professional appliance repair technicians and provide a venue for continuing education in the art and craft of appliance repair. I encourage all technician members here at Appliantology to place a priority on helping other technician members here at the site over helping DIYers. Appliantology is not focused on supporting the DIY community. The fact that there are DIY help forums here at Appliantology at all is merely a vestigial function of its long history. Philosophically, technical documents should never be shared in topics posted in the DIYer Appliance Repair Forums. Technical documents are for professional appliance repair servicers-- those who get paid to fix other people's appliances. It's fine to give DIYers simple repair tips but they are not entitled to inside technical docs which are intended only for qualified technicians (per manufacturer's own statements on these documents). Nor should DIYers be told about free manufacturer sites to access and download tech sheets and service manuals. The reason for this is that the manufacturers set these sites up as a convenience to the tech community. Their server managers will see this increase in traffic, follow the referring URLs back to DIY topics here at Appliantology and then change the passwords or install a password gate, install a pay gate or, worst case, simply take the site down to protect themselves from legal liability. (Manufacturers are sued all the time by DIYers who attempt to repair their appliance using an (illegally gotten) technical document who then end of inflicting more damage on the appliance or hurting themselves.) Then we as techs are all screwed and deprived of an important information resource we need to do our jobs. It is of no benefit to anyone in the appliance repair trade to share these documents and sites with DIYers. I'd like to point out that all of the Professional Appliance Technician Forums are open only to tech members here at Appliantology. Grasshoppers, lurkers, even search engine spiders CANNOT see the contents of topics posted in any forum in this section of the site. So it's perfectly fine to post any technical attachments and manufacturer links there. Site philosophical and mission reasons aside, there are practical limitations to sharing technical documents with DIYers. Grasshoppers may not download topic attachments or files in the Downloads section. Nor may they use the private message system. If you have any questions about this, please post them here or contact me via PM. If you are a tech member here at Appliantology and disagree with this policy, then I invite you to seek out other forums focused on helping DIYers. For others, I thank you for your participation and for being part of the Internet's largest online appliance tech support and continuing education community.
Samurai Appliance Repair Man posted a blog entry in Samurai Appliance Repair Man's BlogI get asked frequently about technician certification and there’s a lot of misunderstanding and confusion out there in the tech community about it. So I wanted to offer some thoughts that may help you think more clearly and realistically about this topic. The number one question you should ask yourself about any certification is, “What does it mean?” Does it mean that someone simply paid a fee to take and pass a test? If so, is the person certified in this way a better technician as a result? No, all this type of certification says is, “We certify that this person was good at taking our test.” The other meaning of certification is that a person has completed a structured and specialized course of study and instruction and has demonstrated high comprehension of the information throughout the training course(s). This is the meaning of certification as traditionally used by colleges, professions, other skilled trades, and at the Master Samurai Tech Academy. Merely taking and passing an exam has no possibility of producing a competent technician. It may vouch for a tech’s prior experience and training but, without knowing what the exam is actually testing for, you don’t know what exactly is being validated. On the other hand, successfully completing a detailed training course taught by industry-recognized experts is a proven method of producing skilled technicians. Specific appliance technician certifications of various kinds have zero consumer recognition. Customers may like to know, in a general sense, that you are certified (by someone) but they have no knowledge of or interest in the specific certification and what it really means. You know who is interested in the single exam-type certification? Let's be honest: it's techs trying to impress each other. This goes right to the next question you should ask yourself about appliance tech certification... “Who cares?” Are you wanting certification so you can have initials after your name and a patch on your uniform, thinking this will impress customers? Here’s a newsflash: customers don’t give a rip about initials after your name and a patch on your uniform. You know what customers do care about? You getting it fixed right the first time without swapping parts like a monkey and hoping to get lucky. Or are you wanting certification as a testament to your real acquisition and mastery of technical and troubleshooting skills? Who cares about this? I'll tell you... Any employer would care about this in their technicians and prospective hires. Owner/operators whose livelihood depends on successful repairs would care about this type of certification. The last question you need to ask yourself is “What do YOU want out of certification?” Do you want to sport initials after your name and a patch on your shirt to impress your friends and yourself? Or do you really want to be able to troubleshoot and repair appliance problems that other techs have tried and failed to fix? Do you want to be the guy with initials after his name but can’t fix the tricky problems any better than the guy without initials? Or do you want to be the go-to tech who can think through problems and that other techs seek out for help? I’ve offered you some of my thoughts on this issue of certification to hopefully help you think clearly about what it is and what it is not. I hope that this will help you make a decision about certification that’s consistent with your career goals. Let me know what you think.
Samurai Appliance Repair Man posted a blog entry in Samurai Appliance Repair Man's BlogWe have a lot of moving parts at play in the appliance repair industry today. Over the past couple of decades, appliance technology has become much more complicated, yet technician troubleshooting skills have eroded. This creates some uncertainty about the direction our industry is going. Are we going to be a profession, filled with well-paid, highly-skilled technicians at the top of their game, or a semi-skilled trade, filled with low-paid parts changers who are essentially just the eyes and hands carrying out the directions of tech-line personnel? Will both of these types of techs coexist, or will one go extinct? We’ve worked with thousands of techs and scores of business owners online over the years, most of whom take training and their profession seriously. We meet lots of folks like that at events such as ASTI. It makes us feel that the transition from trade to profession is here, and here to stay. A big wake-up call for the Samurai Recently, however, I had an abrupt reminder that there are still many who are not on board with that vision and are also influencing the direction of our industry. I was doing ride-alongs with techs at a large service company to assess the effectiveness of our online training at The Master Samurai Tech Academy. I was surprised and dismayed to see that the techs weren’t using many of the techniques that we emphasize in our training, such as coming to a job prepared with tech documents, doing a simple load analysis using the schematic, and performing electrical measurements from easy-access locations to definitively identify the component failure. In fact, they seemed to have forgotten even how to do many of these things. What the heck? Where did I go wrong? It all became clear to me when I had a chance to go over the day’s calls with a service manager for the company. When I described the troubleshooting methods we used on a dryer call, he declared that we had gone "full retard" (a phrase from the movie Tropic Thunder) for actually looking at the schematic, doing a few amp readings and one simple Ohm’s Law calculation. I was speechless. This is the guy who is supervising the techs who were paid to go through Master Samurai Tech training. However, it explained what I had seen that day. Although one of the senior managers at this company saw the value of using the MST Academy training for their techs, the other managers were not on board. Many of the skills taught at the Academy were not just ignored or discouraged, they were outright ridiculed. So of course the techs basically became parts-changers who simply carried out instructions from their manager or tech line. At that point, another movie came to mind, Idiocracy, which imagines the dismal result of several hundred years of cultural anti-intellectualism. I’m used to encountering techs who are a bit defensive about their lack of troubleshooting skills, but when even service managers mistake pattern recognition, parts changing, and a collection of factoids for real troubleshooting or, worse yet, have become hostile to it, then idiocracy is gaining a foothold in the appliance repair trade. Attitudes: the good, the bad, and the ugly Over the past decades, the technical skill level among many appliance techs has degenerated to such a low level that they don't even know what cause-and-effect troubleshooting is anymore. Since service managers are now being promoted from this group of techs, this attitude has become firmly entrenched in some organizations. In all my dealings with techs over the past 20 years, I have come to realize how phenomenally important attitude is. And I’ve seen it all. Some techs love to keep learning and sharpening their skills, no matter how many years they’ve been doing it, and enjoy the pride of accomplishment and the profits that come along with it. Then there are others who have worked long enough to have some know-how based purely on pattern recognition (“if this problem on that model change this part”) and resist the notion that their job performance and income would benefit even further if they learned real troubleshooting skills. The causes of this attitude include ignorance, arrogance, and laziness. Ignorance is curable through outreach and training. Arrogance and laziness are difficult and dangerous qualities in a tech, but even worse in someone who is in a leadership role. What's the risk to the industry if too many techs go down the road of idiocracy? Doesn’t that just give an opening for more success by those companies that behave like professionals? Not necessarily. The expression "a rising tide lifts all boats" works in the opposite direction as well. The experiences our customers have with “parts changers” can negatively impact their future interactions with other service companies. They will often be more suspicious and price sensitive. Furthermore, appliance manufacturers are seeing this problem in the appliance repair industry today, too. They realize there is uneven, often inadequate technical expertise in the trade. As a result, they are adapting to this general dumbing down in troubleshooting skills by dumbing down their training programs to essentially spoonfeeding what's already in the service manuals, knowing that most techs don't RTFM. They're also developing new technologies to decrease reliance on field techs to troubleshoot and solve problems. Here's what the future could hold: - Wifi-enabled appliances will report errors and diagnostics directly to the manufacturer's central technical staff who are specialists in that product. - Corporate techs can then run diagnostics and do most troubleshooting remotely. - The service company is then dispatched to simply replace a part- no troubleshooting required. If this comes to fruition, the end result will be a decrease in skill level expectation from technicians. And since higher pay accompanies and incentivizes the acquisition of specialized skills, there will be a concomitant reduction in "technician" pay and skill level. Service managers will be be reduced to route makers and time card checkers with a corresponding reduction in their skill level expectation and pay. All is not lost on this front. I speak with enough manufacturers to know that they would still like a better trained corps of appliance techs out there who can keep our mutual customers more satisfied. They haven’t given up on us yet! Take a look at yourself! Have you looked at yourself? I’m sure most of you reading this don’t come anywhere near being the kind of person who would call technical troubleshooting going "full retard." But, we would all benefit by stepping back and taking an honest look at our attitudes and expectations to see what part we are playing in raising our trade to a profession, and identify (and remedy) any weak links in our organizations. After all, if you’ve invested in training the techs in your company, it’s a waste of money if you aren’t implementing and nurturing the skills and practices that the techs learned in that training. Here’s what I still see too often when I go on ride-alongs with techs. Do you recognize any of these traits in your own service calls? 1. The tech arrives at the service call with no technical literature (service manual, tech sheet, bulletins) pre-loaded on his tablet or notebook computer. A manager may have pre-screened the calls and had probable parts pre-loaded on the service tech's vehicle, but the tech himself/herself is walking into the call completely cold. 2. If the call is anything other than a simple mechanical problem or parts replacement, the tech calls either his service manager or the manufacturer tech line. 3. Either way, the tech is spoon fed information to complete the diagnosis or repair; he is merely following detailed instructions but not doing the troubleshooting himself. From the tech's standpoint, this is only adding to his internal database of pattern recognition and factoids. 4. Neither the service manager nor the tech line guy has the time, patience, or skill to use this experience as a teaching moment and coach the tech through a troubleshooting thought process by asking leading questions. Examples: - what is your load of interest on the schematic? - what other components have you identified in the circuit for that load? - where does the schematic indicate that you would test the power supply for that load? 5. The appliance may get repaired as a result of the spoon feeding but the tech never grows in his ability to perform independent troubleshooting analysis-- he has simply added another pattern to his repertoire for recall on another job with the same problem. Reliance on outside counsel such as service manager and manufacturer tech line, which should be a rare event for a skilled tech, is perpetuated. Job security for the service manager and tech line guy is assured, but no skill growth for the service tech takes place. The foregoing is a typical pattern of degraded tech performance that is accepted as the "new normal" by far too many service companies. The problem is compounded when the service company middle management-- the service managers-- not only accept this degraded performance, but defend it. Pattern recognition and a head full of factoids do have their place in appliance repair. In fact, these form the basis of experience in older technicians, allowing for quick diagnosis and repair of commonly-occurring problems with known solutions. But these experiential skills should not be mistaken as classical troubleshooting and are insufficient for service calls with problems that don't fit the pattern or are "off the flow chart." The rewards of professionalism Techs who take the time to hone their craft with training, continuing education, and pre-diagnostic work are true professionals. Being prepared and able to competently troubleshoot any type of appliance and failure scenario is where the big payoffs happen in terms of reputation and profit. First Call Completes are maximized, callbacks are minimized, and cheerleader customers are forged. That’s what a professional business looks like. Is it too late to turn back the tide of idiocracy in the appliance repair trade? We at Master Samurai Tech firmly believe it is not too late and we have developed affordable, time-flexible training solutions to aid our brethren in the Craft. These skills are eminently learnable by anyone who desires to do so, and we’ve seen countless examples of techs and owners who have reaped the rewards of rising to the challenge. Join us, and help avert the future portrayed here: In a recent webinar, I offered a mental framework for executing classical troubleshooting strategies during service calls. Professional Appliantologist members and Master Samurai Tech Academy students may watch the 1-hour webinar recording here:
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